DesignerCon Report

Whew!  I’m finally back in town for a couple of days before heading to NYC on Wednesday.  I can’t WAIT until all of this traveling is over.

Just got back from the DesignerCon show in Pasadena.  I was pretty unprepared so I didn’t do very well there.  My intention was to split my booth between selling Sweet Meats and promoting my custom plush services.  Not knowing the set-up or having enough time, however, I lacked the appropriate signage and display materials to make this apparent to the attendees. I could have used some kind of collapsible shelving and a banner or two, or at least a second table.  As it stands, this is what my table space looked like:

Pathetic, no?  How the hell was anyone supposed to know what I was there for?  Well, they didn’t, and it was sort of a mess all around.  People kept trying to buy the things that were not for sale and they seemed surprised that I was the designer of all of the toys on my table.  Maybe for WonderCon I will make some huge buttons that say “I AM THE ARTIST. I am not the girlfriend of the artist.” and hand them out to the other artistic ladies there.  I will also make a giant banner to hang behind me that says something like “Custom Plush Toys from YOUR Character!” and shows a drawing of someone’s character next to a photo of some plush toys I made of that character.

DesignerCon was also the first stop on the Custom Yoka show’s tour.  I brought A.’s Yoka down but mine didn’t make it.  Oh well.  I will mail it to DKE for the show’s next stop at Black Maria Gallery.

All in all it was a good learning experience and a (relatively) cheap way to prepare myself for WonderCon in April.  I definitely need to get my name out there a little better and make sure I have a well-publicized “exclusive” for sale at the show.  Those exclusives seemed to be the main focus at DesignerCon.  Sure, some people were interested in the toy giveaways, artist signings and live painting on bikini-clad girls, but the lines really formed for the exclusive toy releases.  This designer vinyl business seems to be a serious investment strategy for a lot of collectors.

Some show highlights for me included meeting Ze Frank (to whom I gave a Shapin’ Bacon), being asked to sign a customer’s deli-wrapped Hambone, and being interviewed for Electric Playground.  I also sold enough to pay for the trip, so I really can’t complain.  Now if I can just catch up on my sleep, I’ll be all set.

Studies

Sorry my posts have been so sporadic lately. In addition to prepping for holiday sales, I’ve got two art shows coming up in November that I haven’t finished the work for yet. I’m working with sort of childhood theme — lots of bright colors and repetitive geometry — and I’ve done a couple of studies, but no finished pieces yet.

The first piece I’m working on is a custom Yoka vinyl toy for a show at DesignerCon on November 21st. A Yoka is a cute, jointed, vinyl toy bear. Mine is only 3” high.

yokafront

I was kind of surprised at how many people have made custom-decorated Yokas. Check out this one by Phu! This is a 10” but he’s also got a 3” in the DC show.

With such high-caliber work to contend with, I want to make sure my Yoka isn’t jankity and represents my strengths/style as an artist. My first thought, of course was to make a plush Yoka, but Alisa Ross already did that.

Then I thought I would put silk pins into it and wrap the pins with colored string, like the string art projects I did in summer camp. I pictured a delicate, multi-colored scaffolding that was same shape as the bear, but floating about a centimeter off its body. You’d just barely be able to see the white toy underneath through its gossamer shell. But when I actually tried this on a little foam model, the threads all slid down to the bear’s body and he just ended up looking like a coloring-book version of Hellraiser.

yokastringstudy

I thought about trying to hold them up with those tiny orthodontic rubber bands but that’s just too bulky for such a small toy. Now I think I’ll just embroider the designs directly onto the toy. Not as cool as a floating rainbow exoskeleton, but still pretty sweet.

The other project I’m working on is a set of mandalas for The Lab’s Postcard Art Show Dec. 4-6. They’re small pieces (about 6” squares) and made with sticker shapes I drew. Here are some of the stickers.

stickers

Ideally I’d make the whole mandala set with stickers I drew myself but that’s a lot of time spent cutting tiny shapes and I don’t have much time these days. Depending on how quickly the first few go, I will either make them with a combination of my own stickers and stickers I’ve bought (of the Mrs. Grossman’s ilk), or I will just make digital prints of the mandala patterns I’ve mocked up in Illustrator. Here’s one from yesterday:

mandalatest

Apologies in advance if my posts are widely spaced until the holidays. Wish me luck!

Alternative Press Expo

This weekend the Alternative Press Expo came to town.  It’s a nice little convention that brings together the independent publishing community, put on by the same folks who bring you ComicCon.  Most of the tables were taken up by comic artists and writers, but a fair number of zine publishers, crafters, illustrators and small shops also represented.

