This report is 3,733 words long.
So after last year’s con, which was not bad by any measure, I sent a lengthy email to Makayla, KNC’s Exhibits head, with various comments and suggestions for improvement. Her response was encouraging, and I felt pretty good about the show’s prospects for 2014.
One of the things I critiqued was KNC’s website — it’s still kind of a mess, but they did parry down the number of broken links this year and they snipped some of the extraneous/outdated pages. Honestly though, I didn’t have to dig around on the site nearly as much this year because most of the information was staying the same, and they emailed previous vendors directly about registration in February. There was a minor issue getting the Google form to go live at the specified time, but otherwise the vendor registration process was painless. Google let you know your application went through, and a few days later, Makayla followed up with a Paypal payment link.
KNC is far too tiny to see the cutthroat competition for vendors’ spots that conventions like Sakura-Con see, so registration stayed open for quite a while. Indeed, come May, another email was sent out saying that there were still a few spaces available. A final email with load-in instructions, hours, map, and table assignments was sent in early July, exactly a month before the con. That’s pretty damn early for a final email, so it definitely felt like they were on top of things!
Since KuroNekoCon is a two-day show, Xib and I planned to leave around 1pm Friday afternoon. But minor household delays, Seattle Seafair traffic (or something… neither of us actually knew what was going on) and random construction around the stadium entrance to I-90 kept us in the city until like 2:30. We stopped for gas and snacks just before getting on the highway. The cashier asked if I was from Seattle (technically, no) and if I was in town for “the big cycling event.” I did not know about any such cycling event, and I have no idea what about me made him think I was a cyclist, but maybe the sign over my head declaring “still hopelessly obsessed with bicycling anime” is visible to laymen too…
The drive itself was uneventful and didn’t feel very long. The summer drive from Seattle to Spokane is nice and scenic, and Friday had some particularly epic cloud formations as it was supposed to storm in Spokane that night.
While waiting to be seated for kaiten sushi, we hung out at the bar a bit, and Xib and I both got their DragonBall drink, mostly because it was called a DragonBall (but by great coincidence, it was also on special and cheap). We joked that they should only serve seven such drinks every night and each needed a different number of cherries in it. ;)
Dinner was lovely, and it was great getting to hang out with Mika and to fantard over bike anime (which Xib still needs to finish!). Mika’s mom was also super nice and did not seem too out of place hanging out with a bunch of nerds, haha.
Setup Saturday morning began at 7am; Exhibits opened to the public at 10am. We crawled out of bed around six, but it was a pretty lazy start. There were a whole bunch of loud drunks staying at our hotel and I’d woken up a lot in the night. A bit past seven we went down to the hotel’s complimentary breakfast, the highlight of which was self-pressed waffles. More hotels need free breakfast, man. I’m sure the con hotel, the Doubletree, is nice, but I’ll take the short commute and paying for parking for that relaxing breakfast away from the chaos of the con.
We rolled into the convention center’s loading zone around 8:15. By contrast to last year, there were various convention center staff around outside, but no KNC staff. No one approached us when we parked, but the loading door was wide open and building staff pointed out that the Exhibit’s Hall this year was right across from the loading door. Last year, we had to push things through a winding back corridor, so this was a huge improvement.
Though there were no KNC staff in the immediate vicinity of the loading door, there were plenty inside the actual Exhibit’s Hall, and as it turned out, my table was right next to the staff table this year and right by the main entrance . Xib was on my other side, so our tables and staff are the first ones attendees will walk by. (See map here.) Makayla checked us in and gave us our programs and badges, then I started setting up while Xib went to park the car at the Doubletree’s garage. The event parking for the weekend was just $5/day.
