Monday, September 1, 2014

Baltimore Comic Con 2014 prep!

Baltimore Comic Con 2014 is steadily approaching!! September 5th-7th at the Baltimore Convention Center! This is the first year it's a 3 day convention! How exciting! This marks my *8th* year attending conventions on a professional level!! Me and my BFF Fenny of Little Asian Sweatshop will be at Artist Alley tables 205-206! I hope to see you there! ^_^


Here's a preview of some of the *NEW STUFF* I'll have available!!

Wondy & Supey-G magnet sets! $10 for the pair!

Wondy & Supey-G mini print sets! $5!

NEW STICKERS! $5 each or 2 for $8!

Sailor Moon cameo bracelets! $15!

UTZ hearts BOH prints! $5!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Process: Making shrink plastic magnets

 One of the things that I try to do when I sell stuff at my convention tables and online store is have a wide variety of items at different price points, so anyone who wants a piece of my artwork can walk away with something. Shoot, even if you're broke you can still walk away with a killer postcard with my website on it- for future reference when you're *not* broke.  ::nudge:: ;) I also make it a point to put my art on not only prints and pieces of frame-able art, but also on products which become part of the customer's life that they can take with them on their day. 

A magnetic front door is a great place to take inventory on finished packs as I make them.
 A staple of my merchandise selection for the past few years has been my magnet sets. I usually package them in 2 character sets for $10 each and they are cut, cooked and assembled by me in my 'free time'. I've been messing around with shrink plastic since I was a kid playing with Shrinky-Dinks in the 80s. My mom, a retired seamstress- even helped me as a small child sell my first Shrinky-Dink jewelry (under the eponymous banner of 'Paige's Cute Things') when she would go to sewing shows. I distinctly remember my mom handing me over my earnings afterward and getting a jolt of greedy excitement. It was just a few bucks but that satisfying feeling of receiving money for something I enjoyed doing was something I would chase for the better part of my life.



 I rediscovered the awesomeness of shrink plastic a few years ago after I started selling my work at conventions. Looking for new ways to present myself, I came across printable blank sheets of shrink plastic paper and went to town creating jewelry such as necklaces and brooches. One of my first pieces of jewelry, my roller derby girl necklace, landed me my first interview and product review on a roller derby blog. I even sent a giant shipment to the gift lounge of the Oscars back in 2009 to be touched by and given away to real, live *famous people*. It was pretty neat. Aside from jewelry, I also sold them as magnets- but it being the early days of conventions I didn't know what I was doing. Instead of packaging the magnets as sets I would have them all loose on a giant magnet board I clumsily propped up on my table, which would get knocked into and pushed off the table as customers would grab the magnets they wanted. It was a bit of a mess. Especially in-between shows when I had to put them away stacked in tupperware containers where unprotected they could chip and break. But still they sold well, even better than the shrink jewelry- I think because they are something EVERYONE can use and appreciate. Shoot I even know people with kids who like to play with them on the fridge while sitting on their kitchen floor.

 I've had some concern from well-meaning but misguided people in my life who don't understand why I would want to tell my 'secrets' of how I make my products. Honestly, there's a few reasons for this. Making these magnets and other shrink plastic accessories is one of my more labor-intensive processes of creating merch. If anyone else is crazy and determined enough to get themselves elbow-deep into doing all the things I have to do to make these then by all means- go for it. I just ask that you are as generous with your processes as I have been with mine and perhaps we can all learn from each other. Also I am not threatened by other people having similar merch as me- since I believe people are buying my magnets and merch because it's features my artwork, not simply because it is a magnet or a bracelet, etc. I mean really, if you're that hard up for magnets just to have magnets- there are plenty of places you can get some for way cheaper. I also wanted to share my processes so that people can see exactly how much work goes into making them- this is one of my products which is almost 100% assembled by me, all I buy are the blank sheets, magnets and packaging materials. Some products like my stickers (Stickermule), prints (Overnight Prints) and artbooks (lulu) I pay to be produced by an outside company who then sends me the product that I sell. Though if I *did* have a print shop of my own I'd be a very happy girl, haha. Really though it's just nice to be appreciated for the hard work I do making the products I sell and hopefully this will educate people on my processes, whether they are simply curious as to how I make all this stuff or want to try their hand at making their own shrink plastic creations.


My process:

Step 1: print
Step 2: cut

Step 3: cook
Bonus video:


Step 4: spray

Step 5: glue

Step 6: attach
Step 7: wrap

Step 8: admire
If you want to get some of my magnets for your own, check out my convention schedule to see if I'm coming to your town! If I'm not, or you're a hermit like me- be sure to check out my etsy store!



