So I got home just about safely. That trip back, though... oh gosh. More about that down below. Anyhow, basically point being Hearths Warming Con is over and it's been an awesome experience in so many different ways.
There's so much to write about! Which might make sense since it's been my first convention ever, my first time showing up anywhere fandom related, and on top of all of that, my first time as a vendor. Giving me a great perspective on conventions in general.
I'll try to write a bit in a chronological order. My preparations, the days before, the actual con days, afterthoughts, and future cons.
I feel like I might end up typing a lot...
Edit-1: eeyup... I've typed a lot... and I'm half way through
Edit-2: Ok yea... finished it and I did indeed typed down a lot.
Since it was quite an adventure, I guess I've been writing it down as an adventure, as my mind goes from one thing to another.
The months before the con
I tried to prepare a lot, do research, but I also didn't want to hold back too much on certain things. HWCon being in the same country as I am, it lacks some of the complexities I might face in foreign countries. Allowing me to focus on other things more. Although I am already looking at other cons, so it was easy to try and do some research to those at the same time. This does take a lot of time and I'm not even finished figuring everything out.
Preparation for HWCon didn't go flawless, though, but in a way it's something to be expected. Some parts were preventable, but others were just things I didn't think about and will be nice for next time!
The missing and lost prints
One of my most notable mishaps was two of my large prints missing. For two different reasons.
I had listed what I was planning to bring in my earlier journal Hearths Warming Con - Prints!
Unfortunately I had ended up not having both All parts
which made me really sad. I figured out the princesses piece before the con, but Applejack's piece only during! I didn't do proper print inventory check...
So I ended up having to list them as "sold out" a.k.a. unavailable in my print books.
Still, I had a big selection to begin with, so I could fall back on all the other prints.
Aside from prints, there was the part of getting change for my cashbox. I barely managed to get that arranged properly last minute. (you need to order 5 euro bills from the bank in advance, which I did not arrange)
Anyhow, that's the most notable parts of the pre-con stuff. This is supposed to be about the con itself!
The trip to the con!
Everything was packed and ready to go the day before. I had to leave at like 0710 to make the tram, train and eventually bus.
Oh my did I underestimate the travelling case... It already started out with a 20 minute walk, tiring my arms from the start. The case was packed with prints, bags, table stuff, etc. every little bit of space was used and it was a big one.
I haven't weighed it, but in terms of KG it might've been in the double digit range? (I'm not that good with guessing weights)
At least I managed to catch all the transports in time! I left a bit earlier, which was smart because I ended up moving slower then expected.
Eventually with the last bus trip I arrived, just a bit of walk left. Saw some dressed up folks which I ended up following. Although I did have a route on my phone. I arrived safely, get checked in, got my ticket quick and easy. (I remembered to bring a paper with my ticket numbers on it)
Managed to carry my case up the stairs and the table set-up began!
Setting up the table!
This is where it basically began, I was there officially, present in a non-digital form amongst others. What I really like about fandom based conventions is the immediate connection to others, making it way easier to break the ice (if that's even needed!) and just interact. Although I'm definitely not one to really initiate anything. But it's nice that others can approach me, and I do want to make the best out of those situations and be open to it.
There were not a lot of vendors in total, but that does give it more of a group feeling. It was awesome to see the business of everyone setting up, driving me to get started as well. Of course not without a greet from Horseez
who gave me an this awesome Applejack portrait
wooden pyrography amulet or medallion, which I of-course immediately had to put around my neck!
So I started unpacking, and since I packed focused on making it fit, it didn't really work that easy with getting it on the table. I had to take a lot out before I could begin. Basically everything... because my A3 prints were at the bottom.
Had a table cloth to put down, laying out my prints. I did a quick count of my prints while I took one of each for display. This is actually where I found out my Hold
print was missing. Which occupied me way too much, double triple checking my stack if I didn't skip over it because I didn't print that many of it. But I couldn't find it and in the meantime I spend precious time preparing in the 1 hour we had. I ended up a bit dis-organized...
Thankfully that turned around when an awesome gang surprised me showing up consisting of aaynra
(if I'm not mistaken). They helped me out awesomely. Also suggesting to make use of the empty wall that was in front of my table I had not even thought about, which they then promptly helped out with with great teamwork. It ended up being a great place to put up my large prints and helped with sales.
The interaction itself was also just pretty great experience, and that already in just the first hour of being there?! Great start of the day for sure!
I was happy when everything was at least kinda set-up, although I still continued to puzzle with the layout of which prints and the display booklets.
Let the sales begin!
