Coming up on my thirteenth convention of the year, and especially after a very busy August and September, con fatigue has been setting in hardcore.
Thankfully, Geek Girl Con — a two-day show, October 11-12, in downtown Seattle — was small and local: something low-stress and low-key after a flurry of busy or out-of-town shows.
This report is 3,783 words long.
Honestly, the administrative stuff leading up to GGC left a lot to be desired…
I first inquired about 2014 Artist Alley spaces in mid-December of last year. Yes, that’s pretty early for an October show, but I wasn’t sure when applications had gone up the last few years and wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I got a response back just after New Years with an attached application. After last year‘s confusion regarding table sizes, it looked like the they finally settled on the following distinctions with vendors spaces and table sizes: “Artist Alley” tables were 4′ and cost $75. “Exhibitor” tables were 8’, but the cost was more than double of AA at $200. Exhibitors could also get 8’x30″ booths for $325.
I still think four feet tables are really weird, but at least everything was clear now.
I asked GGC’s Exhibits Head if someone could buy two 4′ AA tables but be provided with a single 8′ table. “Yes.”
I then asked if two artists buying separate 4′ AA tables could also be provided with a single 8′ table to split. “Yes, as long as both indicate such.”
Finally, I asked if the application could be submitted digitally instead of being physically mailed in. “For legal reasons we do need the hard copy.”
All the responses were speedy, and so Xib and I mailed in our separate applications in early January, with each of us indicating that we wanted to split an 8′ table in Artist Alley. We went with this plan because 1) four feet tables are weird, 2) neither of us did particularly well at GGC last year, and so neither of us wanted to spring for 8′ Exhibitor tables or wanted to put two 4′ AA together ourselves, and 3) we liked splitting the table last year and figured it’d work out fine for us to do that again.
Three weeks after we stuck the applications in the mail, in early February, I emailed to check if they’d be received. I got a response back the next day from the Exhibit’s Head saying that they’d check with a person who checks the mail more frequently… but after that there was silence. I poked again about a month later (mid-March) and got no response. I poked again in early May and finally got confirmation that the applications were received. I asked when we could expect word on whether we’d been accepted into the Alley and was told that they’re shooting for two weeks, but that was uncertain.
I think GGC fills vendor spaces in a first come, first serve manner, rather than jurying, but I’m not super sure on this since there’s no real indication one way or another. Payment isn’t taken with the initial application, so I couldn’t verify that they’d deposited a check or anything. I really hate pestering convention management about things and feeling like I’m being an annoying pain in the ass, but I think there’s cause for concern when it takes five months for a show to get back to me on an application sent… :/
GGC finally sent out confirmations about accepted applications near the end of June, then followed up with payment instructions a month later, in mid-July.
And they got payment details wrong: I was asked to pay for two 4′ tables — both mine and Xib’s — and had to remind them that we were registered and paying separately and that our request was just to share a single 8′ table instead of being given two 4′ tables. GGC acknowledged their mistake and said they’d send Xib’s payment instructions separately… and then never did. Rather than bug them more though, I just forwarded Xib the payment instructions sent to me me so he could take care of his the same way.
In mid-September, we got table assignments and a map. The map showed Xib and I at separate side-by-side 4′ tables, but I was too preoccupied with other conventions to think much on that. For map purposes, anyway, it could be argued that that was easier than listing two artist names to a single 8′ space? I dunno. I was pretty disillusioned with GGC’s organization skills at that point, which is unfortunate because they already weren’t too high, following last year’s incident.
And so, when we showed up the Friday afternoon to set up and saw that we’d been given separate 4′ tables, we weren’t surprised at all.
Honestly, we weren’t even that stuck on our request being honored — it was probably a complicated request from an administrative and paperwork standpoint, but it was really lame that we had been reassured every step of the way that our request was possible, that our request had been noted at every step along the way, only to have it not be so. The first thing I asked after getting the application in January was whether we could combine our 4′ tables into an 8′ one. But nope. Just kidding. Two separate 4′ tables.
