I had wanted to go last year, but I’d missed out on snagging a Dealer’s Den spot (I didn’t inquire until waaaay after they’d been filled). Since I’ve accumulated a lot more stuff since FWA back in 2010, I hadn’t wanted to fight for first-come, first-serve daily Artist Alley spots, as is typical of furry conventions. The commute would have been longer for me last year too, involving both a bus and the lightrail.
This year, I was actually waitlisted for Dealer’s, but I wasn’t too far down the line. Tori was also waitlisted a few spots ahead of me and agreed to share her table if she got in and I didn’t. We had to register for a normal badge before applying for Dealer’s though, so I was set to attend either way. As such, I went ahead and registered for two Art Show panels as well. Tori moved off the waitlist a few months ago, allowing me to finalize my plans to go as a dealer, but unexpectedly, I also moved off the waitlist three weeks ahead of the con!
This report is 7,485 words long.
The hotel for Rainfurrest is literally across the street from SeaTac International Airport, which means that the lightrail drops people off literally across the street from the hotel. Since moving in July, I live within walking distance to Westlake Station, which is the last stop on the opposite end of the lightrail. This makes for a wonderfully convenient commute! Though the part where I have to drag luggage around still sucks (I never noticed how uneven the sidewalk is on 5th Avenue, dang — also DID YOU KNOW between 4th and 5th Avenue is a big ol’ hill), it’s at least easier to get suitcases onto the lightrail than it is onto a bus.
I got off the lightrail right around 9am, which was when Dealer’s setup was supposed to start. The Den didn’t open to the public until noon, so I had plenty of time. Even so, I’m really glad that Everfree took place in the same location, as that meant I was already kind of familiar with the layout of the area. RF’s Dealer’s was in a completely different place compared to Everfree’s, but given a directive like “top floor of the conference center,” I had more of an idea as to where that actually was. :P Being lost while dragging stuff around is no fun, especially since RF’s website does not have any maps of the venue.
I actually ran into Tori while crossing between the hotel and the conference center, and her mom helped me get my suitcases into the elevator and up to the third floor where everything was. Even though it was about a quarter past by then, they weren’t letting people into Dealer’s Den to set up yet. Art Show was really close by though, so I had Tori guard my things while I went to check in my pieces over there.
Prior to the con, Art Show had a way for people to register their pieces online via Rainfurrest’s registration system… this registration system was really clunky, awkward, and occasionally hard to access though, so I was only able to register a few of my pieces before they closed up registration about two weeks ahead of the show. I had to register the remaining pieces, print out the bid slips, then hang and label the pieces.
Despite lots of staff around though, it took a while to get everything situated. In the beginning, I wasn’t really sure what I was waiting on, honestly — only Onnanoko (who was my neighbour at Everfree!) was checking in ahead of me, and she only had one piece — but it became clear pretty quickly that most of the staff was new (some were new to staffing, some were just new to Art Show) and it seemed like only one person present know what they were doing…? :/
Still, everyone was really friendly and one of the staff cut out my bid slips while I hung the pieces. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience, just not especially fast or efficient, and staff seeming confused about a lot of things doesn’t really inspire confidence.
I’d intended to make new pieces for the RF Art Show — specifically, I’d wanted to do some teeny, ACEO-size, realistic paintings of birds… But I never got around to it, so everything I brought was oldish. I hadn’t originally intended to sell Cadance or Twilight (because I worked a lot harder on them than Celestia and Nightmare Moon, even if they didn’t end up as popular), but I’m probably never going to display them for myself, and that’s kind of a shame too? That’s generally how I feel about most of my originals.
By the time I’d finished with Art Show, it was almost 10am, and they had opened the Dealer’s Den for setup and Tori had brought my stuff inside for me. I picked up my badge from one of the tables outside the room and was again impressed with the included goods. At FWA, I was pretty surprised to get a plastic badge with shiny foil letters, not to mention the huge 20’x40′ poster with art by the guest artist from that year. Most anime and comic cons just give you a plain printed badge in a badge holder, after all. Half of them don’t give you a lanyard and a majority somehow always forget to give vendors a freakin’ con program.
