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Con Craziness in Artists' Alley

Heyla, this would be my first entry post to this comm and this isn't your typical report of bad commissioner, I was actually thinking back today on my experiences at various conventions and things i've come across while in the Artists Alley and I was thinking - maybe it would be good to toss around some suggestions and/or warnings to keep in mind for those who are new to having a table at a convention. If you have any stories or suggestions to add to mine, please do! I am always looking for solutions to problems :)

1. People stealing from the table

I'm always a little stunned at some of the stories i've heard from my friends at their own AA tables. The best one is probably from a friend who makes ceramic dragons and other critters in varying sizes (from one inch tall to more than a foot tall and all sizes in between). One con we had a table side-by-side and even so, i still missed this incident until after it happened. Apparently, a group of about four guys tried to distract her/ block her view while their other friend grabbed one of the larger dragons from the end of the table and just walked away with it. Luckily she saw it happen and chased him down, got it back without a fight or damage! Sadly, people also like to pocket the wee little dragons, which is why she ended up getting a second-hand windowed case to put them in.

So it's a good idea to not leave your stuff on your table in a way that would make it easy for someone to just walk off with something, even if it's right in front of you. I've mostly done 1" button making in past conventions and our way around this problem was to not put out actual finished buttons but instead put out the paper strips we made the buttons from, which people could pick up and look at (and give to us if they wanted a button of that design, which we would make up on the spot) but would be pretty dumb to steal since they aren't stickers, they are just printed on photopaper. I remember people coming back to the table with a paper they had "accidently" taken after they confirmed with me that nope, they aren't stickers!

It's a bit of a juggling act to figure out how to let people see what you are selling without making it easy to pocket but doing things like using display books or putting things under clear plastic can definitely help.

2. People asking for a deal / free art / some zany trade

I've had people offer to dance for buttons, try to give me twelve cents for one $2 button, come by at the end of the con and beg for free buttons because "you can get rid of them, the con's over!", offer me Pocky for a button or ask me to take 50 cents off the button's price. Obviously, for some people there is some confusion between AA and the Dealer's/Merchandise room *LOL* The solution to that is pretty easy to guess: Be polite and stick to your guns unless they are offering to buy a truckload of something and want a little discount. If they like your stuff enough to buy that much of it, it's good to reward a little fangirl/boy behavior plus they'll probably come back to your table at the next con.

3. People wanting to get their own table and do the same thing you are doing

This is more of a grey area and comes in many forms. For me, it was the people coming up to our button table asking with studied casualness "Sooo... how much does a button maker cost?" and then it becomes awkward. I'm not a fan of telling people what to make/not make or trying to suggest that there can be only one of a certain kind of artwork at any con but it's also a huge pain in the ass to try to be nice and helpful and then at the next con, you find three other tables selling buttons and one in particular is selling direct rip-offs of your work *sigh* And it did make a difference in our sales after that point, so it wasn't just a "hey that's MY idea!" kind of situation *chuckle* But after that, i've tried to be helpful when possible but there's a point when i won't share the specifics of certain things because it's almost become a "trade secret" for me LOL I'd like to think it's possible to share ideas about some things but also respect your own struggles with perfecting something and not being eager to let someone else benefit from your own hard work. In an ideal world, we could freely share information AND also make money at cons, the reality is that there are some people out there so determined to have a table and be successful that they have no problem stealing your ideas if they think they can get away with it. I know this is a touchy subject with a number of people

Any thoughts? ^_^

Artist's beware has moved!
Do NOT repost your old bewares. They are being archived.


( 66 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 17th, 2006 06:34 am (UTC)
Thanks for the tips! I'm thinking of doing some time workin' in FWA's artist's alley in February and this does indeed help, since I'll probably also be selling small things (in my case, prints, jewelry, and maybe small sculptures).
Dec. 17th, 2006 06:40 am (UTC)
You're welcome! ^_^ I'm going to be doing jewelry at the next con too, i was thinking of having them attached to a slanted display board of some kind, so that people can pick them up and look at them but they'd be secured on the back of the board :)
(no subject) - growly - Dec. 17th, 2006 06:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 17th, 2006 06:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - growly - Dec. 17th, 2006 06:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 17th, 2006 06:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 17th, 2006 06:36 am (UTC)
Some good thoughts there.

The "trade secret" thing is particularly touchy, I think. I know some artists, particularly fursuit makers, who guard their methods very jealously. I've always been of the opinion that anybody who's dedicated and professional enough to compete with me is going to come up with their own methods anyhow, so I share pretty freely.