For what it’s worth, I’m certain that the request probably still could have been honored if I’d brought it up with on-site staff Friday. After all, swapping out tables was what they had to do for us last year, but at that point, I just couldn’t be bothered. I had other errands to get to Friday afternoon and didn’t want to have to wait for them to bring in another table or whatever. So in the end, Xib and I just set up at our separate 4′ tables.
And a final bit of amusement regarding the failure to fulfill our one request? I didn’t notice immediately when I checked in, but they gave Xib and I one packet between us. They gave us our badges and programs together in one packet labeled with both our names, as if we had registered and paid together, but they didn’t manage to put our tables together. Come on.
Geek Girl Con is the only convention I’ve ever gone to that has 4′ tables. 6′ is standard, and 8′ a nice bonus you encounter sometimes. As such, my “Fake Lemonade Stand” is 5′ long, with an extra foot off as a nice buffer to fit on minimum length 6′ tables. My PVC is also cut specifically with 6′ and 8′ table setups in mind, but thankfully, it resized to 4′ without too much of an issue.
Still, the resulting table was super cramped, especially since the room also had a low ceiling, which meant I couldn’t built up to full height. My plywood rack took up more than half the space, forcing my window opening to be on the end instead of the middle. I did briefly consider closing it up the window entirely and sitting next to the table all weekend, but in the end I decided I liked being able to hide behind the display, haha…
For 24hr Comic Day this year, instead of drawing a comic, I stayed up and drew sketches and concepts for 18 alien species from Animorphs and compiled it into a 40-page zine. Since that’s heftier than the other zines I’ve made recently, I decided to order them from a printer instead of making them myself. When I got back from various errands Friday, I had a bunch of packages waiting for me (it was a very good mail day), and one of them had the zines!
I was really surprised since I’d sent out the order just Sunday evening, so that’s less than a week turnaround. o_o It wasn’t a very large or complicated order, but still! I was super excited I’d get to have the zines at GGC. :o
The show opened to vendors for setup around 7am and to the public at 9am, but I ~slept in~ until 7:30 or so and had a pretty lazy morning because I was already set up.
I hadn’t cosplayed all summer because it was too hot or too inconvenient, but I decided to pull out gambler!Rin Saturday because why not. It’s basically a closet cosplay made of clothes I never otherwise get to wear. I actually have a bunch of other neat clothes I never get to wear, so maybe I’ll work everything into weird alternate costume cosplays because that might be the only reason I’ll ever have to take them out…
I got to the convention 20 minutes before opening and shuffled things around on my table a bit to make room for the zine. I was concerned that there wasn’t a sign outside the Artist Alley room like last year, which meant there was absolutely no indication that we were there at all. (The staffer manning the room at the time said that they had misplaced it and were looking for it…)
The room AA is in is fairly spacious and has two doors, but there is nothing else on the second floor of the building aside a single lonely panel room, a staff room, and a “photo booth” in the corner of the hallway, which meant that AA was, again, very easy to overlook. The rest of the vendors, the Exhibit’s Hall, was on the third floor.
Saturday morning was pretty quiet. The flow of traffic was actually better than I thought it would be, but most people passed through fairly quickly. I had a hard time adjusting to the small space I had, which left no room for my regular commission sign. I ended up taping it sort of sideways, so people could only see it from a certain angle, but it was better than nothing? Commission interest was extremely low at GGC last year though, so I wasn’t expecting much.
To pass the time, I did bike anime-themed art trades with both Errow and AJ (since AJ finally watched the series!!). It was super fun, but nothing ever occupies me for as long as I want it to at slow cons.
Thankfully, things picked up a bit in the early afternoon, and I was selling more prints than usual?
I think in general my prints have been doing better this year because I finally have enough prints in the same sort of style and subject matter that my work (and my table) looks… cohesive? Most of my new pieces this year are swirly animal things in brush pen and marker, and not only do most of them match nicely, but I’m actually pretty happy with them too. I think having that unifying thread makes my table less overwhelming because people aren’t bombarded by a dozen different things in different styles.