Rainfurrest didn’t give out a gigantic poster, but they had a nice branded lanyard, a heavy duty badge holder, and a metal pin with this year’s promo art on it — apparently a collectible, as a new one is made every year, and staff and VIP (?) get them in different colors. They did not forget to give us a program, and a folded up schedule was inside the badge holder, along with an additional slip of schedule corrections. Dealers were given two adhesive ribbons, similar to the ones Otakon had. Also similar to Otakon, since the ribbons designated their various statuses, rather than the badge design, attendees could choose between multiple badge designs. They didn’t have the design slips at dealer check-in, but someone came around to individual tables with them later.
Since she normally shares tables anyway, Tori offered to let me keep the half of the table she’d promised to me, despite my snagging a full table of my own. The tables were 6′ each, but even though a 9′ setup was pretty tempting, I didn’t think my PVC would be very stable stretched horizontally across that much space, haha. So I went with my 8′ setup and occupied a third of Tori’s space. For some reason though, even though we had over two hours to set up, both of us took the entire time to do so. x_x I was really scatterbrained that morning and kept forgetting what I was doing? Good thing Tori brought me back coffee after she went off looking for a printer, ’cause no one else did that day!
Have I mentioned that my bookmark printer went out of business? Or I assume they did because their domain expired… D: No one else is gonna do laminated, short-run bookmarks cheap enough for them to be worth it, so I’ve been phasing out bookmarks and replacing them with postcard sets. It’s awkward in the meantime though, and the display rack on the left is a bit of a mess. I’ve thought some about moving my overhead banner to the front of the table since I have so many more posters/prints now, but I really like it where it is, and it makes it way easier for people to spot my table from a distance. I guess that’s less an issue at small cons like RF, but my overhead banner has always been overhead and I guess it’d be really weird for me to move it now.
Dealer’s Den opened at noon to a light, casual crowd. Because I had promotional postcards on a corner of my table, I had conversations about ‘Souls RPG with a number of seemingly interested people. Despite having distributed postcards at a several conventions now though, no one has yet put in “postcard from a con!” in the “How did you hear about ‘Souls?” part of their joining application. :P I’ll get somebody one of these days!
Leah (Summerbound), a former/inactive ‘Souls member, came by pretty early to say hello, too, so that makes three ‘Soulsters I’ve met at cons. Yay!
The afternoon was otherwise really slow though. Understandably, most just browse the first day, but I heard later on that a lot of people didn’t even know Dealer’s Den was open Thursday. Artist Alley, which comprised of the tables just outside of Dealer’s, wasn’t open Thursday, and Art Show, despite being scheduled otherwise, had a really late start? It was the first year Dealer’s was open on Thursday, and even half the dealer’s didn’t realize it — about a third of the tables in the room remained empty throughout the day, including most of the tables across the aisle from me.
I hadn’t thought about it before then, but hours hadn’t been announced when Dealer’s Den registration opened up, and an email never went out with hours before the con. I had grabbed the hours from the website, which did not have those hours until about 2-3 weeks ahead of the show. Hmm. :/ It was weird being open on Thursday, especially since it wasn’t a holiday weekend, but that didn’t hit me until at least a day later.
Physical merchandise wasn’t moving at all, and I only had a small number of commissions that never kept me occupied long enough. In fact, I was kind of stretching the amount of time I spent on all my commissions just so they’d keep me busy for longer. I tend to work fast, and I guess I’ve only gotten faster in my years of doing commissions at cons. I also really like drawing canines, which make up a huge percentage of furry characters, so most of the work I was getting was, while super fun, not especially challenging. Even the one commission that was challenging — dragons; man, dragons are hard to draw — I spent way more time than usual on it, but it still wasn’t that much time, apparently. :c
My being bored behind the table at conventions is becoming more and more of an issue, I’ve noticed… I used to spend a lot of time working on commission examples and ACEOs and stuff when I don’t have commissions, but I haven’t been able to focus on those lately? In spring 2010, I worked nonstop on penciling and inking my senior project pages throughout convention weekends. But now I can’t work on personal projects behind the table lest I get too “into” them and start blocking out my surroundings and ignoring customers.