But I know in other areas it's not the same, and particularly with something that's an investment but not a huge one, like button making, you have to worry about such things. I think the best thing may be to have a polite but honest answer. "Thanks for your interest, but I prefer not to discuss the details of my business." Or something along those lines.
Dec. 17th, 2006 06:37 am (UTC)
Oh, hey, another thought, mostly unrelated but...

Does anybody have any idea how many tail and ear makers there are in the Anthrocon dealer's room? I know FC only has one or two, at least in past years. But I've never yet been to Anthrocon.
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 17th, 2006 06:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aaaamory - Dec. 17th, 2006 11:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 18th, 2006 03:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 17th, 2006 06:42 am (UTC)
Wow, one more reason for me to not spend the $4000 odd I'd need to get to and from a con, register, be a dealer, etc...

2) Agreed completely. Aren't there like, rules against this or something? If not, there should be. And to enforce it... reporting repeat hagglers/beggars to con staff/organisers so they can be formally warned.

3) This is always a tricky point. The BEST way I've found to balance being nice and keeping your own work original and great is this:

If it's equipment related, just say "try ebay." That's always the best line for getting rid of "OMG where can I get a [thing/thing maker]" people. Aah, ebay...

If it's technique related, it's really up to you. Personally, I'm not one of the higher-range fursuiters out there so I tend to be pretty open about my techniques, I write tutorials and try to help out beginners whenever I can.
Thing is, if you're really good at doing what you do, (for me, I pride myself on being really good at carving foam pieces and getting headframes and such to look just like the concept art) then even if they had the same materials and a how-to book your work would still be better 99% of the time. Also, if you copy other peoples' techniques, your work will always be derivative and inferior, and people will probably just hate you as a 'copier' anyway.

So, it's not that bad a situation :)
Dec. 17th, 2006 06:52 am (UTC)
I've never seen specific rules against haggling, which makes sense because it's common practice in the Dealer's room. I personally only haggle with the dealers who are importing stuff like DVDs or manga because they get the stuff in bulk REALLY cheap and then jack up the prices for the unsuspecting con crowd. For instance, there is one dealer i've seen for a few years now who sells those oriental paper umbrellas for about $12 bucks and i got my own in Toronto's "Chinatown" for about $2.

But generally people don't harrass us more than once and those that do we can deal with no problem, since they fold when firmly told to GO AWAY *LOL*

Yeah that's what we started to do, tell people we got ours from Ebay or online.

I agree with you in terms of being better at something even if you told someone else how to do it. Still, i'm always amazed what people will buy from one table when there is another table at the same con with the same product done MUCH BETTER. Maybe it's only me that kind of situation would bother LOL Unless you are SUPER popular, I've never seen much hating for those that copy; people seem positively gleeful to find the "same" thing cheaper :/

But perhaps it's different at furry cons, i've only done anime/sci-fi/comic cons *chuckle*
(no subject) - growly - Dec. 17th, 2006 06:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 17th, 2006 07:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fallimar - Dec. 17th, 2006 07:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 17th, 2006 07:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bladespark - Dec. 17th, 2006 07:21 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - bladespark - Dec. 17th, 2006 06:55 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 17th, 2006 07:38 am (UTC)
so... wait, how DOES Artist's Alley work so much differently from the dealer's room that haggling would be an absolute no-no there?

I've only been to one convention, and it was a small anime con, so maybe I'm wrong, but; the dealers room seemed to be full of resellers and licensed merch, whereas the artist alley is that; a bunch of artists selling their personal wares. It would make much more sense to me that an artist will trade or lower their price on their own goods, rather than a person who likely runs some kind of business or reselling trade to haggle.
The same goes for craft shows, where everyone's got the same kind of booths, but the people who *hand craft their own products* are more likely to trade than the mass-produced or even third-party items.
Dec. 17th, 2006 07:45 am (UTC)
I might be inclined to trade for something if I legitimately wanted what the person was offering and I could be roped into some kind of art trade over the table if the person could prove they had a hand for art.
(no subject) - drake_anaya - Dec. 17th, 2006 07:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 17th, 2006 05:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - drake_anaya - Dec. 17th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 17th, 2006 05:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 17th, 2006 07:50 am (UTC)
Thanks for the tips there - I'll be trading at a con or two in the coming year and some of the products that'll be on my stall are the sort that would be easily swiped.