Monday, August 4, 2014

Aftermath: Visionary Tattoo Arts Festival 2014

My art on the lanyards! Pretty neat!
 Last weekend (7/25-27) was the 2014 Visionary Tattoo Arts Festival in Asbury Park, NJ! This was my second year attending the show and I definitely had some mixed feelings this year. Like last year, I did all of the art and branding and in return got hooked up with vending space at the show. I invited my best friend Fenny of Little Asian Sweatshop to come out with me and was hoping for a repeat of the insane success I had at last year's show. Which is kind of the thing about conventions and vending, you really have no idea year-to-year how it's going to pan out. The spot I had last year next to the entrance had been bought out, so I was given a more Artist Alley-style set up of a long row of tables (3 6' tables- an 18' super table!) in the corner by the stage. From my perspective on the floor it definitely didn't seem as busy this year as last year- the weather wasn't as nice and the upper deck was unaccessible to the show due to construction, so the main floor was crowded with artists and vendors. Fenny and I also busted out our new Victorian swimsuits for the affair, with ridiculous poof-ball hats to boot. They were a hit and we will be absolutely be wearing these to more shows in the future. We're already planning a spooky rendition to wear to Monster Mania this fall, which will include skull makeup, 'RMS Titanic' labels on our hat bands and ribcage corsets. I am super excited.

Photo courtesy andreatarr.com
Our 18' SUPER TABLE! So much stuff!
 Much like at Baltimore Tattoo Convention earlier this year, the attendees also seemed to be more interested in looking and hanging out rather than buying stuff. There was an overall attitude to the crowd this year that kind of rubbed me the wrong way- like 60% of the people attending had no interests in anything. Guys that were 'too cool' to get excited about stuff. Indignant boyfriends who got annoyed if their girlfriends stopped to look at our table. Lots of teenagers who obviously spent their whole 'allowance' getting to the show so they have a place to hang out with their friends all day unsupervised. People were also being, for lack of a better word- cheap. Like agonizing over purchases that were less than $5. And people trying to haggle over single item purchases right as they came to the table. And believe me, I'm all about value and deals at my table- if you engage me in healthy conversation and build a rapport with me and then end up buying a few items- I will most likely throw an extra few buttons or a sticker or other goodies in your bag. But to just roll up and demand an item clearly marked as $18 be $15? I'm sorry, but no. Also with my attempting to make vending at conventions a viable portion of my career, I need to take a serious look at the numbers and economics of this endeavor. I keep records of how much I sell and break that down into what I would consider an hourly rate. Shows with especially long hours like tattoo shows eat into that rate as there are longer lulls in sales and an overall lack of urgency when compared to shows with shorter hours.  If at the end of the day I don't reach a certain monetary goal with my table, I may as well pack it in. There comes a point where if I do not make back my expenses such as travel, hotel and table costs then I am hemorrhaging money and would actually be making more money staying at home. Which is actually what ended up happening on Sunday at Visionary, plus Fenny and I were going to drive all the way back to Maryland and wanted to beat beach traffic.
Photo courtesy andreatarr.com

Photo courtesy andreatarr.com
 I got a lot of the reseller assumptions as well- where people literally do not realize that I drew and made all the merch I sell until I tell them. And for every person I tell, I'm sure there's another 3 people at least that I don't explain myself to who just assume I just get all my merch from somewhere and flip it. Which can be frustrating, especially when I've already invested a lot of myself into maintaining a table and all the merch upon it. While most people are out getting blasted on Friday/Saturday nights- I'm at home drawing and cutting and making in preparation for shows like this. Maybe it's that I'm used to working comic shows for so long- when the attendees are all nerds who by nature are obsessive they tend to come in to a show with an understanding of how conventions work (like artist alley is where artists are...) and with a clear set agenda that includes making purchases. Even the most jaded fan is still a fan of *something*.

Via youdontknowjersey.com
 With all of that however I will say there were some very nice people that I met at the show as well as people from last year who were kind enough to swing by and say hello. I discussed portrait commissions with some potential clients and hopefully will see that come into fruition in the coming months. I also greatly appreciate all of you who came by and bought stuff or made my day go by a little easier with some engaging conversation. Also I liked the hotel we stayed at- The Empress and the area around it on the boardwalk that I had the chance to visit- especially the crepe and Korean taco stands. My only gripe about the hotel was the price (hella pricey for what it was...) and there was no little store in the hotel (only a vending machine- which sold snacks, soda, Alka-seltzer and condoms. No water. WTF?). But the balcony was delightful- GREAT people watching. Especially on a Saturday night- we must have seen at least 3 separate people get busted and hauled off in cop cars, it was great. My husband and I plan on taking an actual trip FOR FUN down to Asbury soon so I can actually enjoy everything there without thinking about work. 