I definitely need to get better at finding ways to keep myself occupied. I hate feeling bored, and a lot of times, even if the con is otherwise going well, I won’t feel like it is, because I’m bored! x_x It’s hard to have conversations with neighbours when you need to break off every few sentences to greet a passing attendee, and with an 8′ space on the corner, it was honestly hard to even make eye contact with the people next to me. Also, often, it seems like I’m the only person bored? <_< Tori and the artist on the other side of me, Danji, seemed pretty busy the whole time!
Power strips were scattered throughout the Dealer’s Den and one of them was directly underneath my table. Importantly, this meant that Tori could run her laminator and we could do finish up badge commissions without having to wait until the evening to laminate them at my apartment. Less importantly, this meant that I ended up passing a lot of the time on Twitter and Tumblr because I didn’t have to worry about my phone running out of battery. >_>
There was no shortage of nice fursuiters for me to look at, too, though I missed out on getting photos of a lot of them because I suck at yelling “Can I take your picture?” I’m not a very loud person, and I imagine it’s harder to hear inside a few layers of fur and foam. It’s a shame, because there were a lot of fantastic suiters at the con, including a lot of uncommon species.
The Dealer’s Den closed at 6pm. Tori and I closed up shop for the night, then went to check out the Art Show. RF’s Art Show and Charity Auction room was pretty similar in size to Sakura-Con’s, though the charity auction goods took up less space, and was, to some extent, less spotlighted. All the charity auction stuff was donated by artists, or from the con itself, and didn’t differ too much from the general art show offerings aside from the fact they were for charity. (Compare with Sakura-Con and other anime cons, where most of the charity goods are signed memorabilia from various shows.) There was a lot of cool stuff though. I was especially impressed with a hand made set of bathroom…stuff. A liquid soap dispenser, soap dish, etc.
Afterwards, we left the hotel and saw a bunch of fursuiters waving at passing cars on the skybridge to the lightrail. Once downtown, we went to a pho place for dinner, then went back to my apartment to feed and attend to my (recently adopted!) kittens. Tori had a few commissions to finish up that night, but I only had one (commissioned within the last half hour we were open, lol), which I finished up pretty quickly, so I just played with kittens until bedtime.
Overall, Thursday revenue was almost 80% commissions. I had four commissions Thursday. Well. I knew Friday would be better.
Dealer’s Den opened to the public at 10am and the commute by lightrail is roughly an hour, so we were up at 7am. After feeding the cats, we set off to get coffee before going to Westlake Station. It was kinda rainy out, but I liked it. I had a bunch of coupons for McDonald’s, but their…coffee machine wasn’t working? What. So we went to Starbucks and I got an overpriced (but delicious D;) egg sandwich along with my coffee.
We got to SeaTac around 9:30am, which apparently gave us fifteen minutes or so to get ready before they let VIPs in… I was kind of annoyed because it was never mentioned anywhere that VIPs had early access (it isn’t even mentioned in the list of benefits for VIPs on the website), but Dealer’s Den management didn’t directly give us hours at all, sooo… In any case, it wasn’t like I had much at the table to reset and it wasn’t like there was a huge rush of people coming in anyway. I would have liked to have used the time before opening to browse Artist Alley a bit though, as they were open now.
Friday morning had the same slow, steady quality that most of Thursday did, and while the day’s numbers say that things did pick up, I didn’t really feel it. I had just enough commissions to keep me occupied, but I was still overworking things so I wouldn’t run out of queue. I spent most of the afternoon working as slowly as possible on a two-character full page color commission because I knew I’d be bored as soon as I finished it. Maybe the take-away from all this is that if you commission me when I have no queue and am otherwise bored to death, you will get a more-detailed-than-usual piece??
