Re: Quite Utilitarian

It all started with a tweet (WARNING: my tweets tend to highlight my anxiety. Follow me at your own risk.) It was then I knew what today’s comic would be about. I’d seen the trend in astounding numbers at Balticon also, but that was a Sci-Fi/Fantasy literature convention full of SCA geeks and gamer nerds. I’d have been beside myself if I DIDN’T see a bunch of Utilikilts there. At Nekocon however, I did not expect them to show up in such abundance. But without further delay, here’s Part I of my con report.

NEKOCON REPORT PART I – OBSERVATIONS AND OPINIONS

Prelude

Before getting to the convention part I want to talk about travel, expense, and word of mouth. Typically when Amu and I do conventions we’ve got a posse with us. Really it’s just our friends and family we go to cons with, who for some reason are awesome enough to help us out with keeping us company and watching the table if we have to step away. Our posse couldn’t be with us this time. We were going to be alone at a con where we didn’t know anybody.

This seemed fine with us as we were told by several people that Nekocon was a great con and that since Amu’s shifted her focus to selling her doll knits this con would be a good test due to the number of doll collectors that show up. While the focus was on the doll clothes, we brought along promo cards and postcard sets for Amu’s World and the normal amigurumi we sell at con tables.

The expense was going to be painful. Since neither of us drive we had to take the train, which really paired down what we could bring with us. We only brought things we could easily cram into our luggage and between the train tickets and the hotel stay we were investing a lot of money on word of mouth. Since we had nobody to help split up the hotel bill we’d have to sell most of what we brought to break even.

Arrival

A late night of packing, 1 hour of sleep and a 6 hour train ride meant that when we got to the hotel we were practically dead. Amu’s better at sleeping on planes, trains, and automobiles (I totally went there) than I am and I was a bit worse off. Our hotel room wasn’t ready when we arrived so we went out to eat, get some shopping in, and back to the hotel to check in, get settled, and finish up some things that needed finishing before Friday morning.

Checking in was relatively painless, but left me confused that the Artist’s Alley badge was a different, replacement badge for the regular con badge. I’m typically used to getting a ribbon or sticker on a regular badge to denote Artist status. It just seemed odd is all, but with the exception of one minor problem that was corrected immediately checking in went without a hitch. We were ready for the con.

The Con

My first thought was “SO SMALL!” My first convention was Origins in 2000. It was pretty big. Next were Otakon in 2001 and Katsucon in 2002. Since then Katsu’s exploded and Otakon’s the biggest anime con on the East Coast. I’ve gotten used to big cons. Neko seemed tiny in comparison, chiefly due to our experience in the Artist’s Alley.

There was so much unnecessary empty room in the Alley area. They’d crammed the Art Show, Artist’s Alley, Fiber Artists, R/C Racing, Autographs, Photo Suite, and Lunch Area in the same hall of the convention center. All of these things were put in the same hall with a GIGANTIC 20-25 foot aisle running down the center. There was so much wasted room that it always felt empty, and in part it kind of was.

The hall where this hodge podge assembly of stuff was located seemed like the LAST room, out of the way, with little traffic. You’d never know the convention tiny center was full of people by looking in the Bazaar (the name given to the room full of random things that didn’t go together.) At times it felt like a ghost town, the tired and bored artists sleepy spectres looking for life of any kind. It made for long days.

Some word of mouth turned out to be true…kind of. There were a lot of doll collectors at this small convention. The problem we ran into was that while there were a lot of collectors, very few were spending money on doll items. There’s always a risk switching focus, and doing this at a con you’ve never been to is double risky. We knew this going into it and could only be a little disappointed and not totally surprised by it. We’ve worked it out that it was still a great con for us, but for different reasons than profitability.

Amu made a lot of friends and connections. This is a commodity far more valuable than the money we’d hoped to make. We lost a good bit of money working Nekocon. We made a good bit of friends though. We sat near and talked to a lot of really great, awesome people and I can’t wait to talk about them. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until Part II of the report that will go up tomorrow.

In the end I can’t entirely write off Nekocon. There’s a lot of negative I could get into from a event programming standpoint, but I’ll hold off on that. I didn’t go to any events or panels so it didn’t effect me at all. I think if we can cut down on our cost to attend the con we’ll gladly go again as Artist Alley folk. We’ll have to either find a ride and/or share a room with more people, but meeting up again with some of the folks we met would be nice.

Tune in tomorrow when I discuss AWESOME FOLKS!

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