I said at the end of 2014 that I wasn’t going to be writing any more in-depth convention reports because they just take too much time, but I had fully intended to continue writing short summaries or something about events and shows. But I ended up doing 22 events in 2015 and apparently didn’t have the time or energy for even that.
This is pretty late for a year end thing, but I wanted to write something about 2015 anyway. This post is 4,238 words long, which is really weird because that’s about the length of my shorter solo con reports.
Last year’s 22 shows included 9 anime cons, 4 furry cons, 4 craft fair-sorta-things, 3 comic cons, 1 MLP con, and 1 multi-genre/general nerd show. They ranged in attendance from sub-150 people at the smallest of small shows to Emerald City Comic Con’s staggering 80,000.
I’m actually surprised that there were nine anime cons, because I never feel like I do enough of them. They’re my favourite to do because I’ve been doing them the longest and feel the most comfortable in that crowd, even as my art continues to drift away from what many might expect out of an anime-influenced artist. Most of my finished work these days aren’t anime-like, but anime still comprises most of my media intake, and it still comprises a lot of what I draw for myself. I’m really happy (and relieved) that despite the evolution of my art, most anime con attendees are still very receptive to it.
Maybe I didn’t feel like last year had enough anime cons because three of them were total busts and most of them were stacked nearer to the beginning of the year? J-Fest and BA~CON were both one-day gigs with low investments (hell, tables were free at the latter, so it was just gas money), but both were pretty pitiful in terms of attendance and sales. Anime Evolution, meanwhile, was an organisational disaster on multiple levels. Though I corresponded with all their organisers after the shows and expect that they’ll do better in the future, I probably won’t return to any of them in the near future.
Chibi Chibi Con is the only good one-day anime show around here, it seems!
IKKiCON, Sakura-Con, A-Kon, and Kuronekocon, as my regular, repeat shows, were business as usual. Not much has changed from previous years, which, for those first three, mean subpar organisation and communication, but as sorry as that is, I’ve gotten used to it. They’re all getting better very slowly, but sometimes one thing improves at the expense of another thing, and it’s still very frustrating all around.
On the other hand, KNC continues to be a gem of a well-run small con, and I’m always happy to see the staff and attendees there. The Sakura-Con Art Show team also continues to be fantastic, proactive, and responsive as well.
Kumoricon was missing from my 2015 schedule because I didn’t bother applying, because they decided a solution to their chronic lack of space was to move Artist Alley into a literal alley outside. Outside. An outdoor venue can be appropriate in some situations, but for a convention whose name already pokes fun at the Pacific Northwest’s unpredictable fall weather, moving artists — many of who have paper products — outside seemed like a terrible idea. From what I hear, 2015 still went pretty okay, all things considered, but I don’t regret not throwing my lot in. This year though, Kumori is finally moving to the Portland Convention Center, so I do hope to return.
Youmacon was a new addition though! I honestly applied sort of on a whim, but then plans ended up coming together really nicely. It was my first time in Detroit; the show was a lot of fun; I met some cool people, and hung out with friends I don’t normally get to spend a lot of time with. East coast anime cons are hard for me to get to for a variety of reasons, but Youma is close enough that I felt like I saw a lot of east coasters there. I hope I can return again this year!
All in all, even with the handful of busts, anime cons still hold the top spot for me financially too. The 2015 breakdown:
|By Gross Revenue||By Net Revenue||By Attendance||By Organisation|
|Anime Evolution||Chibi Chibi Con||Kuronekocon||J-Fest|
|Chibi Chibi Con||Anime Evolution||Chibi Chibi Con||Anime Evolution|
|J-Fest||BA~CON||J-Fest||Chibi Chibi Con|
Sakura being so close to A-Kon was a first and a huge surprise. I’ve always done just sort of okay at Sakura, but 2015 blew all expectations out of the water — I was up 170%!? Until A-kon happened two months later, Sakura-Con 2015 was an all-time record for me. o_O I was really floored by the overwhelming support, especially on the heels of ECCC in the very same convention center the week before. I ran out of a ton of things at Sakura, and it was nuts! And A-Kon’s numbers weren’t significantly higher either, hence why Sakura wins by net revenue. I’m really interested in seeing how they’ll compare this year, assuming I make it into both shows!
Conclusion on 2015 anime cons? The ones I’ve been doing a while are still being good to me. The smaller ones I tried out I’ll mostly be skipping in the future, but Youma was a good addition, so I hope it gets to stay.
I made a conscious effort to do fewer comic cons in 2015, so Emerald City Comic Con, Rose City Comic Con, and Bellingham Comicon were the only ones I did, and all are local or semi-local. I did also apply to Geek Girl Con, which, while technically multi-genre, draws a similar crowd to a comic con, but I wasn’t accepted this year.
