This was my first time attending Ikkicon, as well as selling at it. I first realized it existed early in 2016, despite having lived in the Austin area for almost five years, and made a mental note to keep an eye out for Artist Alley applications. It was May by the time I heard anything and I was attending Momocon at the time. I saw a thread on a popular Facebook group for artist alley information and immediately emailed to be placed on the waitlist for Ikkicon, since invitations had already been sent to previous artists and applications weren’t open to the public, exactly. Less than two days later, I got an email saying I was accepted off the waitlist and so I chose to pay for my table. I never had to submit a portfolio or go through any sort of application process other than the initial email. I found this odd but as I’d done artist alleys before, I knew what I was getting into and so knew that I could do well at a convention.
This lack of application process is annoying for other artists, however, who didn’t have the luck to email at the right time to get on the waitlist. I think Ikkicon should be more transparent about their application process, and perhaps reserve a certain number of tables for returning artists and then offer others to new artist through a jury system or even a lottery. Given the size of the alley, a jury system would be great, as it would allow a great variety of artists into the alley. As it was, there was a good variety in the alley this year. Lots of print artists, as always, but many of the print artists offered other things, like plushes or keychains or, in one case, terrariums. There were many plush artists there, which was exciting, especially since most, if not all, of them made their plushes by hand, rather than outsourcing.
The location for this con is great! It’s held at the Renaissance Austin Hotel, right behind the Arboretum, which is a shopping center that is close to lots of food options and just general shopping. It’s right off the highway, as well, and near to other hotels should the host hotel be too expensive. I personally took a ride share to the convention every day since I don’t have a car and this worked out perfectly for me and saved me money I otherwise would have spent on a hotel, when I live less than twenty minutes away.
Leading up to the convention, a couple weeks before, there was a small email about load in that wasn’t super informative. Then there was an email about entering art in the art show, which I thought it was neat to allow all artists to enter a piece in the show. There was no information about table placement or a list of artists or dealers posted on the website. I wish there had been, so I could keep an eye out for favorite artists or see who was next to me at the convention. As I didn’t get a chance to wander, I didn’t even see all the artists in the alley or get an opportunity to interact with many of them (though I did do an art trade for a cute little watercolor BB-8 print!).
I had little interaction with the staff but those I did were positive enough. When I first entered the Alley at about 9AM on Friday to set up, I entered via the loading dock. There was no indication where the check in was and so I wandered around with my luggage for a minute to find my table and, leaving my luggage at it once I found it, I attempted to find check in. This led me upstairs where I was then directed back downstairs. The check in station was immediately obvious to me at this point, though it was empty. So I set up for a half an hour and wandered back to the entrance where I checked in. I just told them my studio name and my name and was given a badge, no ID check or anything.
The table turned out to be an eight foot table, which surprised me. I was along the outer wall and so got this lovely large table. Those along the inner “pod” had six foot tables. I don’t know why the tables were different sizes or if it really mattered. To me, I was fine with either, as I didn’t take up the full eight foot space. The table was also wonderfully wide, about three feet deep, which was awesome! Tables are usually a foot and a half wide and having a deeper table really helped with my set up and ability to spread out my product for easier shopping. I was about fifteen feet away from the bathroom, which was great as I was tabling by myself. If the alley was slow for a minute, I could run to the bathroom without fear of having anything stolen. ALSO a huge plus for me was the fact that there were outlets behind my table! Outlets that actually worked! So many conventions charge extra for electricity, since many of them are in huge halls without easy access to power. I was so happy to be able to charge my phone and card swiper, even though I had my portable power bank as well as extra phone batteries.
The AA was mixed with dealers in the same room, though I don’t think any dealers and artists were actually mixed together in the same row. I never got a sense of how big the artist area was, since I was alone at my table and so had little time to wander other than before and after the alley closed. My only complaint is that it wasn’t quite clear where the elevators were and I never found them. As a person travelling by myself with luggage full of product and display, a clear indication of whether there were elevators would have been lovely. And clearly there must have been elevators since I saw several people in wheelchairs throughout the weekend. But when I asked, I was directed up the stairs to the elevators, which is obviously a problem for both people who are disabled and people who are carrying luggage.
The mixed sales floor didn’t seem to affect sales for me. People always come to conventions wanting one thing or another. They will always buy that officially licensed item whether the alley is great or not. Traffic was constant and was super busy at times. Sales came in bunches sometimes friends encouraging friends to make purchases in a group.
I saw quite the mixture of people, mostly teenagers. There were several older people as well, and families attending the convention together. Many of the people were also cosplaying as something or other. I saw amazing cosplays and the usual cosplays, though many of them were quite good. I was happy to see this, as it really set the atmosphere for the alley and gave me something interesting to look at while I sat behind my table by myself.
The crowd was quite nice as well. They were patient as I made buttons I’d sold out of at the table and happily waited and conversed while I processed cards. They even reminded me to refill my business cards if I was running low or picked stuff up if it fell off the table. I had a few people literally hand me exact change and walk off with the thing they wanted, which is completely fine with me! I had lots of people express interest in my methods and suppliers for my button machine as well as my scalemaille gauntlets. I was happy to share my suppliers as well, as they were nice people and a quick Google search would reveal the answers just as easily.
Sales were slow at first, as they always are. Friday went well and I broke even, not that this was difficult as I was local and the table wasn’t too expensive ($150 plus tax). The alley opened at 12:30PM for VIPS and 1PM for other attendees, and closed at 7PM. Hours were 10:30AM to 7PM on Saturday and 10AM to 3PM on Sunday. I was thankful for the shorter hours, as I am used to the alley being opened for twelve hours or so at a time. Saturday was my biggest day, as they often are. But Sunday was just a bit above Friday as con goers made last minute purchases. I made my goal, though, and actually beat my sales for Momocon 2016, which was an out of state con for me and so had greater costs.