Setup has been taking me a bit longer lately since I’ve been building regularly to 5′ and the two, nearly full-height “wings” on each side of the table take up a fair bit of extra time. I’ve also accumulated so many different print designs now that I always end up spending a lot of time debating which I should display. There are several older designs I plan to retire as soon as I sell out of my remaining stock, so hopefully this won’t be an issue for too much longer. My other problem is that I have an even mix of horizontally and vertically composed pieces, which makes piecing together the print wall more of a challenge.
I managed to finish setting up almost exactly at ten, but because many artists and several dealers didn’t arrive until right around then, opening ended up being delayed to 10:30am. This always annoys me a bit, but I wasn’t horribly fussed about it at KNC since it gave me extra time to clean up behind my table and then make a quick pass around the room before settling in for the day. As a small con, I also knew that attendees would circle back a lot throughout the course of the weekend anyway.
The Exhibit’s Hall had about the same number of dealer and artist spaces as last year, but the new room we were in was bigger, giving everyone more space to work with. It was very spacious behind the tables, and, though I didn’t notice until near the end of the weekend, I had a floor outlet behind me, so there was power supplied too. Outlet placement wasn’t perfect for every table, but it seemed like everyone that needed power got it somehow.
Since there was still only about a $10 difference between dealers and artist spaces, a lot of the dealer spots were occupied by artists and artisans. Because of this, I think there were fewer actual dealers compared to last year.
Traffic was steady for the morning, but tapered off around noon. I had one big commission pretty early on, then not very much for the rest of the day. Still, sales were pretty robust and there was more commission interest than last year. Since it’s a small con, people left and came back a lot. The new Exhibits Hall was right by registration, so a lot of attendees came in as soon as they got their badges, then went to see other things, then came back, and back again.
Though I was disappointed that there weren’t more Yowamushi Pedal cosplayers, I was happy to see all the Haikyuu!! (volleyball anime…) cosplayers at the convention within the first hour or so. I was also happy to get to spaz about Digimon Adventure with several people since it’d been announced just that morning that there would be a new direct sequel to the original series, to air in the spring season for Digimon’s 15th anniversary.
Mika wasn’t tabling this year and hadn’t originally planned to attend, but since my table came with two badges and I wasn’t using the second one, I offered it to her. She showed up in the mid-afternoon and went on an accidental shopping spree for Evangelion and basketball anime merchandise. ;) Sports anime has consumed us all…!
Mika and I also traded the originals for our pre-arranged art trade, where we each drew the other’s bike OTP. :’D
Because I was motivated by everyone else’s Yowapeda zines and mini artbooks, and because I just happened to have a lot of usable material, I made a 26-page copybon zine with various drawings of my bike OTP. It was nice having a new zine on the table — the last minicomic I made was for The Z Train in 2012 — but to be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to sell at all. Bike anime isn’t actually that popular (it just happens to have a very vocal, active, and artistic fandom), and even within the fandom, my ship isn’t the most popular ship. A labour of love! Obsessive, obsessive love!
The non-zero sales of the zine genuinely surprised me! XD And it was fabulous geeking out to the people who bought it. I love being able to geek out about these things at anime cons… ; 3 ;
One of the weirdest things about the day was the fact that there was a (Captain) Jack Sparrow cosplayer going around glaring critically at basically all the artists and making disparaging comments, either directly to them or within earshot of them. He wandered by my table several times, but never stopped to actually browse. At one point, I overheard him asking rhetorically why I had MLP-related stuff when it was an anime convention. (My mental retort was obviously, well why are you cosplaying Jack Sparrow; that is totally not from an anime…)
Rude comments said carelessly within earshot of artists is nothing new, and it honestly didn’t bother me at all, but apparently this person went straight up to Xib’s table and told him directly that some of his art was” inappropriate” for a family event and that if he could burn down people’s tables, his would be the first to go. o_O
Xib has some suggestive work, but there were no lines being crossed or even toed, and we know that KNC staff does check because Xib was asked to censor one of his buttons last year for having the word “fuck” on it, lol. (I think the guy was specifically mad about Xib’s Kill la Kill print?) Mr. Sparrow made a similar comment to Lauren, one of the artists at the table across the aisle from us, who also had some suggestive, but not inappropriate, work, so it’s likely that he approached other artists in the Alley as well.