Even after all this time, comic con attendees still intimidate me in a way other types of con-goers don’t, and it’s still because it’s harder for me to relate. While I really like the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and really love Batman: The Animated Series), I’ve read scant few actual mainstream Big Two comics. Most of the comics I read are webcomics. I also don’t draw many comics, compared to my other work. So yeah, I feel weird at comic cons.
But wandering around ECCC without a table in 2014 was weird and uncomfortable. It’s a local show. I can literally walk to the convention center. It’s a waste not to go. And it’s a waste not to table.
So I went. I tabled. It went a lot better than 2013. It went well, really. I met a lot of great people, and I got to see friends. I contributed to ECCC’s annual charity artbook, Monsters and Dames, so a lot of people gathering autographs stopped by. It was a little disappointing that very few of the signature-seekers browsed my other work, but what can ya do. Funnily enough, I think the best part of ECCC was everyone who also went to Sakura-Con the week after, saw me again, and bought from me again?! Ya’ll are the best. <3
I’ll probably continue to do ECCC as long as they keep letting me in though. My feeling a bit out of place isn’t a good enough reason to miss out on this juggernaut of a show. It’s probably mostly in my head, anyway.
Rose City Comic Con though, I think I’ll sit out for a while. 2015 wasn’t bad, per se — it was certainly better than 2014 (up 63%), but that wasn’t a high bar. It definitely wasn’t up to standards given the attendance numbers and the expense, anyway. It’s a shame because I like Portland and it’s still a fun social show, but I’ve been thinking a lot about eliminating cons from my roster because 20+ is really too many for one person. Besides, with Kumori moving to Portland, there will be a much better-suited show for me there now.
Bellingham Comicon, after being an astounding one-day show in 2014, came back down (-43%) to earth in 2015. It was still fun though, and because the expenses are low, I’ll probably still do it again this year if they’ll have me.
There are a handful of other comic cons that I’ve heard good things about — Denver, Phoenix, New York, C2E2. I’d like give them a shot sometime down the line, but they’re not a huge priority, I guess. I also think about returning to Comicpalooza sometime, since it’s a reason to go home and visit family too. We’ll see. For the time being, I’m pretty okay with continuing to go easy on comic cons.
With the decision to do fewer comic cons, I also made the decision to do more furry ones. I’ve always jived well with the crowd, and it felt like it made sense, as I continue to do more animal art and wildlife surrealism…or whatever. In 2015, I did Furry Weekend Atlanta, AnthroCon, Rainfurrest, and Midwest Furfest.
I was really excited to go back to FWA after five years away! Atlanta! Where a bunch of my college buds still reside or are near! I got off the waitlist fairly last minute, so I’m grateful the whole trip pulled together nicely with help from friends. There were some setup snafus since the tables ended up being bigger than expected — 8′ instead of 6′ — and since I flew in, I’d only packed enough PVC for a 6′ table. I just ended up with a much shorter than usual display though. Annoying, but fine!
FWA is bigger than RF, so I was hoping to do at least as well or better, but FWA ended up being a pretty quiet weekend. I did 36 commissions while there — a comfortable amount, but I could’ve been busier. I get fidgety any time I’m not working at capacity, but I really need to get better at just… relaxing. Or something? Art Show at FWA was also a bit disappointing. They were trying out a new bidding system that didn’t end up panning out. I did, however, end up selling a few of my art show pieces at my table Sunday, so I think I may just continue doing that in the future, lol.
AnthroCon is the biggest furry con in the world. It’s been on my list for ages, but 2015 was the first time I was able to go. I was really stoked for the trip, in part because I was also finally getting to hang out with Mel, one of my co-admins at ‘Souls. I got to meet and hang out a bit with Kelly, too, a Twitter friend and awesome designer!
Unfortunately, AC was otherwise fairly disappointing for me. Friday was unbearably slow. Saturday only saw a little bit of an improvement, but Sunday had a last minute rush that gave me a bit of hope. I thought I’d gotten a pretty good table location — near the entrances, across from the charity tables — but I think it ended up hurting me a lot as attendees branched to the left and right of the room immediately after entering. Many told me they didn’t see my table at all until Sunday. Weird and frustrating.
Most of my friends seemed to have had great weekends at AC though, so I’m giving it another shot in 2016. I really hope it works out because Seattle to Pittsburgh is one of the most stressful trips I’ve had in a while (no direct flights, terrible times, etc).
Rainfurrest, for the most part, was business as usual. Commissions were down from last year, but general sales were up, so the weekend went pretty well overall. Lots of familiar faces at RF, but lots of new people too! Unfortunately, while I had a good time at RF, dumb things were happening elsewhere at the con and RF isn’t able to return to the Hilton in 2016… or anywhere else in the Seattle area. They’re moving to Spokane.
