Ahead of AVCon cosplayers and vendors are preparing like mad for the three days a year when avid fans of anime, video-games, and general pop-culture converge on the Adelaide Convention Centre. AVCon is fast approaching (20-22nd July) and, as per tradition, it marks the end to both Uni and school break.
If you haven’t attended the convention before, it is, quite simply, a place where people of similar interests come together to celebrate anime, video-games, and the exciting work of a number of talented cosplayers and vendors.
Some of these vendors are local artists and can be found in Artist Alley and have provided both encouragement and inspiration to a number of artists and other creatives for many years. It’s not unusual to see people clutching their own sketch books or settled in a corner drawing throughout the weekend—I know that’s been me a few times!
In order to prepare for this year’s AVCon I sat down with Ella Guildea and Avery Andruszkiewicz, both of whom have attended a number of AVCons. Guildea even met her partner, Connor Madden, at the 2011 event, and he tables with her along with Sophie Ladd.
If you’re an AVCon aficionado you might recognise Avery Andruszkiewicz’s name already. Their design was selected to be on the AVCon shirts and merchandise for 2018. When speaking to Andruszkiewicz, I asked how they felt about their design being chosen and whether they’d expected it:
“Not really, but I definitely had all my fingers crossed for it. I was rather proud of my design this year, so I was really hoping to place, but winning the whole thing was a surprise! The other entries are always so amazing, I’m glad my design was picked.”
Both Andruszkiewicz and Guildea have previously been involved with Artist Alley, Andruszkiewicz just for the 2017 event while Guildea will be tabling for the third year running with The Bees Knees (together with Ladd and Madden).
Andruszkiewicz says working in Artist Alley is: “a really great opportunity to meet and support other artists. But of course, the chance to get your work out there, and having people actually want to buy what you create is an amazing feeling.”
Guildea’s involvement with Artist Alley began when a friend asked her to table with them in around 2014. While that didn’t end up happening, in 2015 Guildea and Madden bought a badge maker, although “the final push for me to invest in a table at Artist Alley was really heavily inspired by artists Jac and Emerson from the table, Gutgeist! (http://gutgeist.tumblr.com). They travel every year from Melbourne to table at AVCon and were super helpful with guiding me on how to run my first table! I’m really grateful for the support they gave me.”
Much like the event itself, Artist Alley provides participants with a strong sense of community. Some artists get together ahead of the convention to work together cutting out stickers and pressing badges, essentially keeping one another motivated ahead of the event.
When I asked about the community of Artist Alley, Andruszkiewicz said that while they are still fairly new to it, it’s been quite welcoming. “Group orders to save money on shipping/get bulk buy discounts is not uncommon, as well as groups getting together to cut out stickers and press badges and such before a con. Working in a group can be great for motivation!”
One of Guildea’s highlights of the con experience “is the compassion and empathy vendors have for each other. On one of the days last year someone brought Krispy Kremes around to all of the tables, I’m not throwing hints or anything!”
This sense of community is evident in the level of support that artists offer to first timers. Andruszkiewicz and Guildea both offered some advice for anyone looking at getting involved in the 2019 event.
Advice from Andruszkiewicz:
“I always say just go for it, but definitely take the time to prepare. Use your resources. Don’t be afraid to ask artists for advice. A fellow artist by the name Hawberries (Twitter: @hawberries_) has put together a fantastic guide to art stalls, which was honestly my lifesaver for my first time, and I still reference it now.
Don’t table alone, it’s absolutely soul crushing. Either find a friend to split a table with (you save money on the table that way too, and that makes it easier to break even), or if you have enough stock for your own table (I’ll be blunt, you won’t for your first-time tabling), make sure you have a table buddy so you’re not there on your own.
Don’t go in with the mindset of making a profit, go because you want to and because you love what you do. Unfortunately, a lot of artists tend to come up at a loss at their first con, which can be disheartening, but even more so if you go with the exclusive intention of making money. Go, make friends, make connections, and as you gain experience, a following, and improve your art, the profits will come.
And to be harsh for a moment, prepare yourself for disappointment. There’s only a set amount of tables at any one convention, and the harsh truth of that is that artists get declined as a result. If you get declined, don’t let that overshadow your passion for art. Gather your resources again, work hard, and try again next time! Don’t let disappointment overshadow your love of the craft.”
Advice from Guildea:
“There’s a lot of Facebook groups which can be a really great influence for first timers – Aussie Con Artists is probably my favourite. However, the best way I’ve found to find the community is by networking at the conventions that you attend! Talk to your neighbours! Talk to that person who has the art style that you’ve totally fallen in love with!
Tough it out, keep it up and find what inspires you. Your first con might not be phenomenal, but if you’re passionate about vending, please keep it up!
Our first convention involved less than two weeks’ worth of prep, had 15 items in total, and featured the previously mentioned corkboard-ruler-blu-tack scenario. We now prep for significantly more than 2 weeks, stock over 125 different items, and have a nice easel to put our display board on so it doesn’t come crashing down every 20 minutes.
You’ll constantly grow and learn from your mistakes, and a lot of reflection as to how you can improve. You’re not going to become some sort of professional by the time of your first convention. Just throw yourself into it and learn!”
You can follow Avery Andruszkiewicz on Twitter @matte_bat_ or check out their Redbubble store https://www.redbubble.com/people/matte-bat/portfolio.
To contact Ella Guildea and The Bees Knees about commission work, see where they’re headed next, and keep updated about upcoming item releases, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thekneesofthebees
If you can’t make it to the convention check out their Tictail here: https://tictail.com/thekneesofthebees
Both artists are tabling this year at AVCon and are always up for a chat so don’t be afraid to stop by and say hello. When you do, don’t forget to mention this article!
Words by Kayla Gaskell