It might have also helped that I didn’t really have anything other than prints displaying this time because my table was so tiny. I didn’t have room for buttons at all, and while postcards were still displayed in my prints binder, they weren’t set out separately. My zipper bags were hanging from one side of the PVC fort, but went by unnoticed by most.
I probably won’t stop making buttons any time soon, but while the itch to experiment with other products, like acrylic charms, comes up every few months, I think it’s probably way better for me to focus on expanding my print portfolio to explore that brush/marker style even more.
Saturday afternoon also brought lots of conversations about Animorphs, which made me really, really happy even if most of these conversations didn’t end in sales. I was just stoked to be able to geek out about this series, which is hugely important to me, but which is old enough that few talk about it anymore. It was great seeing people look over the title and subtitle of my zine, then immediately do a double take.
Animorphs is a series that most people my age have probably read a book or ten from, but which relatively few ever finished (it’s over 60 books long, altogether, ha). I think that most that have finished the series are pretty big fans though, so it was really great to be able to have a reason to talk about it.
I think I was probably way, way too over-enthusiastic on the subject in many cases, but Animorphs was probably my very first fandom, and it was a huge part of my life back in the day. Honestly, even now, I think about the series regularly and am in a perpetual state of rereading random books from it.
At some point, Robin Sevakis stopped by to drop off my backer copy of the most excellent Anime News Nina collection, which was pretty awesome. SPECIAL DELIVERY! Here’s a big fat book full of great comics! Chip, of social justice class button fame, also happened by at some point to sell buttons to artists who weren’t able to hunt her (or her NPCs) down themselves, haha.
A few commissions rolled in in the afternoon as well, but I was able to finish everything just before we closed at 6pm. After throwing a sheet over the table, I got delicious phở with fluffy before going home to watch a whole bunch of Girl Meets World episodes (what).
Overall, it was a strangely well-rounded day? The morning lull was offset by art trades with friends and while things never got busy in the afternoon, there was just enough activity to keep me entertained and the crowd was very pleasant all around. Morning traffic went by at a brisk pace as people were cautious not to spend too much or get too interested in anything right out of the gate, but afternoon traffic moved along at a much more relaxed pace, with people stopping for conversation and more in-depth browsing. A lot of people came back multiple times before finally settling on something. It was nice!
Numbers for Saturday were much better than I expected — I actually made more Saturday than I did the entire weekend last year. :o
Sunday’s hours were from 9am to 5pm, so my morning went about the same. I didn’t cosplay again (my wig was pinching my head all day Saturday and got pretty uncomfortable towards the end), but I decided to dress fancy again just because.
There was almost no traffic Sunday morning though, and the hours before noon passed very slowly. GGC was sold out for the weekend for all badge types, but it seemed Sunday was filled with the most first-time attendees, which meant they didn’t know where the Artist Alley was based on knowing where it was last year. They did finally get a sign to put outside the room, but I guess it was still pretty easy to overlook.
Since it was so slow, I finally went up to take a look around the third floor Exhibit’s Hall. It was good to be able to say hello to friends upstairs, including Wendi Chen, Robin Robinson (the Gorgonist), and the fine folks at Unicorn Empire, but as always, I was antsy leaving the table unattended and didn’t browse as thoroughly as I would have liked.
I was kind of annoyed at how spacious it was on the third floor too… they could have easily mashed in the entirety of Artist Alley without crowding the floor. There’s no reason to split up the vendors, especially as there was no real distinction between Artist Alley and Exhibit’s Hall aside from default size of tables — there were tons of artists in the Exhibit’s Hall. I really, really hope they move AA back upstairs next year…
In the morning dead period, I also finally properly introduced myself and said hello to Jake Richmond of Modest Medusa, who was just two tables down from me, haha… I’ve seen him at a ton of other shows and really like his comic, but this was the first time I said hi because I’m terrible. :)
Traffic improved slightly as the day went on, but I definitely heard a lot of “we didn’t realize this room was here” and “we had no idea Artist Alley was here” from attendees. There were fewer buyers compared to Saturday, but of the people that made purchases, they bought more stuff?