Actually, my first sale was already during the table set-up. One of the helping hands was my very first sale ever, but oh does it slip my mind who of you it was exactly!!! I remember having to sign it, which I was unprepared for haha, so it went "smooth". They had to supply me with a proper signing marker. I didn't have good ones.
It was really enjoyable seeing people stop by and check out my art. I tried to smile and pay attention, though my nature prevented me to really initiate random small talk, but still trying to keep any talk that does start, going by responding with more than just single words. It still varies when I find myself capable of talking a bit more, but this being a convention focused around MLP does really help lower the barrier. It gives me a better guesstimate on what kind of talk can connect.
The sales went at quite a decent pace I must say, although I don't really have any reference previous experiences. It was scary but fun to make those initial sales. Seeing the interest build up to a purchase. Pointing at the art piece they're interested in. Me diving into my stack of prints under the table, which at first took a bit long. I wasn't sure where in the stack each print was, but later on I became familiar with it, so it went faster and smoother.
I had free bags in A4 and A3 size, which I think people liked. Nice little easier way to carry and protect prints. Not as much as the tubes, though. Which some people brought them self,
It's also just fun seeing people walk around with my bags filled with my prints. Especially if I see them filling it up with even more prints from the other vendors!
During events it was calmer, but when those ended it definitely started to build up a crowd. People appeared to be amazed at my art, which I really appreciate. It's definitely a different experience to hear and see it in person, and to be there directly to talk to as well. The evil side of me was showing, though. Giving so much choice for people it was almost impossible to decide. Teehee.
But a lot of people did end up being able to decide, and I was happy to make sales.
There was one person I did make decide on something, and that was a little kid who was there with her mother. I think she was about 2, 3 or 4 years old, wearing awesome Rainbow Dash clothing. I find it great to see all the different age groups. Especially to also see younger generations amongst the often bit older crowd at MLP:FIM conventions, so I wanted to give something extra to that group if any happened to be there. I also tried to make sure I had some cute or fun small prints available.
She ended up choosing the Twilight Hayburger Time
Which she did while almost looking just like Twilight at my table haha.
I broke even with my costs after half way through I think. Which was my primary goal, anything beyond that is mostly bonus! The remainder can't really pay for payments I still owe, but it's a great boost.
I really failed to keep track of each sale, though. My cashbox doesn't equal the notes I written down, so I missed writing down some of the sales.
Separately I also kept track of which prints were sold, based on the notes.
I had plenty of prints (way more hehe) to go around, though. So I didn't actually sell out of any. I didn't expect to end up anywhere close to selling out, which begs the question... why didn't I bring a bit less regardless of the amount I printed? (I printed bulk because of discount, but I didn't have to bring the entire bulk!!
So I either have a lot of prints available for a possible online sale, or it's my supply for the next convention.
Which ones sold?
Some I expected to sell more of, which were Statim Luna
and Reign of Magic
The next biggest seller was one I did not really expect or consider to do well. It's actually one of my OC FCW ponies, Warm Adventure Flow
! People seemed to really like her!
So it was a pleasant surprise, and another of the many confirmations that I should really continue this style for sure. It's fun to make and the response is great!
The details on my Applejack Exalted
also managed to get quite some attention doing quite well. Amongst the mediums Celestia and Luna were both fairly evenly matched with their Daybright Moontime
and Celestial Loss
I still have to properly recount my prints to filter out any sales I've missed to write down, but the sales were quite nicely spread. Some didn't sell, but there were not too many of those actually, and with the broad selection I had it was to be expected. It does give me a good indication of which ones or which styles I can focus on more for prints. The surprises.
During the first hours I also met some folks like Dahtamnay
, and Gruntoks
who absolutely caught me unsuspecting magically making an Applejack plushie appear and handing her over to me. I really had no idea what just happened and failed to know how to respond to that situation. I did not expect that, but it was such an awesome surprise gift!
She... is... so... soooooft. She's so fluffy I'm going to die!!!
Like my cheeks weren't hurting enough from having to genuinely smile all the time already. I was really just enjoying all the things going on around me. I had sight through a window into the Karaoke and lounge sections. People playing games, singing, hanging out, just having a good time. It made me have a good time as well. A very enjoyable atmosphere, even though I was pretty much confined to my table. So I missed out on the awesome surprise in the end.
There were more events going on of course. One I could experience partially was the Karaoke with Anneli Heed. They even played the microphone through the speakers spread across the building. Although the music didn't go through so it was just voice. Was fun to listen to, though.
Anneli Heed (Swedish VA) and Lizemijn Libgott (Dutch VA) did also have a signing session right next to the Artist Alley. Definitely drew in quite a crowd. Didn't end up going there myself, but I just watched as things went on.