Via youdontknowjersey.com
 So with this in mind I may have to rethink my venture into tattoo shows- I gave it a shot and it has it's ups and downs but for as expensive a venture as it is to do these, it may not be entirely worth the risk. It seems my true home as it always was is among the nerds. Also those 12+ hour days kinda destroy me.






Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bi-Coastal! My art is in both Image Comics and Sailor Moon tribute shows this month!



Two group art shows opened up this month, one in Los Angeles and another right here in New York City. 


Out in LA, the Moon Crisis 2014 Sailor Moon tribute show opened at the Rothick Art Haus to a massive crowd of cosplayers and fans. LA Weekly has some amazing photos from the event. I unfortunately couldn't make it to the show as trips to LA are expensive, but if you are in the area there will be a second opening for the show on August 9th, and then the show continues running until August 30th.After that, you will be able to purchase a print of your own from my Society 6 page or through me directly at my upcoming convention appearances.

You can see my piece all the way to the left on the end.
My Sailor Moon poster!

Back here in New York City, I'm also taking part in One-Shot Gallery's From Spawn to Saga: Image Comics at 22 show. The micro gallery is in St. Mark's Comics in the East Village, NYC- one of my most favorite neighborhoods in the world. My Ladytron piece is available for sale either at the store or over the internet via the online gallery.




Thursday, July 3, 2014

Things I Love Thursday: Dressing Up and Artist Alley tables


Coming soon: Fenny and I as the 60's Cobra Typing Pool of Evil

 My partner-in-crime Fenny (of Little Asian Sweatshop) and I have started a habit of dressing up in matching outfits at conventions we work, because we are total dorks and LOVE wearing thematically appropriate outfits. We both LOVE dressing up. It's one of the things that brought us together in the early years of our friendship, as we met through the cosplay culture of anime and comic conventions in the late 90's. We both lived in Maryland at the time and went to many conventions in the mid Atlantic, but only attended as cosplayers/fans as opposed to working. It was fun and crazy and we'd wear 3 different costumes a day and pose for pictures and party party party. And as a total goody-two-shoes all through my adolescent years, it was like going from Dawn Weiner to Party Monster over the span of a weekend. My John Hughes moment of the girl dressed for prom having the slow descent down the staircase to show how hot no one knew she was was for me coming down the hotel escalator at Katsucon '00 dressed in a vinyl catsuit as my childhood hero The Baroness from G.I.Joe. Random nerds threw themselves before me and pledged allegiance. Dudes ran up to their hotel rooms to find their Cobra tshirt they KNOW they packed. Friends that knew me didn't recognize me. I had so many people stop me for pictures it was like I was on the red carpet. It was bonkers.

My first cosplay- Pikachu at Otakon 1998.
Subsequent costumes followed.


 During this time I was attending and then graduated from the Kubert School where I was studying to pursue my lifelong dream of being a comic book artist, so attending conventions suddenly shifted from being a fun place to hang out in a crazy outfit while blitzed out of your mind to a veritable job fair-meets-minefield full of potential coworkers, mentors and bosses. And there were the opinions my heroes- people whose creations I had been following since childhood to worry about. So thinking I could have my cake and eat it too, I would wear a costume and try to schlep my portfolio around to different creators for advice and editors for jobs. It didn't work out very well.

Dragon*Con 03 Fenny and I were 5th Element Stewardesses
 Portfolio reviews on a convention floor are tough enough on their own, but add a vinyl catsuit and a water bottle full of not-so-secret vodka to the mix and you will become a very sweaty, anxious, distracting mess. It still hadn't occurred to me at the time to just say screw it and get my own table to sell my wares and share my work. Get people to come to me instead. Cuz yeah, walking around for portfolio reviews as a young artist is a soul-crushing experience. You're waiting in lines, during a busy show where a lot of people are around you having fun, only to have your best and brightest works be torn down within minutes by a tired, irritable corporate servant looking for someone worthy (ie: safe or a sure bet) of spending the company's money. Which was never me. So I would keep drawing my weird punk rock characters and pinup girls and work my cliche Generation X slacker jobs- barista at an internet cafe, courier, tv/stereo salesperson, Tower Records store artist (the BEST) and Hot Topic manager. And go to conventions where I'd sink a crazy amount of money into costumes that I'd wear for a few hours then never see again. It was ludicrous. I wish I could go back in time and shake myself until the connection of costumes, conventions and retail would light up in my dulled 20's brain sooner.