Xib sold one of my Animorphs zines for me while I was browsing the Exhibit’s Hall in the morning, and later in the afternoon, that person came back (wearing a cute Andalite hat!) with a friend, who bought two more copies. *__* Honestly, I always have low expectations for zines and feel like only other artists are ever interested, so I was really happy that people liked them (and doubly happy that Animorphs is not a dead fandom, though I really knew that already).
Sunday afternoon went by at a weird pace. Since it was pretty slow, I was doodling a fair bit and also talking to Xib a lot, but getting engrossed in drawing and conversation made me less attentive to the people that were browsing. Ah well. Since I basically only see Xib at conventions, it was nice to hang out and talk about whatever we were talking about, lol.
There were a lot of blogs, vlogs, and podcasts going around doing interviews throughout the weekend. These always kinda weird me out because I don’t feel like I have much to say, but Deborah Pless of Kiss My Wonder Woman made a circuit around the Alley asking a short series of open-ended questions that were pretty fun to answer. That was the only interview I gave all weekend, haha.
Things stayed pretty slow through the end of the day Sunday, and when closing time came, I packed up in kind of a rush because I needed to tear down and drop everything off at my apartment as quickly as possible so I could head over to Bellevue for someone’s birthday dinner.
Geek Girl Con is a good show.
It’s does well to promote feminism, inclusion, and diversity in all kinds of nerd things, and everyone involved is pretty rad. It’s a good size and the attendees are great, and walking distance from my apartment makes it a great location for me, of course.
I made double what I made last year, with equal distribution between Saturday and Sunday. I really don’t know why I did so much better? I had about the same space in the same location, but I’ll peg it on a much better display and a more cohesive body of work. Commission interest at the show remained low (14%), but Square usage was extremely high (42%).
Actually, both last year and this year, GGC had the highest percentage of purchases made via card of all the cons I’d attended. I’m really grateful Xib let me use his wifi hotspot all weekend because I had zero reception (texts barely went through half the time) in the building and the convention center’s free wifi was spotty at best. This is my one big gripe about the convention center, but there’s not much to be done about it.
Unfortunately, my two critiques from last year stand: Artist Alley really needs to move upstairs for better visibility and so all the vendors can be in the same space, and pre-show organization, communication, and administrative stuff could stand significant improvement.
There’s plenty of room on the third floor for AA, so I’m honestly not sure why they chose to keep it on the second floor this year. I might go ahead and just spring for an Exhibitor table next year, but regardless, I feel that all the vendors should be together.
As for the pre-show stuff… I feel like it’s probably a mix of things piling up and being forgotten, and GGC being short-staffed in the off-season. I think a majority of GGC’s core staff have prior experience working other shows (PAX, ECCC, and Sakura-Con are all huge and local, so it’s not small-con experience either!), so they should know what they’re doing, but only having one or two people handling certain things during the prep months makes things hard for everyone. Or, on the flipside, having one duty split between multiple people and having that task depend on all of those people’s availability can slow things down a lot too, in addition to allowing more things to get lost in the shuffle.
Who knows. I’m not sure what caused the mix-ups both this year and last, but I’m definitely disappointed with my pre-show interactions, especially since on-site and at-con, GGC staff is stellar.
They were plentiful and easy to spot in their red “Agent” shirts and all around good, helpful people. There were one or two Agents manning the Artist Alley at any given time, and there was a table set up in the Exhibit’s Hall upstairs all weekend to handle vendor-specific questions (this is another reason AA should move upstairs too though).
Still, I feel like my gripes with GGC are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. I really like the show overall and am looking forward to next year. :) Mark your calendars for October 10-11, 2015, ’cause I know they’ll sell out again!