After some thought, Xib reported the cosplayer to KNC staff, who seemed to take the issue very seriously. A little while later, staff followed up and told us that they’d spoken with him, and that if he continued with his remarks, to report him again. And so while Mr. Sparrow wasn’t kicked out or anything, to my knowledge, he didn’t make any other rude comments the rest of the weekend.
Exhibits closed at 6pm and as the day wound down, Xib and I made haphazard dinner plans with a couple of other artists. As everyone was packing up, I ran over to say hello to Emily (Sal/Crossexe), as well as Elaine (Misurabu) and Jackie (Azure-Inferno), the pair of whom I’m pretty sure I’d seen before at at least one other con, but whom I’d not spoken to until then.
Emily, Elaine, and Jackie sort of had other plans for the evening, but I also wanted to avoid a huge, huge party for dinner since those end up being a bit chaotic and not as fun. So the group for the evening ended up being me, Xib, Mika, Lauren and her table partner Markie, and Kacy (AmberTDD) and Robin (Rezllan), whom I’d met at Chibi Chibi Con.
We went to the Chili’s conveniently across the street from the convention center, where everyone had delicious watermelon lemonade and 2 for $20 dinners (except the odd person out, Mika, who wanted a big fancy steak anyway). I’m still really mad that there isn’t a Chili’s within any reasonable distance of Seattle, except for the one at the freakin’ airport. :| I love Chili’s.
Since Exhibits closed so early, we had plenty of time to relax and chat and hang out over dinner, and even though we stayed at Chili’s until 9pm, I still had a lot of free time that night. I didn’t have any commissions to do overnight, but thankfully I was able to entertain myself that night working on an impromptu art trade with Elaine and Jackie. And it was more bike anime stuff, wee! :D
Sunday started similar to Saturday, though we slept in a bit later since we didn’t have to worry about setting up. We checked out of the hotel after breakfast, then parked again at the Doubletree. The receptionist we’d had at our hotel last year had been an anime fan and had lamented not having known about KuroNekoCon. We didn’t see him at the hotel this year and hoped that he got to go to the convention, but if he was there, he probably didn’t remember us well enough to re-introduce himself at our tables, haha.
In the time before opening Sunday, I did another circuit around the Exhibit’s Hall and barged into a conversation between Makayla and some dealers about how things were going at the con and plans for next year. Makayla confirmed that as of Saturday, they’d had ~1,200 registered attendees, which is a pretty good jump from last year’s ~800/900.
She mentioned that they’d done a lot more marketing for 2014, including a local TV commercial, and it seemed to have paid off. The unfortunate part was that programming did not expand as much as she wanted — it seemed that last year panels broke some fire codes because rooms were overcrowded and that this year, they got bigger panel rooms, but not more panel rooms. This sounds it’d be pretty easily remedied for next year though.
Makayla also said that they probably weren’t going to increase the number of vendors next year, agreeing that the current amount was a good amount. There’s a good mix of dealers, artists, and artisans, and the room got comfortably busy at various points, but was never crowded. It’s a good, healthy Exhibit’s Hall for a con KNC’s size.
Sunday morning traffic was much slower than Saturday, but I got a higher volume of simple commissions to work on. I was really flattered by the number of customers who remembered me from last year, and more than one person told me they’d specifically looked forward to my being there. ;___; Almost all of these repeat customers bought new things or commissioned new things, and I’m really grateful for that continued interest and support.
Compared to Sakura-Con and other Seattle-area cons, where I felt that my constant convention presence made people bored of me, this was a really good feeling. I also got more people at KNC mentioning that they already followed me on Tumblr or dA… and I noticed a significant uptick in new followers over the days of the convention, which is incredibly rare. It’s a big bummer, but traffic to my online haunts almost never increases significantly in relation to my presence at conventions.
