My First Artist Alley and Feeling Inspired Again
Updated: Aug 12, 2022
It finally happened. I did my first Artist's Alley at Chibi Chibi con about a week ago. I applied right before Sakuracon back in the middle of April and by the end of the month I got notified that I was waitlisted. I felt discouraged and defeated because I didn't want to get my hopes up for getting in if that wasn't going to happen but I didn't want to be a bare bones booth with literally ten items if I actually did somehow magically get in last minute. So I slowly started ordering things and working on prints, finishing sticker designs I had started and hadn't gotten around to finishing, etc.
Sakuracon wiped my wallet out so I didn't plan on bulk ordering too much or diving in with all the big purchases (yet). Then a few weeks before con I received an email saying artists in the artist's alley need to confirm payment. This confused the hell out of me because last I checked I didn't get in. Then a few minutes later it dawned on me I was no longer waitlisted and the show was on for real!
No more day dreaming, reality is here and it hit me like a train!
So for the next two weeks I printed/laminated over 100 prints, made a few hundred stickers, poured several batches of resin for hairclips, designed an entire line of sailorscout bows, re-learned how Square works, and mass ordered everything I could possibly need for a table while binge watching every "my first artist alley" video that exists on youtube.
I've done a few art tables before during the portfolio showcase in college and when I was with my ex I sold some art at our local cafe. To be honest thinking about those past experiences actually didn't hype me up but instead brought me down because I vividly remembered seeing people ignore the table because it was too much or people only buying the $1 items on the table and also pretending nothing else existed. I was crossing my fingers hoping this would be different because it's a convention, your table is supposed to be filled with sparkly and cute things. You're supposed to offer a huge variety of items and have
a stand so extravagant you can see it from a mile away. This was my actual demographic.
The day of the event comes and I'm anticipating a three hour drive. However, my other table helper, I'll call him Panda, didn't answer the phone when I called to see if he's on his way. I called him for the next hour and half. Straight to voice mail. He's got the energy banks which are essential for this trip. My sweet boyfriend made it to the house right before we were scheduled to leave and Panda finally woke up, his alarm didn't go off. Happens to the best of us. He finally heads to the house but I forgot to take into account he lived roughly an hour away. I start to panic. I check google maps to see that somehow I was wildly incorrect about the time it would take to get to the convention. The maps says One hour and 45 minutes not three hours. So if Panda had gotten to the house in time we wou
ld've ended up being almost 3 hours early. Everything happens for a reason!
We finally leave and I'm convinced I brought everything. CONVINCED. 100% sure this is going to be fine and every thing I had planned to bring is physically inside either the trunk or the back seat. We show up an hour early and manage to find the correct parking. There's no staff and I'm unfamiliar with the campus so we pack the mystery bags while waiting. A few people saw us and thought we must be staff given that we're the only ones here and we look busy. To be fair I would also immediately assume the first other person I saw in the lot was staff too. Eventually the event starts and the staff help us get loaded in and there are no problems until we physically get to the table. I'm taking everything off the cart and I notice one of the most essential boxes is missing. I ask my boyfriend to triple, quadruple, quintuple check every inch of the car. The box containing my cube shelves that the entire layout was based around was left at home. I have mentally prepared for every possible scenario EXCEPT this one. I tap deep into my memories and look back at all my flat table layouts, trying to tune out the looks on people's faces when they were driven away. Everything managed to fit on the small space and look somewhat aesthetically pleasing. That's all I could ask for at this point.
My boyfriend came up with the genius idea of using the storage box for elevation. My business partner from Atomic Heat Media also lent me a colorful blanket that worked perfect with the aesthetic of the rest of the table and fortunately I packed my tiny easel and used it to display the foamcore board. I felt much better and we still had at least half an hour left to set up. Nick and Panda were such a great help. They were able to make sales and manage the table if I was away and Nick made sure I was eating and staying hydrated every few hours. It's so easy to get lost in focusing on the work and I'm the type of artist that's highly prone to forgetting to take care of myself. Nick and Panda did an exceptionally amazing job at talking to the customers during the times my brain froze and remembered I have social anxiety and haven't been out and about talking to new people for years.
