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Completely new to Artist Alley! ...and have no idea what I'm doing?!

#1 User is offline   Shadowednavi 

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 08:41 PM

Hey there! I'm Shadowednavi, a.k.a. Tricia of Purple Tree Studios!

I've been looking over this forum and I see a lot of questions thrown this way and that about a lot of helpful things, preparing for this year based on last year's results and what other cons people show their art at and what-have-you. But what about for those of us who don't HAVE a "last year" as a point of reference? I've gotta say, I'm a little intimidated, but I won't let fear of the unknown stop me :D Every artist had their first Alley experience at one point or another in their lives, and this year, I'm finishing up college and getting my foot in the door with the rest of you experienced con-goers and artists alike.

Even so, after looking at tutorial after tutorial after tutorial and getting some solid advice from good friends and seasoned veterans, I still am not quite sure what I'm doing as a newbie to all this. Thus, I turn to YOU, Artists! What can I expect as a first-time artist at a convention of this magnitude?

This is what I'm planning on offering:
~ handmade jewelry (earrings, mostly)
~ commissions (traditional medium on-site and digital at home)
~ custom badge art
~ some fanart prints
~ original fiction (one light novel right now, and more to come in the future)

Plus getting some extra advertising by (hopefully) being next to my good friends Pocket Parrot Studios, so the four of us can demonstrate my ability and availability for cosplay commissions.

Also, if anyone could offer advice for setting up a display for this sort of thing, that would be WONDERFUL. Things to look into, things to TOTALLY AVOID AT ALL COSTS, how to create signage, how to display signage... things like that.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blathering and even more thanks in advance for any advice you can provide. <3

~Shadowednavi

This post has been edited by Shadowednavi: 27 March 2011 - 08:42 PM


#2 User is offline   ranefea 

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 09:56 PM

Welcome to the Artist Alley!

First of all, the display:

  • To save space with the jewelry and to make it easier to see, I would suggest a vertical display to hang them from. You can get foam core board pretty cheap most places like Walmart, Target, etc. and it is really easy to stick in pins or whatever you need to hang the individual pieces from. There is also wire gridded storage cubes (link) you can get that a lot of artists (including myself) use to hang things from. They're great because you don't have to just build them into cubes - you can arrange them however you need. It just depends how much you are willing to spend.

  • For your prints you will probably want to put them in a binder of some sort. What I do (and what I've seen others do) is to put the majority into a binder to lay on the table and pick out a few select pieces to either hang if you have something to hang them from or set up on a little easel on the table...or both!

  • For the commissions I would suggest having examples of what they will look like. If you have prints that can be used then you're good, otherwise you'll want to have something done specifically.

  • Your badge art would be something else you can lay out on the table. If you're doing custom at-con badges then make sure to have some examples ready.

  • For your fiction, if you have an actual book, you can have a copy on your table for people to look at. One thing that I don't think I've seen anyone do that might be a good idea to try is to have printouts of excerpts as a handout - that way people can get a sample and also may let others see as well.

  • For your signage, you don't necessarily need anything really fancy, just something that looks good and people can see. For your pricing signs I would suggest one main display of a list of prices as well as the individual prices tagged by the actual items. Either way you will still have a lot of people who won't bother to look and ask anyway. XD But from a patron's point of view it's nice to have the prices out there.

  • Also I would suggest some sort of tablecloth. If I remember right the tables are "naked", so a tablecloth will not only look good but help to separate your area from your neighbors.


Things to avoid:

  • Crappy looking signs. Try not to have sloppy signs for your main signage. Hand written is fine if it's neat and easy to read but I've seen too many people just scrawl things on paper or poster board and it's not lined up, disorganized and just looks like a 4th grader did it. It looks unprofessional.



Other tips:

  • Have change. A lot of people come through with $20s. It's easy to run out of $5s and $1s even if you did have change to start with but not having any at all in the beginning is worse and you can lose potential sales because of it.

  • Have a lock box or other secure method for your money. It's hard to keep an eye on everything at once and if you have money lying around it's an easy target. A few years ago I saw one of the dumbest things ever - a fellow artist behind me had her cash lying in a haphazard, crumpled pile underneath her chair. I couldn't believe it and I can't forget that.