Two people brought me coffee in the early afternoon, which was really nice, but I didn’t need the caffeine as much as I had the day before, and it probably just made me extra fidgety when I didn’t have much to do. Time passed really slowly all day, and I don’t think anything else notable happened. I wondered if being across the aisle from high profile artists like Dark Natasha, Vantid, and Blotch was disadvantageous for me, but it’s probably more that I’m unknown than that they’re known. The furry community is particularly tight-knit, so “known” is super known, and “unknown” is super unknown, it seems like.
Dealer’s Den closed up again at 6pm. Tori had wanted to attend the live art model panels, but they were scheduled pretty late. As we’d learned at Everfree, food options around the hotel were either really expensive or required a fair bit of walking. Tori was craving Thai food, and there wasn’t really any of that in the area anyway, so we again went back downtown for food.
Tori had a ton of commission homework that night, but I had none. I did have like twenty unread emails sitting in my work inbox though, despite having informed people that I’d be unavailable. It annoyed me a lot, and I spent a good part of the evening bumming around on the Internet avoiding the inevitable. <_< Because of this, and because the work stuff which, while not difficult, ended up being really time-consuming, we didn’t get to bed until past 3am. Whoooops. It’s been a while since I’ve been up so late on a con weekend; figures it’d be for no good reason!
The fact that Rainfurrest was a four-day con finally hit me on Saturday when I was really thrown by the fact that it was only Saturday. The morning went the same as usual, though it was getting steadily rainier. We stopped by Starbucks again for my coffee and egg sandwich. I had snacks I kept meaning to bring to the con, but forgot to do so every single day.
I went around Artist Alley a little bit in the morning, but other than saying hello to Marl, I didn’t hang around much. I could have definitely made a bigger effort to socialize at Rainfurrest. It’s absolutely a social event (obvious, right), even more so than most other cons I go to, but despite my persistent boredom at the table, I felt extra awkward for one reason or another? With anime and comic cons, there’s always…anime and comics to talk about. People wear their fandoms on their sleeves — quite literally with cosplay, or less literally with fanart — and it’s really easy to start conversations on those subjects. With furry conventions, series fandom is still there, yes, (I saw some fursuiters with Attack on Titan uniforms,) but it’s far less prominent, and so it becomes harder for me to engage.
I guess I could have talked more about art or something, but I actually kind of dislike talking about art, especially my art, or my admiration of others’ art. I would much, much rather tell you about all the feelings I have about the Free! Iwatobi Swim Club finale. Unfortunately, Tori was not caught up on Free! or Attack on Titan at all, and Skeeter didn’t manage to finish Free! that weekend, and I couldn’t talk to him about Attack on Titan because he’s up-to-date on the manga, and I’m still not. And so, not much fantarding for me over the weekend. :(
Saturday was similar to Friday: steadier than Thursday, but still slow. Even though I hadn’t slept much, I was still way more bored than I was tired. Leah was nice enough to come around again with a full page, fullbody ink commission. Those were supposed to be for take-home completion only, as they’re time-consuming and I could do a lot of small commissions in the time it’d take me to finish one of those. But as I had absolutely nothing else to do, I worked on it at the table and finished it all too quickly again, even after doing a lot of fur and costume details that might have otherwise cost extra.
Someone came by to tell me they’d bid on my Nightmare Moon in the Art Show. That was a little mood boost, and I was excited about the prospect of actually selling things in the show, considering the lack of luck I’ve had in every other art show I’ve participated in. I thought about going around to commission other artists, but I feel that most of my animal and anthro characters are kind of boring and didn’t feel particularly inspired to get work done of them. :/
Shortly after 2pm, they “cleared” the Dealer’s Den by repeatedly asking attendees to move out of the aisles because the Fursuit Parade would be coming through. Initially, this irritated me because it obviously meant no one could conduct business for the duration of the parade, but honestly, there wasn’t much business happening anyway, and I was really glad I didn’t need to go out of my way to watch the Fursuit Parade. I was still kinda sad I missed seeing it at FWA three years ago.