There were a few moments at con that will just stick with me forever because of how happy they made me. The first moment was when this tiny little boy came up to the foamcore board, his eyes widened and he ran back to his dad and shouted " You gotta see this!!!" I was eager to find out what exactly it was that got him so so hyped. He points to the sailor moon bows and his dad explains to me that he and the son watch sailor moon together every single week. Once they finish the series they're going to marathon the movies. Panda almost cried at seeing how the dad was equally as excited as the son. The dad bought a few bows and we were all smiling at the table because of this wholesome dad.
The next interaction had all three of us laughing our asses off. This beautiful woman, I don't know who exactly she was cosplaying, didn't have cash on her but she saw that I was selling rings and she told her friend she NEEDS to buy a ring. The friend was willing to pay for a few more items at con but needed to be convinced that she actually needs this item.
I let them know the sale price and my white seashell ring catches her eye. I've had this item listed for years back when my shop was just a resin shop that was mostly focused on jewelry. I could never sell these rings. This woman is visibly shaking with excitement as she tries it on. She says very loudly
"You HAVE to buy this! I NEED this!"
The friend asks her if she's 100% sure and she says dramatically
"It's ALREADY on my finger! You have to give them money! You have to pay them!"
The friend hands me the cash and I figured the woman didn't need any packaging for the ring given that it's already on her finger and probably will be for the rest of the evening. I thank her with the biggest smile on my face and they move on to the next booth before Artist Alley closes down. I never thought my worst performing piece of art would get the biggest reaction of the whole day.
There was a moment I sadly missed that Nick told me about when I got back to the table. Someone saw my Space Dandy print, got excited that they finally found some Space Dandy merch and then out loud said "Oh I HAVE to have this!" And then bought it. The roles were finally reversed. I was that table that sold the niche thing someone never thought they would find!
Once the event was wrapped I did my first Art Trade with other artists and got to learn about their Artist Alley experiences. I also took a group photo with the other Animal Crossing Cosplayers.
Overall there was so much kindness and encouragement at the Artist Alley, people were incredibly patient and understanding when I explained this was my first time doing a table. The table next to me overheard that I was stressed about forgetting the cubes and once we finished setting up they said I did great. Apparently after I made my rounds and said hello to as many artists as I could my phone was blowing up with Instagram follows, Panda told me about this when I came back. It was such a breath of fresh air being part of a community filled with nothing but encouragement for each other. This was a first convention for several other artists as well. Everyone gave off the impression that we all just want to see each other succeed instead of seeing each other as nothing but competition.
For a minute I was able to forget how awful the world was and how such a competitive mindset lead me to feeling long periods of isolation instead of inspiration and motivation. Seeing the joy on people's faces when they pointed at something on my table that I liked helped me forget how stressed I was about whether or not I'll break even or if selling out will disappoint customers. The smile on the a little girl's face when she told her mom she HAS to buy my Pomacaroon Pin I put on clearance helped me remember the beauty of art, the reason I create it, is that look of joy on someone else's face when they see it and fall in love with it.
I opened a shop again because I wanted to take the things I liked creating and share them with the world. I write books and comics because I have thoughts and feelings I want to put out into the universe. That's what it's always been about and honestly, spending years working in social media marketing and business and having your survival depend on those stats and numbers has made it so easy for me to forget that and drift away from my original purpose. This past month I've felt so much happier and more inspired. I finally made a breakthrough with progress on my Webtoon and have been getting comfortable posting tiktoks on a regular basis. Nick and I finally submitted our first screenplay collab to our local film festival!
Thanks for reading this novel of a blog post! Maybe next time I'll have some actual updates about my novel haha.
"The dream didn’t leave, people just don’t know a nightmare when they right in the middle of one."