  • Record all of your sales. Even if just in a notebook. Mark down what you sold and for how much. That way you can quickly tally up how much you made in the day and also afterward tally up what you sold the most of. Just remember to mark down what you started out with in change and if you pull anything from what you make (like for food or anything).



There is definitely more, but it's getting late and I'm too tired to think of it right now. ^^; I hope this helps and I'm sure everyone else will chime in with more and better tips and ideas. =3

This post has been edited by ranefea: 27 March 2011 - 09:57 PM

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#3 User is offline   BlackWaltzPinion 

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 09:56 AM

Hello! Mage of Cello Raptor studios here! Always good to see another Artist joining our ranks. Mwahahaha.

This is more of generic convention advice that I learned the hard way from my first year at A-Cen, but wasn't at Artist's Alley that year.

~Food: Although the thought of eating nothing but nachos and McDonalds all weekend is enough to make anyone's mouth water, your stomach will hate you for it. Even if you just have a nutritious breakfast and a couple healthy snacks, that's enough to give you enough energy to get you through the day, rather than feeling tired, sluggish and not so perky. For sitting at our table, I always pack a big bag of snacks, which usually includes apples, bananas, peanut butter, some bread, cereal bars and some granola. I also bring some big bag of candy like Twizzlers or fun sized snickers because it's great to bribe your Artist's Alley neighbors with.

~sleep: As much as we all hate to do it at a 24 hour convention, you can't survive on Rockstar energy and Mountain Dew alone -although it definitely helps!-. Now, you don't need to conk out for exactly 8 hours of sleep, but naps of about two hours a couple times a day really help. I usually crash after AA closes until about 10 or 11, stay up until 5 or 6 in the morning and manage to snag a couple z's before Artist's Alley opens the next day. You'll be more awake and refreshed to enjoy your evening activities as well as be cheerful and perky for your customers!

~Water: Kind of goes under the 'food' category, but drop a couple bucks on a 24 pack of bottled water, especially if you're running a table with someone. Drinks are kind of expensive at con, and usually you're better off bringing your own supply.

As far as Artist's Alley specific advice, Ranefea pretty most of it, but I have to reinforce a couple things.

~Tablecloth: Absolutely! A lot of people bring in clean bed sheets or plastic covers from a Party store. I personally recommend the bed sheet or a big swath of patterned fabric from a Hobby Lobby, just because my first year we used a plastic table covering and it got so messed up by the end of the weekend it looked awful. Of course a lot of people make it work, but me and my studio member are just clutzes.XD

~Notebook: Not only for recording sales, but also to write down ideas for next year! My first year, I kind of ran in blind, only skimming advice here and there. We were lucky enough to have veteran neighbors who had a lot of advice, but it helped make sure we had everything the next year. And heck, even the next year I had two notebook pages of plushie and crocheting requests, arrangement ideas, etc. It's really useful to keep track of things that you know you'll want to bring for the next convention and make sure you're more prepared!

~Lockbox: YE5. They're $20 at Party City and considering how much money one can rake in, it's a worthwhile investment.

~Neighbors: Be very nice to your neighbors, especially if you're a one man studio. Not only does talking with your fellow artist's pass the time, but it's a great time to swap techniques and ideas, network and other such things. Besides that, sometimes you'll need to go on a bathroom break and need a set of eyes while you're gone. People in Artist's Alley make everything they sell, so, for the most part, appreciate the time and effort that goes into your work. I'm not saying no one will steal, but use your judgment, rely on your neighbors and make friends! That's what we're here for!

~Business Cards: If you have a website or DeviantArt, it's a really great idea to have business cards. Just something simple with your name, your studio name, e-mail address and a website. That way people can get in touch with you after con and direct some traffic to your website!
My second year, I just used a business card template, put our logo on there and printed it on card stock. The 50 I made were all gone by Friday. XD Last year I forgot to make cards, so I just doodled something on a piece of paper and put my DA address on it. This year, I just got 500 business cards for $16 on Vistaprint.com. You can order 250 for free, just know you have to click through like a million pages of ads by the time you're at the check out. XD

~signage: As long as it's neat and tidy, it makes sure people know who you are so that way they can come back to you year after year. ;3

~Greetings: Always say hi to your customers! They took the trouble to come aside and look at your wares, the least you could do is say, "Hi! How're you guys enjoying the convention so far?". Usually that simple greeting makes them more comfortable with asking you prices, which is more likely to lead to a purchase.