And the parade was pretty great. I got video of the whole thing, but it’s pretty poor-quality. There are tons of better ones to be found in the related videos section, if you’re interested. Even if it’s easy to find others’ photos of them online anyway, I’m glad I got to get video of basically all the suiters that I missed proper photos of because I wasn’t loud enough. Raptor Jesus and the macaw were some of my favorites. I was happy to see several of Clockwork Creature‘s suits in person, and I was SUPER PLEASED to see that someone had a partial suit of Exile, the Siberian husky from Road Rovers, hahahaha. Someone also had a suit of Charlie from All Dogs Go to Heaven. Someday, I would like to see suits of Razor and T-Bone (and DOCTOR VIPER) from Swat Katz. Someone please make this happen. ⊙▽⊙
Business actually picked up significantly after the parade exited, and I got a good handful of commissions in the last hour we were open. (Probably because a lot of other artists were full up on work by then?) Kyell Gold, whom I actually met at ECCC last year, commissioned me for a sketchbook piece, but I didn’t remember his face and didn’t realize who he was until the tail end of the conversation when he mentioned I could drop off the sketchbook at the Sofawolf Press table across the aisle from me. Haaaaahaha.
After we closed up shop for the evening, I dropped in at the Art Show again to check on my pieces. About half of them had minimum bids, including Celestia and Nightmare Moon. They were by different bidders, so the pair won’t be going home together, but oh well. XD I love my diptychs, but I think they look fine separately too!
Since we both had a fair bit of homework to do, Tori and I had a quick dinner at McDonald’s after lightrailing back downtown. Because of my convenient coupons, we both had two quarter pounders, fries, and drinks. After that, we hiked up to Uptown Espresso to set up camp and work. Since I live in a tiny studio, there isn’t really space for two people to work on art at the same time. I have a drafting table and a desk, but my desk isn’t really big enough to do traditional art on. Plus, kittens are distracting little hellbeasts, in case you didn’t know.
By 10:30pm, I’d basically finished all my commissions, save a few details I needed to look up additional reference for online. My phone’s battery had died, and all the wall outlets at the cafe were taken, so we headed out. Tori still had quite a bit more work to do though, so she set up at my drafting table back at the apartment while I tended to the cats and bummed around on the Internet. Since it aired Saturday afternoon, I had intended to watch the Attack on Titan finale that night, but I knew I was too tired to concentrate on the episode and just went to bed around midnight.
The commute Sunday was a little annoying because apparently the lightrail wasn’t running between downtown and Sodo that morning and we needed to catch a bus to Sodo before transferring to the lightrail. I saw a notice about it on our way home Saturday evening, which was lucky, because I think we’d have been pretty confused otherwise. There were station-wide announcements regarding it in the morning, along with notes on the marquee, but those are both things I tend to block out when traveling…especially early in the morning. There were no posted signs about it at Westlake Station, so I’m not sure why there were at SeaTac because most people seeing it on SeaTac’s side of the route probably wouldn’t be affected…?
The bus driver ended up being really lively and talkative, probably to ease airport-bound tourists’ anxieties about being late for their flights. This was fine, though it made napping on the commute a bit harder. :P
I stopped again at the Art Show first thing after arriving at the con and was really, really surprised to see that Cadance was marked to go to the live auction. It was three bids to auction and she didn’t have any bids the evening prior. The Art Show was open for about a half hour more after we’d left, but three silent bids in that half hour seems pretty far-fetched. Not to mention that neither Celestia nor Nightmare Moon would be going to auction, and those pieces have always been far, far more popular than Cadance. I did ask the staff if the pieces on the table marked for auction were all the pieces that were going to auction, but I didn’t want to question my good luck regarding Cadance and didn’t ask anyone to double-check that she was actually supposed to go to auction.
Cadance going to auction meant I needed to decide if I wanted to attend the live auction or not though. The few auctions I’ve watched in the past have been fun, but they had all taken place outside of hours I needed to behind a table, so it wasn’t a big deal to go. Rainfurrest’s auction was from noon to 1pm that day, smack in the middle of the Dealer’s hours. But I really wanted to see who had bid on Cadance and how much she’d go for…hm.