D*C 03, Fenny and I as poppy and mushroom fairies

 I mean eventually it did happen, but I had to really get my life sorted before I had the courage to just put myself out there on an Artist Alley table. I had gone into a full depression in my life outside of conventions and was in an absolute rut personally and professionally. I suffered abuse, had my heart broken and made some really bad choices. Fortunately through a very tumultuous 2004-2007 I was able to get rid of my toxic friends (except Fenny of course, who's awesome), start dating my now-husband Phil Balsman and move to New York City to get an actual art/design related day job. These changes all had profound impacts on me. You can read all about that struggle HERE.


HOODIE OF SADNESS

As I was preparing to get my life together I started to take a step back from cosplay and started focusing more on the pinup aesthetic in both my art and my lifestyle. I also started getting attention for my art outside of the comic and convention culture via roller derby bout posters. I finally was starting to get recognition and realized I didn't necessarily need the approval of the editor reviewing portfolios. To be honest the lofty teenage pipedream of drawing X-Men as a monthly book kinda died years ago. I have friends from college who draw on monthly books. Once you see how a job like that can just grind you into the ground it looks a lot less appealing for a slacker like me. I'd much rather do a comic at my own pace. So instead my newfound artistic outlet of roller derby took me out of obscurity in the comic world and put me in the spotlight of the aging punk/tattoo/DIY/ counterculture, which is full of people all are trying to scrape by and figure out how to just get paid enough to survive doing the silly crap we love to do. This boost of confidence from an audience that was very receptive to my work was what I needed my first time selling at Baltimore Comic Con 2007, after I had moved to NYC the spring before. I was so afraid of failure I didn't tell anyone I was coming down for the show. I was terrified my toxic friends would show up and sabotage my hard work. All I had was prints and no other merch. It was very bare bones. I wore JEANS at the table and sat most of the time (which is UNHEARD of nowadays with me...). I don't remember how much I made or any real solid details but I do recall it being an overwhelmingly positive experience. Enough that I've been going to conventions in a professional capacity ever since. As I went to more and more shows I started using my sales and merchandising training from all my past retail jobs and started applying that to selling stuff I actually could stand behind with full confidence: my own artwork. Every convention is an exercise in trial-and-error, but they most especially were those first 2-3 years. Awkward merch on precarious displays. Too many things of stuff no one wants to buy. Overly complicated signage. You learn something every show you go to. Even the bad ones. Especially the bad ones. 

My first table- Baltimore Comic Con 07. I had no idea what I was doing.
 Around this time in my mid-late 20's I was coming into my own physically with quite a bit of a LADY shape. Surprising enough, for most it's a shock that I didn't always look the outrageously curvaceous way I do now. I was a very late bloomer. In 2004 I was going to hip-hop concerts and had no tattoos and was wearing knitted beanies in the summertime like a doofus. At one point I had a super corporate job where I forced myself to dress like a Sunday school teacher. I've gone through a lot of phases. I wasn't cosplaying at all by 2005, but me being me I needed an outlet to wear what I want. Too many hoodies will depress a person. I missed feeling and looking like a lady. I also had started getting to know about some other people in Baltimore (outside of the veritable noose that was my circle of friends at the time) via roller derby, and through friends-of-friends encountered Stacey Barich, founder of Atomic Cheesecake Studios. Fortunately through Stacey's photography studio I was introduced to pinup and midcentury fashion, and started incorporating nicer, more structured clothing into my wardrobe that was made to accentuate my body. I looked like a cartoon! I looked like MY cartoons!! But other than conventions, where can I even wear stuff like this and not get made fun of or harassed? Still living in suburban Maryland I didn't want to pull up at the fratty college bar and do a shooter in a tiny hat and corset. Or wear vintage fur and gloves to go over and pick up weed. Not having outlets for awesome outfits was driving me crazy. It wasn't until I moved to NYC that I felt comfortable dressing how I wanted to, because EVERYTHING in NYC is so crazy all the time that it's really not that big of a deal. I started going to events like burlesque shows and art openings where eccentric dress is actually rewarded with compliments and not with drunk rednecks screaming at you from across parking lots. NYC is truly a place where eccentrics like me can run free in their native habitat.