Here's hopeing someday I can trade at a US con!
Dec. 17th, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC)
You're welcome :)

I'd love to go to a US con as well!
Dec. 17th, 2006 10:26 am (UTC)
Theft never used to be a problem in furry fandom years agone- but the influx of anime fans into the fandom has brought its most infamous problem along with it...

It may be more that the anime fans are much closer to nonfannish in attitude, but there is a casualness about outright stealing that they have that has caused any number of folks to stop holding parties at their houses due to losing too many valuables because friends of friends tagged along uninvited.
(And I know of people who brag about shoplifting from furry con dealer's rooms as if its something either to be proud of, or something so common that no one should be ashamed of the behavior.)

So best advice is keep an eye out- and if you catch someone stealing, call security and if you can, hold the thief for them to take care of.
(Do NOT let them go- at least get a badge name and report it!)


Dec. 17th, 2006 05:11 pm (UTC)
oh that's not nice at all, stealing while at a party! >_< Most of the anime fans i know would never do stuff like that, those people give them a bad name :/
Dec. 17th, 2006 11:30 am (UTC)

People stealing from the table does not surprise me, recently I was shopping in my town's local market, I stopped at a T-shirt making stall and asked where their catalogue was and they told me someone had stolen it. Someone stole a -catalogue- of all things. I could understand pinching a T-shirt, but why on earth would anyone want their catalogue?

People haggling isn't a problem, don't like the deal just say no. Asking for freebies is a bit cheeky though. I don't mind trades personally, as an artist I can be bribed with aromatherapy stuff, scented rocks, new types of incense and all kinds of nice smell stuff to pick up my pencil so if someone collects enough nice smelling stuff it can be cheaper to trade me than paying me for a commission. :)

People wanting to get their own table happens, there's nothing you can do to stop people from setting up in competition.

Dec. 17th, 2006 12:51 pm (UTC)
I'd totally trade for mulberry incense.
I had some and loved it to pieces, but I couldn't find anymore after I ran out :/
(no subject) - lilenth - Dec. 17th, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nightlove - Dec. 17th, 2006 04:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lilenth - Dec. 17th, 2006 04:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 17th, 2006 05:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kitsumi - Dec. 17th, 2006 06:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 18th, 2006 03:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 17th, 2006 12:50 pm (UTC)
Hope the thief got his ass kicked and banned from the con, wtf? O_o
What an asshole...

The "You can get rid of the buttons now!" people are assholes too, buttons are small and easy to store for the next con. I like a good deal as much as the next person but I certainly wouldn't whine for a discount or even to get things for free.
I'd at least offer to trade art for a button if I didn't have anymore money (but if I didn't have $2 at a con I'd probably have bigger concerns).

A friend of mine had some fat quivering twat come up to her table, leaf through her binder of originals and tell her that two of them were only worth $40
Intimidated she gave in and regretted it.
Moral: Fuck the opinions of so-called fans, there's a ton of people out there who'll play on your low self esteem to swindle you out of money you deserve. Ask fellow artists to help you set a price for your work, especially originals, and stick with it.
If it's not worth your price to them they don't have to buy it.

Personally the only bad experience I had at the artist alley was this guy who commissioned me for a sketchbook commission and then hung around my table talking for ages. When I got up to get something he even fucking followed me, talking about his D&D characters.

Fortunately most clingy fanboys can't follow when I run up a few flights of stairs. I would have hated for him to follow me to my room, then he'd know where I was sleeping and I had no doubt he'd wanna drop by >_o
He was just so creepy and clueless!

After the con I was minding my own business on the muck when he approached me again like we were bestest friends or something O_o
And when I uploaded the scan he sent me he'd leave comments on it about how awesome the characters were he had allowed me to draw and where to find him on-line etc.


So yeah, my advice for con-artists (haha):
1. Stick to your prices. If you give someone a discount his friend will want one too etc. Plus your work is worth what it's priced for right?
2. When people get clingy and creepy, tell them you need peace and quiet to work. If they persist, stairs stairs stairs. Fanboys are like daleks.
3. Don't hand out your room number to people you don't know.
4. Sit with a friend, if you need to leave your table a moment you'll have someone you trust watching your stuff.
5. Bring change, everyone just came from the ATM.
6. Customers appreciate plastic sleeves, binders and other packing material if you have it.
Dec. 17th, 2006 05:29 pm (UTC)
"Fanboys are like daleks." xD Most awesome analogy ever.
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 17th, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thaily - Dec. 17th, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 18th, 2006 03:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kagur - Dec. 17th, 2006 08:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 17th, 2006 02:05 pm (UTC)
WHAT. You turned down Pocky for a button! Heathen! Vile, foul heathen! (j/k, though if they haggled for some kind of chocolate item equal in value to what they wanted to buy, I'd be hard-pressed to turn them down...)

