A Short Intro to Convention Preparation

For nearly a decade, I’ve been participating in a number of conventions around the GTA as an artist in what’s usually referred to as the Artist Alley. Selling art within an Artist Alley is a unique experience, where you are basically given a flat table and then you are left to your own devices to try to do something with it, and over the years I’ve had a chance to try a number of different methods related to both displaying and selling my own art.

In many ways, the best teacher has been trial and error: choosing a particular set-up or tactic and evaluating the results, and that includes documenting my table spaces and trying to assess whether I am using the space provided in the best way possible.  Each artist has their own challenges and limitations, though there is some commonality when you sell something that has a set format, such as prints or buttons, but even then I’ve seen some truly ingenious DIY displays for the most mundane of merchandise.

The deciding factors for the details of your table display tend to hinge on the following:

  • The kind of art you make (medium, size, weight, special qualities ie breakable, squishy, etc)
  • Your budget for your display accessories – low budget tends to mean more DIY displays, higher budget affords you some really neat pre-made display units
  • Transportation of your stuff to the show – do you have your own car vs. does your stuff need to fit into just one suitcase so you can take it on a Greyhound bus
  • Whether you prefer to have a quick/simple set-up routine or whether you don’t mind getting to the show early to unpack and put together something more complex
  • Do you intend to sell only ready-made stuff or are you intending to do any production on-site (ie bring your button maker with you, etc)

Given those factors even as just a starting point, it’s easy to see how a display set-up that works great for one artist might be totally unsuitable for another artist.  We each have our own unique resources and talents when it comes to both our art and what we can put together to show off our art.

Now, last year I had an opportunity to put into active practice some of this advice with an artist friend of mine who was interested in doing her first convention and reached out to me to ask for my help.  As I spend so much time thinking about my own efforts with having a table, I was happy to share some of my own experiences and thoughts, to the point that I eventually wrote them out into a sort of intro-primer PDF of getting ready to do your first few conventions.  I’ve uploaded this PDF to make it available for anyone who might want to check it out:

“Con Prep by Sunhawk” (PDF)

(Right-click and choose “Save Link As…” to save the PDF)

And for a far more in-depth guide to conventions, there are some excellent artist resources out there you should check out too:

AA Toast
Artist Alley Info
Artist Alley Survival Guide


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