Artist Alley Checklist Part 2: Setting Up a Table – The Pretty Stuff
Ok, so you got through the registration process and subsequent adrenalin rush and you got a table confirmation. First off, congratulations! Pat yourself on the back! Now, about that table…
Make It Visible! You are just one artist in a whole room full of them. In the larger cons, there can be up to 300-400 fellow artists! Some attendees will make a point to examine every single table (kudos to you guys!), but most will walk up and down the middle of the aisles just glancing and then approaching a table when something catches their eye. The best way to do this? Have something up above either in the form of an eye catching banner or your artwork prints (if you sell them). People are going to be standing in front of your table at any given time which can block the contents from passerby. Having something overhead helps to still have something attention getting while customers are visiting your table.
This was my very first AA table. I was selling at FanimeCon in San Jose, California. I didn’t have anything overhead and I did notice that people were passing up my table more so than the ones that had something more ‘in your face’ for lack of a better term. I know we are all told not to judge a book by it’s cover, but honestly, in a place as full of sensory overload as AA’s can be, the most eye catching is what is going to draw people over. I’ve even passed up some artists’ tables just because they didn’t have a very visible presence. It was only later when I went back through the AA in a more detailed inspection that I would discover them and often be pleasantly surprised. Your average con attendee may not have that time or patience though, so you really need to try to catch them at the very first as that may be their ONLY pass through the AA.
My second time was once again at Fanime and I made sure to get an overhead display which I have used in some form or another ever since. I started out with a smaller version of my banner hanging from PVC pipe. Eventually, I started selling prints of my designs and used the frame to display them. That has actually done the best in drawing people in and subsequently increased sales for my items all around so I am continuing to display my prints up above.
The easiest and cheapest way to have an overhead display is with PVC pipe that you can get at any hardware store. I have three pieces – the two posts and one longer piece (mine is 5ft) for the top. I also bought two corner joints to hold them together. The frame is attached to the table with Quick Grips, also from my hardware store. One thing to keep in mind for overhead displays: some cons have height restrictions. Check with their AA rules before buying pipe. It wouldn’t be so great if you are relying on an overhead display to bring in customers, only to get to con, find you are over limit and have to take it down! Another thing, I was suggested use of the Quick Grips as you need a secure way to attach the frame that doesn’t damage the table. Damage to the actual table can result in a fee charged to you!
Create Different Levels on Your Table. Having all your items just at one level makes them easier to overlook and isn’t that exciting. For my second table, I bought those storage cubes that you assemble with the plastic joints. The first time I did this, I used blue, solid sided ones as that matched my brand’s colors as you can see in this picture. Most people use the wire ones which are also good (I actually switched to half and half, more on that in a second). I liked the idea of having a ‘storage’ area under the cubes. The top part is used for displaying my items and open to the front. The bottom section is open to the back of my table where I sit and I keep my supply box, snacks and extra inventory there. You can stash things under the table, but I liked having things within easy reach, especially when it got super busy.
This was the only con that I did the entire cube set up in the frosted blue. For my third con, I switched the top level walls out for the more standard wire cubes. I found that the solid cubes all the way up blocked me from attendees so they sometimes thought there was no one at the table. It just looks bad to have an empty table with no one there. They also blocked my own line of vision. My first year I actually had someone steal some items from my table so I like to keep as much of the table in my line of sight as I can. I didn’t think about how much these would block things when I was formulating the idea and testing it out at home.
Contain the Chaos. Many artists sell more than one type of item with their art. I sell buttons, charms, jewelry, prints, plushies and decor. Try to keep all items of a like type in a contained area/display. If you look at my first table, you’ll notice that I sort of did that, but stuff was still pretty much just laid out on the table. As people looked at my items, they would start to look sloppy and I was constantly rearranging stuff and straightening things out.
I decided to move my earrings and charms to display boards that showed one of each design. I keep the actual inventory in boxes in the storage areas of my table and pull the items as customers want them. It means that I don’t have my table space taken up with my actual inventory supply, leaving me more space to display the large variety of items I sell. I’ve since added small, low sided trays for my necklaces and pins.
Display Boards. I actually saw another artist displaying their charms and smaller jewelry this way and liked the idea. Unfortunately, I saw this online and so was unable to find out how they made theirs, so I improvised. I designed the backgrounds using my own graphics. The hooks on the boards are clear, plastic hooks from Command. I put very light marks in the design to show where to attach the hooks once it was all printed and mounted. I then took the files to FedEx Kinkos and had them print, mount on foam core and laminate the boards. Then I attached the clear hooks with E600 since I don’t need to remove them and I didn’t want the white adhesive squares showing. I switch out the charms and earrings as I restock or sellout of designs.
The buttons are on a small bulletin board that I picked up for $1.50 at Daiso. I bought the easel stands on Amazon after researching ones that I liked and thought would work. Scroll to the bottom of this entry for a link to my Pinterest Anime Con Tabling board. I pin items in there that I’m considering for displaying or storing my things.
Note on the display boards: You’ll notice that I have them at the front of the table. People at cons are often in costume with bulky parts or props. Or they are in street clothes, but carrying around a ton of purchases from the vendor’s hall. This means that stuff will often get bumped and knocked ajar on your table. I had the earring board get knocked over about 5 times before I decided to move them further back on the table. I now keep the plushies on the front edge of the cubes. They can take a fall MUCH better than a board full of little plastic thingies that you have to search for and rehang each time.
Table Cloth. Fanime had table skirts and white vinyl on our tables. Not all cons are going to do this. In fact, most just provide a table and two chairs. We are talking convention center tables that have seen much use and abuse so they are often not pretty. I strongly suggest getting a table cloth. It just makes your table look neater than having stuff out on a scarred, scratched brown, wood laminate table. It keeps your items clean. And adjusting the drape length in the front helps to hide all your storage bins and the fact that you may have kicked off those cosplay shoes that are killing your feet by Day 2 :) Tables seem to range anywhere from 6-8′ so spring for the longer length to give you flexibility.
Price Cards. My first con, I had one price list on a display at one end of the table. Customers constantly were asking me how much certain items were. I decided to make cards that would go near each item section instead. This makes it easier for the customer and for me! Items that are different shapes and sizes, like my cake boxes, I mark individually on the bottom with a little price sticker. Those get a price sign ‘Priced as Marked’.
That about wraps up the table display ideas. Part 3 (the last part) will be covering the nuts and bolts stuff which may not be as fun as buying display items, but are just as important!
Here is that Pinterest link I mentioned earlier.