I know it sounds like a lot, but if you just remember to be friendly and outgoing with your neighbors and customers, that about covers half of what I just said. XD

A couple things to avoid

~DO NOT TOUCH: Nothing rubs me the wrong way more than this! I understand not wanting children with sticky hands manhandling your merch, but scaring off a potential customer with a 'Do not touch' sign is suicide. I work in retail and the first thing we're taught is people use all five of their senses to make a purchase decision, and the more senses they can use, the more likely they are to buy. Now, I know the nature of the merchandise kind of effects how well this works, but let people poke through your jewelry, flip through your books, as long as they're not hurting anything. -gets off soap box-

~Loitering Friends: If you live in this area and aren't coming to the convention out of state, chances are you have a lot of friends attending A-Cen. And a cluster of loitering friends can not only block traffic, but prevent other people from looking at and buying your stuff. Not to say be rude and stave them off at all costs, just be wary of how much time and space they're using. XD And under no circumstance let someone without a badge behind your table! You can lose your table as well as it's taking up other artist's room.



Hope that helped dearie and we'll see you in May!

This post has been edited by BlackWaltzPinion: 25 April 2011 - 10:08 AM


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#4 User is offline   Hooked On Chibis! 

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 01:31 PM

View PostBlackWaltzPinion, on 25 April 2011 - 09:56 AM, said:


A couple things to avoid

~DO NOT TOUCH: Nothing rubs me the wrong way more than this! I understand not wanting children with sticky hands manhandling your merch, but scaring off a potential customer with a 'Do not touch' sign is suicide. I work in retail and the first thing we're taught is people use all five of their senses to make a purchase decision, and the more senses they can use, the more likely they are to buy. Now, I know the nature of the merchandise kind of effects how well this works, but let people poke through your jewelry, flip through your books, as long as they're not hurting anything. -gets off soap box-



This whole post was good, but I wanted to supplement what's being said here real quick.

If you're concerned about the long-term effects of your merch being manhandled (sticky kids leave residue, after all, and so forth), one idea is to have MOST of your jewelry/prints/etc behind your table, and just one or two "display only" copies that can be hugged, tried on, loved etc. If someone tries to walk off with your display copy and you'd rather they didn't, a simple "can i offer you one from the back that hasn't been loved by every single person here? ^_^" tends to get the job done very nicely. (With my plushies, people often want the one they see, because of the individual nature of hand-sewn faces ... but I haven't had any problems with a chibi ACTUALLY being rendered unsellable by ConLove, so letting the display one go has never been a concern in my case)

This trick can also save you the hassle of unpacking a new display item each time one flies off your table ;-)
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#5 User is offline   Hooked On Chibis! 

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Posted 28 April 2011 - 11:37 AM

Oh and also, one of the coolest things I've seen among jewelry vendors (and you may have been told this already) is: HAVE A MIRROR. Get a dollar store mirror, it doesn't have to be fancy (but bonus points if you can decorate it, paint on it or add beadwork or something!), and put it out so people can see how jewelry looks on them. (Now, I don't encourage you to let people put on earrings, but they can at least hold the card up to their ear and see how it'll fall, and look next to their face)

Be prepared for the best selling item in your stock to NOT AT ALL be what you thought it would be. If you can, bring along extra materials to restock on the fly. If you have a shop online, (you do have a shop online, right? I recommend setting one up) bring along order forms and/or business cards, so that when you sell out of things, you can steer potential customers there. If something is so popular that you can't imagine going the whole weekend without one, be sure to have some kind of "DISPLAY ONLY" tag for that item so that you can continue to show it off while taking orders from people who want to buy.

I'm not good at sitting down and writing all my tips and thoughts down at once, so it's entirely possible I'll post here at least 3 more times ^^; but feel free to PM me with questions!
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