This is inconvenient for me because I don’t have a lot of furry con travel buddies, so even though Spokane is only five hours out, the expenses could rake up pretty quickly for me if I need to rent a car and get a hotel room. RF is still figuring stuff out with their new venue, but I’m currently not sure if I’ll be able to make it out this year.
MFF was another last minute surprise. As in 2014, I had applied and been waitlisted, but this time, MFF decided that they would expand their Dealer’s space, allowing me to actually move off that waitlist. Figuring out accommodations in the short time I usually have to confirm interest is always rough, but as usual, friends came through. ♥ MFF is right on AC’s heels for the title of “biggest,” and I’d always heard pretty good things about the show, so I was glad for the opportunity.
Being in a weird auxiliary room was rough though. MFF had six Dealer’s Dens. Six! And I was in the smallest one, tucked away in a weird corner where attendee after attendee exclaimed “I didn’t know this room was here!” All things considered, I did pretty okay at MFF, and it was certainly a fun con socially because I finally got to spend time with college buds Kit (Boneitis) and Karen (Talenshi) after many brief hello/goodbyes at other shows, and their friend Izabela, who graciously hosted us for the weekend.
I’d love to go back to MFF if I can get into the main Dealer’s Den, but if it’s gonna be another auxiliary room again, then I don’t know.
Everfree Northwest is a My Little Pony convention, and they’ll probably be mad I’m lumping them in with the furs in this summary, but let’s be honest: there’s a lot of crossover in both attendees and staff, and they’re run in a similar fashion. Like my other regular cons, EFNW another “business as usual” affair for me. It’s honestly really great to have these handful of regular, mostly-local shows I can go back to each year. Commissions were, again, down at EFNW, but sales more than made up for it. 2015 was their first year using a bigger space for the Vendor’s Hall. It was still a very cramped room, but they’re moving to the Doubletree next year, so it’s a moot point now.
I had a bad experience with the Charity Auction though, unfortunately. It was an extremely disorganised and mismanaged affair. The two pieces I donated were marked with minimum bids far lower than intended, so I’m certain they also sold for less than they were worth. Months later, I’m still not sure since no one has been able to get back to me on it. I’ve spoken at length with the staff about the problems they had, and while I’m sure they’ll do better in the future, I’m probably not going to be participating again.
So to summarise:
|By Gross Revenue||By Net Revenue||By Attendance||By Organisation|
|Everfree NW||Everfree NW||Midwest Furfest||Everfree NW|
|Furry Weekend Atlanta||Furry Weekend Atlanta||Furry Weekend Atlanta||Furry Weekend Atlanta|
|Midwest Furfest||Midwest Furfest||Rainfurrest||Midwest Furfest|
It seems like attendance has the opposite affect on revenue than you’d expect — or at least it did for me. It’s worth noting again that most others I spoke to did way better at AC than I did and those in the main Dealer’s Den at MFF undoubtedly did better as well. Still, it’s also worth pointing out the cons rank in order of smallest to largest Dealer’s Dens…
Ranking these shows by organisation was pretty hard since I think all of them are run pretty well. They all have rough parts and things that I didn’t like about them, but I’ve also found all of their staff very receptive to criticism and I’ve had pleasant correspondences with them all.
I’m still looking to check out and possibly add more furry cons to the roster, but as there are fewer of them around, I need to do more traveling for them. And traveling to them is harder for me because I have fewer friends who work them versus anime or comic cons, so it’s harder to find ways to reduce cost.
Five is probably a fine amount though. If AC is another bust this year, it’ll be a bigger priority to get into Further Confusion next year. BLFC is also on the to-do list, but this year they conflict with EFNW, and it’s hard to compete with local!
Seattle has a lot of small craft shows, indie maker marketplaces, trunk shows, art walks, and the like. From Urban Craft Uprising to the Fremont Sunday Market to, hell, Pike Place Market, the city is just teeming with vending opportunities for artists and artisans. But what makes me more nervous than comic cons? Craft shows. Trying to connect with people outside of “fandom.” Trying to be relevant to them.
Previously, I vended at the Leschi Art Walk twice (2012, 2014). I always intended to write about the experiences here, but they felt like a low priority amongst the other reports I wanted to do, so I never got around to them. Suffice to say that both times were busts, but I think it was primarily because Leschi is a very small neighbourhood and outreach/advertising for the event was poor. Most people who stopped by did so by chance. Still, my interactions with those people were positive.