This is great advice. Good work.
Dec. 17th, 2006 05:31 pm (UTC)
LOL if it had been the whole package maybe, but they offered me one stick! LOL

Thanks ^_^
Dec. 17th, 2006 02:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, and my only real con horror story is secondhand. A friend of mine was doing sketchbook swaps. This buttergolem guy pops out of nowhere, snatches her sketchbook, draws this horrendous, scribbly pseudoanime fox sketch that took five seconds to do, hands her book back to her, and triumphantly says "Now you HAVE to draw in my book!" Of course, since my friend is SMRAT, she never did.

Never underestimate the stupidity of the unsocialized.
Dec. 17th, 2006 03:49 pm (UTC)
I'd have torn the page out with the awful sketch and handed it to the twerp. "No I don't." =};-3
(no subject) - sunhawk - Dec. 17th, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thaily - Dec. 17th, 2006 08:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - forever_noob - Jan. 29th, 2007 03:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 18th, 2006 01:06 am (UTC)
From a convention organizer
If you do think someone stole from your table, please let someone on con staff know about it.

While we might not be able to catch the individual in the act, if we get 5 different complaints about the same person... that gives us plenty of justification to take them aside and have a little chat with them.
Dec. 18th, 2006 03:06 am (UTC)
Re: From a convention organizer
Good to keep in mind! I have to remind myself to look at their pass otherwise i'd just be telling the security "It was a guy dressed like that guy from Naruto!" :X
Dec. 19th, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
The only art shows I've been to have been with my mom. She makes stained glass stuff, but sometimes my sister (who does silversmithing) has stuff there. If I'm lucky, I have something done too (I bead stuff, so it's usually a necklace or rosary or something). So mom always gets a big booth space, like 7'x7' or bigger, so we can set up the racks for the glass to hang from. It's like sitting in a box with all sorts of shiny stuff :D.

ANYWAY. My comments from my experiences:
1. Can't say we've had a problem with people stealing, but then the items in the booth are pretty bulky and fragile usually, and there's almost always at least three of us in the booth at a time, so we keep a good eye on things. We have, however, had people try to photograph one of our really big original design pieces...well, its reflection in the window of a building behind us. I mean, wtf? One can only assume they wanted the design for something. So I went and stood in front of the glass piece to disrupt the photo :D.
I know booth spaces are much smaller at cons and don't have a bunch of people manning just one, so I can imagine it'd be tougher to keep theft under control. Your statement about not putting out completed items is a Very good idea. Keep your items within easy reach of yourself and/or have it set up so that to take it requires visible effort to remove--that would deter most would-be thieves. Of course, you can't plan for everything, but being cautious is always a good idea.

2. Yeah this is always a problem. I agree that unless it's a pretty exceptional deal, or someone's buying in bulk, you should always stick to your original price. If you don't sell much, then you know to lower your prices for next time. Sell out of everything, and you can feel free to raise it a bit at the next con. Changing the price during an art show though is generally a bad idea--you'll get more and more people wanting rock-bottom prices, and you'll just end up being cheated out of what you should have earned.

3. Most of the time I don't have a problem giving hints on how to do things. But that's all I give--hints. I just give the basic idea behind something I do and then let the other person figure out the rest him/herself. That allows for the other person to grow, and it gives me a least a little guarantee that I won't find myself being ripped off (like anyone would want to do that anyway XD).
Most of my hints are of the 'lots of time, patience, and practice' sort anyway :D.
Dec. 25th, 2006 12:45 pm (UTC)
1. People stealing from the table

I've actually seen worse than that .. I've seen an artist stealing the table itself for his own stuff o.O;;

I mean the person just went for a drink or something and while they'Re away , this guy comes in .. pushes the other artist'S stuff aside and uses the space for HIS stuff..

2. People asking for a deal / free art / some zany trade

Argh! These people are ridiculous ..
Especially the "the con'S over so gimme your leftovers" part.
That's as logical as going to the Quicky Mart and asking forfree food since it's the end of the business day.. o.O;;

3. People wanting to get their own table and do the same thing you are doing

Dec. 25th, 2006 12:46 pm (UTC)
3. Dunno what to say about three
( 66 comments — Leave a comment )


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