The morning in the Dealer’s Den was not unlike the previous days. I think a lot of people just assumed that most artists weren’t taking any new commissions and didn’t bother to ask, nevermind the sign hanging over my head that says otherwise. (I have too many signs; I don’t begrudge anyone overlooking any of them!) I wanted to really push the fact that I could, in fact, still finish large badge commissions and finish them before the end of the day, but I was actually wary of possibly inviting too many new commissions? Sundays are stressful because I want to do work, and I can do work, but there’s no tomorrow if I can’t finish everything before closing.
I did get a cool sketchbook commission without specifically soliciting for it, but shortly after, I decided I would hit up the auction after all.
Unfortunately, the auction was kind of a mess. There were three or four staff members on stage handling pieces and a grey fox fursuiter walking pieces around the room when they were up for bidding. It was really, really obvious that most, if not all, of the staff didn’t really know what they were doing. :/
The auctioneer had never auctioneered before. His is commentary was generally boring and failed to ever rouse much response from the small crowd. The bidders that got really into their bids were pushed onward by an already established rivalry than the auctioneer. (During one bidwar, several onlookers commented that the two bidders were friends and had had similar bidwars in the past.) Then staff mixed up labels for art so that the auctioneer ended up announcing one piece for bidding while a different piece was being shown to the audience, and the audience had to yell out to correct this mistake. It was pretty frustrating to watch.
The auction moved back and forth between general show pieces and charity auction pieces. Everything seemed to be moving extra slowly, especially as several charity pieces did not end up getting additional live auction bids. I got antsy a lot and wanted to go back to my table, but I kept thinking that I’d spent so much time away already, I may as well see it through to my piece.
Naturally, Cadance was the very last general auction piece brought up, and it was brought up to dead silence. It opened at what I’d set as the minimum bid, which confirmed that it was in the auction by mistake. It couldn’t have gotten the three bids required to make it to auction if it was still at the minimum bid. ~_~ And then! And then when no one met that bid, the auctioneer actually announced a lower price for them to bid at. He continued in this manner, lowering the price in increments until it was a third less than the minimum bid before finally closing the bidding on it. I was pretty irritated when I left the auction afterwards.
I’d wasted over an hour sitting through the auction for absolutely no reason, except maybe to witness the fact that Art Show staff had completely screwed up in bringing one of my pieces to auction and that they had no idea how to run an auction anyway. What if someone had actually bid on Cadance when the auctioneer had her at less than minimum bid? What a disaster that would have been. Considering how important art seems to be to the fandom in general, I was pretty surprised to hear that this is about on par with what’s typical at art shows at furry cons?
When I got back to my table, I finished up the sketchbook commission (above), which made me feel better. The theme of the sketchbook was “the creative process,” but most of the prior pages had already covered the stuff like endless frustration, self-doubt, and so on, so I thought I’d go for a broader interpretation and did a comic about lesser #artistproblems. Thankfully, the commissioner didn’t mind and we both liked how the comic turned out, haha.
Predictably, I did get a number of additional commissions before the 4pm closing time and had to stop taking new ones in the last hour. I finished the last of them about fifteen minutes to close, but the commissioner wasn’t able to come get it in time. He swung back by while I was packing up and staff apparently wasn’t stopping people from coming into the Dealer’s Den anymore, so he was able to grab it without issue. x_x
I’m glad that worked out. For a while, I was really worried about being able to pack up in time because about an hour to closing, staff came around to say that dealers would have about 45 minutes to pack up after we closed because at that time, all the staff would be clearing out to go to the closing ceremonies?? And then after the ceremonies the room would be opened back up for dealers to finish packing. How inconvenient?? 4:45pm came and went though, and no one kicked us out…?
A vast majority of people were already out by then anyway, including Tori, who was picked up by her parents. Most artists didn’t have a particularly complicated setup and were out and gone pretty fast. Many of the vendors that did have larger displays and stuff started breaking down long before closing, so they were also out of there pretty fast after we closed at 4pm.