Kinokuniya Seattle’s Artist Alleys are the result of an employee there who’s also an anime con AA regular. Most of the artists that show up are also anime con regulars, but the event theme isn’t necessarily anime, which is why I’m putting it here. Besides, it’s really not much of a convention as much as eight tables awkwardly shoved into an already cramped bookstore space. There were multiple Kino AAs throughout the year, usually timed to coincide with other events in the International District. The one I participated in was in late July 2015.
It was very awkward.
In addition to space issues, it was clear that most of Kino’s regular customers aren’t really looking for art, of whatever sort. Kino does have a huge anime and manga section, and this one in particular has begun carrying a variety of imported doujinshi goods, but I don’t think a majority of the people stopping in on an average day are looking for anime-related materials. And those that do? They’re going to the actual anime cons, too, anyway. Suffice to say that it was a very slow day, and though the tables were free, I don’t plan to do it again.
PRFM is, as its name implies, something between a flea market, an antique show, and an indie art market. It was an interesting experience as my first time bringing my own table because one wasn’t guaranteed by the event. I wasn’t thrilled about having to buy and haul my own table, as I remain carless, but it ended up fine. They found a weird short table I could use, so my setup was actually bigger than usual. Organisation for the show definitely wasn’t what I was used to, but the people behind the show were good about being upfront and were willing to work with me, which was great.
I think circumstances ended up going against the event’s favour, sadly. It was pouring down rain that weekend and the address on the flyer was just a little bit wrong — it was on 23rd Ave, not 23rd Ave E. I think attendance was decent, considering those two things, and a lot of nice people said nice things about my work, but it was still a pretty slow sales day. And lemme tell ya, Uber drivers sure are persnickety about putting a collapsible 6′ table into their backseat, even if it can fit perfectly fine in the passenger legspace area because the passengers are small, pfff.
Oddmall Seattle was my first two-day craft show-type thing, and my experiences there were encouraging! Oddmall is the largest craft show I’ve done so far and comprised several ballrooms and meeting rooms at the Holiday Inn in downtown Everett (so not technically Seattle, ha). The hotel setting already made it feel a lot more familiar and comfortable, and because it took place at the end of November, the holiday vibe made it feel sort of like a convention. Everyone was in Christmas sweaters! :D
The crowd was light in the mornings, but became fairly steady, if still very casual, in the afternoon. There were a good amount of people there and plenty were in a shopping mood. Though it was an “odd” mall, I felt like I got better talking to “normal” people to some extent, or at least, non-fandom folk. I also got to connect and talk shop with a bunch of nearby vendors, which was really nice since I don’t know a lot of people that vend at these types of shows yet.
In the end, Oddmall performed about as well as small-to-medium sized anime cons did for me in 2009-2010, which is actually really encouraging since I’m still figuring them out. The upcoming summer Oddmall conflicts with A-Kon, but I hope to return to the winter one.
The week after I got back from Midwest Furfest, my last official show of the year, Hannako hits me up with “Yo! Interested in vending a show tonight??” And well, how could I refuse.
Tiny Dodo Gallery regularly uses the space at the Stone Way Cafe in Fremont for exhibitions. I’m not exactly sure what to call the event I went to, but a pop-up show seems like the best bet. There were a couple of vendors and it was the opening of their Bill Murray Xmas and Wes Anderson Tribute show. And it was nice! The evening started off pretty quiet, but then? People? Actually?? Walked off the street? And came into the cafe without knowing what was going on?? And bought stuff? It was shocking and fantastic.
Honestly, I’d love to do more gigs similar to this? Everything in the below picture packs up nicely in my small suitcase, so it’s easy to bus around with, haha.
In addition to wanting to push my original stuff a bit more, one of the reasons I want to do more craft show-type things is because Seattle has so many of them, and even though I like checking out new shows in new cities, it’d be really great to be able to stay home more too. The local art scene is pretty vast, and I really need to start taking advantage of it, nevermind that neverending imposter syndrome.
2015 was a rollercoaster. Some shows were amazing and some shows were huge, time-wasting busts. 22 was an exhausting number of shows. I’d like to do fewer in 2016, but the schedule’s already filling up, so who knows. It’s hard to ignore opportunity when it comes, but what, eight years into this convention thing, and I’m still learning.
Here’s the ranking of the shows I did in 2015 by per-day average gross revenue, so multi-day shows are compared on more even grounds against single-day shows.
|Chibi Chibi Con||Anime|
|Furry Weekend Atlanta||Furry|
|Emerald City Comic Con||Comic|
|Rose City Comic Con||Comic|
|Punk Rock Flea Market||Craft|
|Tiny Dodo Gallery Pop-up*||Craft|
2016 is already rolling. IKKiCON over New Years was a good time as usual. Chibi Chibi Con is coming up in two weeks. I’ll be back in Texas for Furry Fiesta in March. It never ends! :)