2008-2013's ensembles and costumes. A slippery slope indeed.

Once I started running my own tables and got a pleasant reception about my work, my confidence boosted. This might be a surprise to those of you who have met me in person, but I'm kinda socially awkward. Daresay a bit of a wallflower. At actual social events, I tend to stick to the sidelines. Without the visual aid of my artwork and merch, it's kinda hard to tell the average person what it is I do all day. I've watched people's eyes glaze over as I explain how I letter manga for my dayjob. That doesn't happen nearly as much at conventions I'm vending at. The Artist Alley table I stand behind and the silly outfits I wear are my sword and my shield. I've said before in a previous entry on here and I've said it a zillion times over since, I'm like one of those deep sea fish with the dangly light- I bring people to my table with my big, bright ensembles and sparkling personality then chomp down on them with the concept that I drew (and now SELL) all the artwork in front of me on the table. Some people are actually shocked. "You drew all this stuff?", they say. And it's like yeah, dude I frickin' hustle. As fun as this all is, it's still WORK. I'm my own booth babe. (I actually found a tshirt that says that.) Wearing outfits and getting dressed for conventions makes people happy to see me and that's a nice feeling. It's hard to be in a bad mood while wearing a fantastical outfit and surrounded by positivity and excitement. And especially with the more costumey-spin I've been doing with my convention outfits- it's a way to show my love for a character or property in my own way and on my own terms. Especially superheroes. Like I love both Wonder Woman and Power Girl. I see a lot of myself in them. But as much as I love them, I really don't want to run around with my ass hanging out. Hence why I made them both retro ensembles that evoke the character without having to wear a lycra jumpsuit. That's where being an artist comes in handy. Most of the characters I draw wear what I would wear. My art imitates my life and my life imitates my art. Those costumes (seen in the above collage) are literally items just hanging out in my closet. My Power Girl dress is my *wedding dress*! And then it just makes it awesomer to encounter people who really feel what I'm doing. If I'm gonna go through all the trouble of stepping away from my art and leaving the comfort of my house and getting myself hyped up to talk to people for hours upon hours with no break then goddammit I'm gonna at least look cute and make money. Haha.
 
 So the original reason I wanted to post this! Fenny and I are dressing up as an evil 60's Cobra typing pool! It's like Mad Men-meets-G.I.Joe! It's basically all stuff from my closet!! Yay! So I'm dressing up of course as The Baroness (revisiting one of my 'classic cosplays') and Fenny is being the HR manager!

It's basically just me with a Cobra patch.


Fenny's gonna look ADORABLE.

Other outfits Fenny and I are doing:

The Monster's Mate (aka Phyllis Dyller) and Francesca from Mad Monster Party for Monster Mania in October

Victorian swimmer ladies at Visionary Tattoo Arts Festival in July!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Visionary Tattoo Arts Festival 2014 is THIS MONTH

 Billboards for the 2014 Visionary Tattoo Arts Festival are popping up in New Jersey and I am super duper excited!! This is one of my new favorite shows to attend and it will be happening at the end of the month (July 25-27) right on the beach in Asbury Park, NJ and again the show will feature my art for all of it's promo materials. Check out my recap of the show last year here. My BFF Little Asian Sweatshop and I will be there to hang out and peddle our awesome wares. If you're in the area it makes an awesome weekend getaway- check out the show, hit the boardwalk, breathe in the beach air and get a tattoo!

Neat!!
One of FOUR this year!


Pearly Whites Sketch dump- July 2014

Had some time to myself during a weekend visit to my parent's house in Maryland and spent a good chunk of my time out on the back porch sketching and writing for my eventual comic, Pearly Whites


It's coming along. I actually closed a few gaps in the progression of the story and even made up a character or two that streamlines a very complicated origin story. The problem with writing a story that's been in my head since I was 15 is that that early on I had so many bad teenaged ideas ingrained into the story that they're simply taken as history. But in reality, I can change whatever I want and no one other than me will really know the difference. I mean some of these characters have been hanging out in my head for over 20 years so I don't necessarily want to un-make my imaginary friends, but for the sake of story sometimes you make sacrifices. I'm pretty proud of how much tighter Pearly Whites is getting though. I think I might actually *finally* have the beginning of the story figured out, which is exciting. It just keeps getting more and more ridiculous. It's like I'm taking a pinch from everything I love and putting it in a mixer and making my own cake of awesomeness.







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