I finally finished packing up a bit after 5pm. I dragged my stuff over to the Art Show and was pretty annoyed for the next half hour or so while I tried to retrieve my leftover pieces. The doors were closed, and when I first poked my head in, I was told that they were only processing one person at a time and that everyone else needed to wait outside. Several minutes later, the door opens and a different staff person said that if I’m an artist picking up art (rather than a bidder picking up art), I was allowed in. ~_~ Well, thanks for clarifying in the first place.
The show pieces were scattered all over the place and staff was having a hell of a time finding stuff. This was probably why they wanted to limit access to the room, because everyone was running around trying to find stuff and it would have been pretty chaotic if there were more people in the room. Then again, stuff might have been found more quickly then…? Most of my pieces had actually sold, and it didn’t take me long to locate the remaining pieces since I more or less could guess which didn’t sell.
Check-out was confusing because of the fact that Cadance had gone to auction for no reason. Staff didn’t realize it had been wrongly marked until it was pointed out that the numbers didn’t otherwise add up on the check-out sheet generated by the computer. I still have absolute no idea how it could have been wrongly marked, honestly. There were no bids on Cadance, which means the bid slip was blank and someone stuck the auction sticker on top of a blank bid slip. How does that even happen?? Staff was nice and all that, but man. It was frustrating.
After finalizing all my check-out paperwork, I wrapped the leftover pieces in my jacket and headed out for the lightrail. It was raining a fair bit then, so the trek back to my apartment was not so fun. The rain came down harder after I got home and while I was out to dinner, though that actually made me feel better.
For all my sad whining on Twitter about how bored I was, Rainfurrest was really pretty all right. Good, even!
I think furry cons are kind of weird for me in the same way that comic cons are kind of weird for me — I feel like I only have one foot in the fandom and don’t quite belong. Despite the fact that my animal, creature, and anthropomorphic art numbers among my strongest, I have a much harder time talking about it and relating to others through it. Anime fandom is easy. Talk to me about your favorite show and favorite character and all your ships and OTPs and we can kill an hour or two in excited flailing and debate. Maybe I’m more comfortable with it because with fanart, the tribute and the character become the focus more so than the art; we don’t have to talk as much about the actual craft and skill and execution, and my self-consciousness feels safer. Original art, furry art — that’s more personal. That’s harder. (Man, this ties into that comic commission I drew a lot, doesn’t it? <_<)
What else do furries talk about? I actually don’t know. And yet, there were four full days of programming at Rainfurrest. There were plenty of going-ons after Dealer’s closed every day. Next year I’ll need to make a point to check some of them out, and maybe then I’ll feel less awkward. But I’m definitely going to come back next year.
Organization at Rainfurrest was kind of a mixed bag.
Pre-con communication was generally pleasant. After getting waitlisted for Dealer’s Den, I asked about my position on the waitlist and got a pretty prompt response. After I moved off the waitlist, my request for my table to be placed next to Tori’s, so we could still split her table, was granted quickly with absolutely no fuss. I was really happy about that, especially since the map had already been put on the website at that point, with spaces assigned and everything. In each of these instances though, it was me initiating contact with the Dealer’s Den head. All emails I received from Dealer’s Den were automatically generated by the registration system and no details about hours, load-in, or anything were ever sent out.
And the registration system is pretty awkward and cumbersome. I’m not really sure how to describe it other than it seemed like it was custom-coded by someone on staff very quickly and with no finesse at all. It was easy to get through the first time, but it didn’t look or feel clean or professional. The trouble mostly came when I needed to back into the system to make changes or edits. There wasn’t always a direct link to the registration system from the website, and sometimes the pages I needed to — Art Show info, specifically — get to wouldn’t be accessible, and it was just annoying to deal with.