The Exhibit’s Hall had the same hours Sunday as Saturday, which meant they closed pretty late for a Sunday. Commissions trickled to a halt in the early afternoon, and I didn’t have much to entertain myself with after that.
Traffic came in more noticeable waves Sunday, as the room emptied out significantly for big events like Cosplay Chess. This is similar to last year, but things didn’t get as dead as they did then. There were a couple of people that wandered in off the streets after seeing cosplayers about, so that was pretty cool. I’m really glad that KNC is centrally located enough and small enough to let casual passersby come in and check things out!
The Sunday night dinner party was me, Xib, Emily, Elaine, and Jackie, and I was the last of the lot to finish tearing down, so everyone was waiting for me. <_<We had to split up to drop things off at cars anyway though. We didn’t want to move the car from the Doubletree’s garage to the loading zone, and the garage was too far away to effective use the giant palette dollies the convention center provided, but thankfully, Xib and I were able to get one of the staff to help us haul our stuff. Despite my taking forever, we somehow still beat Emily and company to Chili’s. (Chili’s is so close to the convention center and their 2 for $20 is so great; who cares if we go twice in a row??)
Dinner was once again great. I see Emily at a ton of other conventions, but this was my first time getting to hang out with her, so that was nice. It’s funny that she, Xib, and I are all local to Seattle, but we basically never see each other outside of cons… Elaine and Jackie are also in the area, though not in Seattle proper.
We should… really try to hang out more, but… we’re all such hermits, hahaha. <_< Several rounds of lemonade and one delicious watermelon margarita later, we all realized that it was like 9pm and all of us had to drive back to Seattle except Emily (who’s from Spokane and staying in town some extra days to visit family). The drive from Seattle to Spokane is lovely, and maybe the drive back is lovely too, but not in the dark. There are a lot of stretches of highway with no lights at all… it’s so hard to focus when you’re basically driving into a black hole. o_o
KuroNekoCon was a good show.
I was up 27% from last year and made almost exactly the same amount Saturday and Sunday. Percentage revenue from commissions held steady from last year, at 22%. From a vending perspective, the con improved a great deal between this year and last, and I’m really happy that many of the things I brought up last year were addressed in some way. Being right next to the staff table certainly helped for me, but the Exhibit’s Hall is small enough that the general staff presence is easy to note. Everyone was very nice and knowledgeable and took vendor concerns seriously.
The con’s growth in attendance this year is also encouraging, and there’s still plenty of room for them to expand within the Spokane Convention Center. The location really can’t be better, and with more marketing and outreach, I think they can really carve out a good place in the local nerd scene.
Though there are more than a dozen nerd conventions of other genres, KuroNekoCon is one of just three Washington state anime conventions — the other two being Sakura-Con in Seattle and KumoriCon in Vancouver, WA, though the latter is so close to Portland, it may as well count as a Portland con. (oh, what about Aki Con you say? What Aki Con? That con is dead to me.)
Spokane is far enough away from Seattle that there are a lot of people unable to travel out for Sakura-Con, especially teenagers. Unsurprisingly, KNC’s crowd skews young, even for an anime con. There were a lot of kids 10-16 there, and honestly, that makes for one of the best crowds because most of these kids don’t have a way of buying goods online. This one home town convention is all they have, and I think dealers do especially well because of that.
I also really appreciate that for a con that I am traveling a fair bit to attend (five hour drive, man), KNC’s a pretty low-stress con. Their small Exhibit’s Hall and reasonable hours makes it way easier to actually chat with and hang out with other artists (not to mention the Most Convenient Chili’s).
More than one vendor at KNC mentioned that they’d read my con report from last year, haha… I don’t know that they specifically attended the convention because of that report, but I hope everyone had a good show. I did! And I look forward to next year. :)