There was fun stuff going on the ground floor as well. I saw that the charity auction brought up €1682,- for War Child. Which is a pretty good amount I'd say. Also considering the convention size. I do kinda wish I could've gotten a donation piece out myself, but I kinda missed out on that. I would've looked into getting a canvas print perhaps. Although that might've also been more fitting with a special artpiece specifically for that. Something I could plan out better next times.
The artist alley
Being part of the artist alley was pretty great. The offering seemed nicely diverse. Prints probably had the most vendors behind them, which isn't surprising. Some of them offered other things as well, though, like cups I think I saw. But in general there were also plushies, figurines, badges, belts, sculptures, board games, accessories, and more available. Guests being able to see more than just variations of the same things, which I think really benefits the atmosphere on such a small convention.
Unfortunately I didn't end up buying anything, being in an unsure financial conundrum. Although this Funko Applejack vinyl figurine was taunting me the entire time in the corner of my eye...
I already mentioned the wooden medallion with Applejack and the Applejack plushie I got as gifts.
I did end up doing a nice trade with Tracyelicious
, who was also selling prints, who then ended up putting me on the decision side. Now I was the one who couldn't choose between all the prints!!!
I decided to go with something that involved apples. Not the kind of apples you expected?
But I also just liked the addition of the typography, the kind of poster poster type feel.
The ending of the con
Breaking down the tables
Now I had to pack all of it again... This is also where I kinda got it reconfirmed that I hadn't really thought enough about actually taking less prints, than I'm printing, with me. Didn't help the bags actually add quite some weight to it as well, and I brought too many of those. So my travel case was still heavy!
There was an after party but I skipped out on it. Although it could've been interesting, I think the main thing that kept me back was my body. The chairs weren't the most comfortable ones, and just focusing on all the guests stopping by my table put a bit of a strain on me, physically. Perhaps it's also because I've still been kinda recovering from the last months.
The trip back home
After sticking around for a bit, having some chats, I headed home. I admit I was not exactly looking forward to lugging that case all the way back, or at least once I really started travelling again I began dreading the trip a bit. The trip back did end up being of a bit harsh reminder. One of the bus stations only had stairs going up, and honestly I had some issues getting my stuff up there. But I managed! My legs were about to give in, though.
At least that was the only real stairs from there on, all other stations had elevators. I didn't want to exert myself any further, trying to stay away from breaking point. (literally)
I called up a ride for the last stretch back home, and all was fine!
If only I had a driver licence. I can afford a trip to Bronycon for the amount that thing costs, though... and that doesn't even include the car.
Some things I could've done (better)
I written some notes down on things I should consider for next time.
From the small things such as putting a mention of free bags on my display, to more significant thingies, perhaps.
On my ring band booklets I should've stated which size it is. (Large/A3, etc.)
This is probably also useful for all displayed prints. I could've prepared some specific prints for display in advance.
I initially thought about numbering my prints, I only did so with my Large ones (I was unprepared there). Unless you clearly visibly number each print, pointing will probably be the preferred method of indicating what they want. If I end up having a large vertical stand I might put some thumbnail sheets/booklet/menu on the table for customers to point at since I probably can't see the vertical ones that easy. Or just rely on the description (perhaps in combination with me pointing at a thumbnail sheet in response to confirm)
Signing stuff. Signing marker. I'm so unfamiliar with signing, I had no idea what to do even when I had a marker haha.
Language indicator, which languages I speak. Here in the Netherlands just about all Dutch can speak both dutch and english. At such locations I feel it can be useful to indicate which languages you can speak. When I think about the German conventions for example I think it can be useful to indicate I can't speak german.
My special deals. In hindsight my deals probably weren't the most efficient. Which made me think of alternative approaches. Although I'm still unsure of what I could go with.
One idea was to have tiers based on the amount spent (so regardless of which size you buy).
For example, spend 20, get a free small, spend 40 get a free small & medium, spend 60 get a free small, medium & large.
The other would be to stick with 3 for 2 price (all of equal size)
Or buy 2 get 1 free, which is the exact same just stated different... not sure which one is more comfortable.
Or some bundle deals, get these specific prints for X amount
Which brings me to my next point, which is kinda a maybe I could but perhaps I don't have to. Broader selection of characters. The need/can part depends on how far you look. I do think having at least a selection of the entire mane 6 in some for is really useful. Some of the other characters are a bit more open I'd say. But the mane 6 (and other main casts) are the focus the show mostly has, so the ones who already get more exposure.