In contrast, Art Show management sent out about a dozen emails ahead of the show, but wasn’t especially helpful when presented with inquiries. Most of the emails Art Show sent out dealt with entering pieces into the registration system, which I believe is a new thing, hence all the rough spots. Art Show also sent out emails about mail-in submissions, hours, and one email even included a map by which to find the Art Show room, which was nice. I didn’t have a lot of questions for them ahead of the show, but man, at the convention…
As I already said, it seemed like most of staff didn’t really know what they were doing, and the one or two people that did weren’t always around. Over the weekend of a show, it’s a lot harder for experienced staff to direct newbie staff because there’s so much going on, and everyone’s being bombarded with questions from attendees and artists and unexpected issues and emergencies. It’s a lot harder to think about procedure when you’re under pressure. I get it. But knowing this, getting all staff familiar with their duties ahead of the show is a given, isn’t it? There should be internal documents detailing everything, and it should be required reading. I would have been pretty upset if Art Show had ended up selling Cadance for less than the minimum bid because of staff error. That sort of thing needs to never be in danger of happening.
Rainfurrest gets points for being clever and unique though. There were a lot of little touches they had that just made the con a lot of fun, like the fact that all staff members were outfitted in park ranger-type uniforms. Along with fitting in with the built-in “rainforest” theme (even though the annual con theme is a different thing), this made staff really easy to recognize and spot. There were also wooden signs erected in hallway junctions pointing out where things were, which also fit in with the theme.
The con had dealer and VIP and other “official”-type ribbons, but there were a few dozen “for fun” ribbons being distributed at Rainfurrest, either at panels or by random staff people. Quite a few attendees were trying to collect them all. I thought the idea was really cute. I got the “I ♥ RainFurrest” and “I am a _____!” (one day I’ll figure out what to put in that blank) from a random staffer stopping at my table, the “artist” ribbon from another random staffer, and the “cloudedleopard.org” ribbon for donating a few things to the charity raffle.
I still really like the venue too. Yeah, that one narrow hallway where registration and con-ops are is pretty claustrophobic and con-funky, but I only pass through that hallway once every morning and evening, so it’s not a big deal to me? The ballrooms in the hotel are a good size, and the conference center seems to have plenty of space for a con this size. The hotel is also pet-friendly, so there were tons and tons of (actual) dogs in attendance over the weekend, along with a couple of cats and the stray bird. Since it’s right across the street from the airport, the overflow hotels aren’t far at all, and anyone flying in for the convention doesn’t need to travel far. And I really can’t ask for a better commute.
If Art Show earnings are included, I did about the same at Rainfurrest as I did at Sakura-Con this year. Even without the Art Show though, Rainfurrest easily grossed better than almost all conventions I’ve attended up to four times its size, including Comicpalooza and IKKiCON, though it wasn’t quite on par with Everfree’s ridiculousness. I probably can’t judge by the same metrics I use for anime and comic cons though. The atmosphere and marketplace are wildly different, and it’s honestly impossible to weigh the attendance on the same scale.
The official attendance this year was just 2,202, making Rainfurrest the fifth largest furry con in the world. The largest, AnthroCon, had 5,577 attendees this year. For comparison, the fifth largest anime con in North America in 2012 was Anime Boston with ten times RF’s attendance with 22,065 warm bodies. Anime Expo sits at the top with 49,400 attendees. At other cons, they’ve been between 20-25%, but commissions at Rainfurrest made up 53% of gross revenue, and it would have been much, much higher if I had actually been working at full capacity. Aside from commissions, I sold a much higher number of originals (original drawings, paintings, and ACEOs) than usual, so the percentage of my printed merch made up is even smaller percentage. It being a four-day con didn’t make much of a difference since Thursday’s numbers were so low, but maybe that’ll change next year if people realize sooner that we’re open Thursday.
How does RF compare to other furry cons? I have no idea. FWA 2010 was too long ago and too many other things have changed for me for that to be a fair comparison. I want to do more fur cons, but the lower attendance scale makes it hard for me to guess which out-of-state ones would be financially worth it, and the catch-22 is obviously that I won’t be able to guess better unless I attend more fur cons. I’d like to go back to FWA someyear though, and AnthroCon’s on the bucket list. Midwest FurFest is set at a good time, as far as not being in conflict with other conventions (but it’s set at an awful time, if you consider my annual NaNoWriMo ball and chain ;). Who knows?
In any case, I’ll be back at Rainfurrest next year, and I’ll figure stuff out from there. :)