Soon after arriving, I swung by the Neon Monster table, where I got to meet the lovely and talented Marian Churchland.  Among other things she has drawn for Richard Starkings’ Elephantmen series.

I had met Starkings and Justin “Moritat” Norman (the main Elephantmen artist) the day before at Neon Monster’s Second anniversary party.  Happy Birthday, Mitch!  Mr. Starkings gave me a few autographed issues of Elephantmen to peruse and I have to say, it’s not a bad rag.  Mr. Moritat also drew me a sketch of Jean Grey as Phoenix, perhaps my favorite comic book character ever.  Thank you guys!

Though I usually go as a fan, this year I went to A.P.E. mostly for business — I spent my time scouting the tables for characters that might make good plush toys.  Unfortunately there weren’t too many in the simple and cute category this time around, unless you count the yetis.  EVERYone’s got a yeti now.  Yetis are the new diamonds.   Still, there was plenty to love and even more to buy.  Even I couldn’t resist.  I got two of Brandon Bird’s Law & Order valentines for my sis (SVU is her favorite show). Brandon Bird is famous among my friends for his painting “No One Wants to Play Sega With Harrison Ford.

The best thing I got, though, was this set of monster hugs cards from Goblin-Fish Press.  There were five in the pack but these two are my favorites.

hugs

Hilarious!  If you’re sad you missed A.P.E., don’t worry.  There are two similarly awesome events happening next month.  For you east coasters, visit the Editions & Artists Books Fair in NYC beginning Nov. 5th.  While you’re there, say hi to the good folks at The Present Group.  For you west coasters, come hang out with me at DesignerCon in Pasadena on Nov. 21st!

Happy New Year

Fall is the beginning of my year.  It always has been.  In the first place, I’m Jewish, so I celebrate the new year in the fall rather than in January.  I take stock and make my resolutions in the fall.  Fall is also when school starts, and when people come back after having a long break.  Fall is when I naturally feel compelled to start in new directions and when the economy begins to ramp up again.

This year my main goal is to take those new directions and make them more, um…directed.  I’m trying to set clear, achievable goals for each of my current projects, which I am trying to cull and focus in service of a greater professional goal: an independent and sustainable career as a creative professional.

I’ve decided I need help with this, so I’ve been in contact with Lisa at the Renaissance Business Center here in San Francisco.  Renaissance is a non-profit dedicated to helping people start and/or grow small businesses.  What makes them different from SCORE, SBA and the SBDC is that they are much more focused on providing intensive, long-term assistance.  Two programs I’m currently looking at are their 14-week business planning course (which has been described as a mini-MBA program), and their 1-3 year business incubation program (probably the virtual incarnation).  I’ve got a tour and orientation on Wednesday.  Hopefully they can help me focus and kick my ass a little.

In the meantime, I’ve been applying for some holiday shows, and trying to create new wares for them.  The one I’m currently most excited about is DesignerCon in L.A. (formerly Vinyl Toy Network).  It’s sort of a combo trade fair/cash-and-carry for folks who make the kinds of things you see in designer toy and comic shops — plush and vinyl collectibles, limited-edition prints, and character-driven art of all kinds.  At $125 for a one-day booth, the cost is comparable to your standard craft fair.  I’m planning on showcasing/selling Sweet Meats on one side of the booth, and presenting samples of my plush design work on the other.  DesignerCon is on November 21st, which gives me a concrete deadline by which to have my new web site and business cards done, as well samples of next year’s toy line.

A little bit further down the list is a book proposal.  I’ve heard from fellow crafters that writing an instructional book is extremely difficult and takes about a year of full-time work to complete.  According to Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo, just writing the proposal takes a week.  Things being what they are in publishing, writing a book is often not very lucrative, assuming that your proposal even gets picked up a by a publisher in the first place, which is unlikely.  On the other hand, authoring a successful book significantly increases your profile as an expert in your field, leading (hopefully) to press, more clients and higher rates.  What doesn’t get picked up you can always publish on your own, so I’m keeping it as an option for now.

As for making a Thing-A-Day, I’m still doing it, though I’ve fallen back on the “work on an existing project for 30 minutes” net a couple of times this week.  Yesterday I made and decorated a cake for my friends’ 26th/30th birthdays, but I didn’t like it enough to photograph it.  Otherwise I’ve mostly been working on re-making my pieces for the Plush You show next month.

It’s going to be a busy fall.  I’ll keep you posted about what I learn along the way.  Happy New Year, everyone!