Then again, my 3rd best seller was an OC. (small print, 1st and 2nd were large)
I did have plenty of Applejack.
One big part, before I forget it. I went solo. I was interested in experiencing how that is. It now makes me realize more, I probably don't want to be solo for any other conventions (Maybe exception the Dutch ones)
Just the prospect of foreign countries, solo, I will admit I'm probably really not capable of doing that for varying reasons.
At least solo for the entire thing (preparation, con, aftermath)
Once everything was set up it was mostly doable solo, but can be greater in team.
Getting my prints there in a completely solo manner was my main breaking point for HWCon. Travelling with the goods worn me down, and the prospects of needing more goods with other conventions, there needs to be a better method in place for things to even happen.
Initially I did ponder on shipping the stuff to a postal service point close by HWCon. In hindsight might've been worth the price, but I was a cheapskate.
Basically I will need a lot more assistance in certain areas than I might've wanted or might've felt comfortable with due to my natural tendencies to not "bother" others, or to have to rely on others going out of their way to help me. I don't know... maybe I don't want to "beg" or come of as doing that, or it's just that I don't often call for help. There's more that plays I guess, but this is something that'll play a big role with further conventions. Especially the great Bronycon that I am hoping to be able to go to, and the closer Brony-Fair in April.
So I will have to break open and say I might need assistance.
It warrants its own journal to point out at which aspects I'd be looking at precisely and perhaps co-arrange as a team. But based on today it'll mostly have to do with the physical aspects. For example prints, goods. The shipping and getting them to the right city, getting them transported within the city to the convention, and getting it back home, setting up table. If I do not want to break myself (also literally) I will probably be much better of going in as a team with... someone.
Hopefully I'll be able to assist on all the other aspects that involve vending, such as administration, printing, atmosphere, artwork, etc. whatever may help.
My two next focused conventions are Brony-Fair and Bronycon.
I will say that I might really need some assistance with Brony-Fair at this point, and if anyone might want to team up, I would very much appreciate that. I have no idea how it can be arranged in terms of tables, but already if someone has an efficient way of getting the prints to the convention that would be much appreciated.
I will also need to spend (more, which I don't always have sadly...) time on looking into all those things. Getting it shipped, etc.
To sum things up
The overall experience?
Awesome, although I have become somewhat worried about some parts for future conventions.
Things I am kind of worried about. This convention was one day, but I'm actually physically hurting right now. I'm not sure what a second day would do to me in the way I did things here. It's something I did want to experience first-hand. That's why I did really want to go to HWCon, a smaller convention, in my own country, something easier to start out with.
As far as learning experience, there's a lot new insight I got out of this day.
Socially and mentally I seem to be able to handle myself to a decent point. Although my preparations could've been better at certain places. It's my physical state that's causing me most problems. While it could be due to still recovering slightly from the last months, that's only a small factor. The approach will have to be changed I believe, in order to keep vending or just convention going a healthy viable option for me. It is one of the more negative sides that does get highlighted with activities like this which I realistically just can't cope with well. But I don't want that to overshadow the awesome experiences that conventions bring with them as well.
I have to mention the great stuff. Such as the sides of a convention from within this fandom that's already a pretty awesome place to be. Because everyone going has that connection my expectations were an easier, calmer, more relaxed and fun environment. I did not get disappointed. There was no one point where it felt there was any tension what-so-ever. Everyone was having a great time. (I at least hope everyone did!) I barely go to anything of social nature, that's not digital. So this was a fun fresh experience again. Getting exposed to the broad crowd, all the different people. And having put myself in a position where I can't really avoid anyone, it kept me interacting with folks throughout the entire day.
The confirmation that people like my work enough to actually buy it is such an new thing for me. I'm really happy I've been able to offer prints, and I'm very thankful for all the purchases and support I've received. I think my price point seemed to be fair and easy to handle in terms of cash which were some of my criteria I focused on.
(Large/A3 €15, Medium/A4 €10, Small/A5 €5)
The special deals are where I can make some improvements on using these price points as reference.
I have been typing for way too long haha, or well, that's all subjective. Maybe it was simply worth it. Ended up cancelling my entire Saturday stream unfortunately, and the usual weekly roundup journal! (I should've done that one in advance before the con.)
Anyhow, I did type a lot... and I did leave out some things, whether it's because I forgot about it or otherwise!
I am hurting quite a bit right now, but I'm safe at home, had a great experience, and the pain will go by eventually.
To sum the entire thing up, a great experience, hopefully for everyone! The first time for me for many things. A successfully one in many way, and possibly a starting point for many more awesome things to come!