A Quest for my Perfect Artist Alley Setup - The Journey so Far

Setting up for Artist Alleys is easy - unless you're like me who has a lot of merch, then it can be a huge challenge. It's like Tetris - only that you need it to be more stylish, and marketing-driven. 

I  had only six Fold'EM Magnetic Bookmark designs (the first 6 I ever made!) , 40 pieces of my handmade notepads, and about 50 button pins during Magenta, my first-ever event as an artist. The  setup was very upfront - I laid down battery-operated fairy lights under pink and purple tulle I bought the week before over my half of the table, put the merchandise over it, picnic-style, just laying them there for the event-goers to see. I pinned up what needed to be seen onto little corkboards on mini-easels I got from Daiso - and wrote prices on a tiny blackboard with a chalk. Very basic, just the tulle and the fairy lights to add some pizzaz.

The table setup of a wedding I recently went to was initially what I thought of to come up with my own. The purpose might have been different, but I liked seeing a lot of pastel pinks and purples in my setup - as well as elements of wood, whites, and LOTS of warm light. 
Personally, I liked my arrangement.  
I was embarrassed about lighting up my fairy lights, seeing nobody else had them. Did it look too tacky? Did it look Christmas-y? Whatever. Fairy lights were very in lately anyways.
The setup was complete in under 30 minutes and I had time to rest and observe other artists. Most of them had these tall setup that looked so portable and clever! Some of them well-decorated, while some focused on their products. In comparison, my table setup looked so small, flat, and compact compared to the heights of their towering presentations. 

I felt comfortable with the presence of my tablemates though, Wabi Sabi. It was also their first time getting an event space, and equally anxious as I was. They had a similar compact-looking setup, though having more products. I felt less alone in the ordeal. They were good partners.
The event finished wonderfully with me thinking of my next event, Born to Make History - a Yuri on Ice event and gathering. I had only a third of a table this time, so bringing the Mystic Messenger merch I initially had was definitely out of the question. I had to make-do with the space I had. It was challenging, but it was nice seeing that when fairy lights are compressed, they tend to look more bright, giving my small and compact setup a vibrant feel. 

The problem I encountered with this setup was that the pricing board cant be read well by people, and the lack of space for stickers to be laid. Also, I tend to disturb my two partners (who were busy with sketching on-the-spot - I'm so sorry Ria! ; _ ;) with my movements, so, feeling bad about it I swore to never get less than half a space of a table. Ever. 
My merchandise list grew as the months passed by. What used to be just six bookmark designs bubbled up to twenty... then thirty - I knew I had to do something, as just pinning them on cork boards won’t do it anymore.

This was when I bought a rotating earrings' organizer and customized it so it'd hold the bookmarks while saving space at the same time. The notepads stayed as the items that take most of the table space, next to the stickers.
My table setup for ACX and Otaku Expo was pretty much the same. I was testing out this current setup and observing how people react to it. I lacked good signage for a while.
My table at the RFA Party/ ShoujoCon. Signage somehow present. Also, this event proved that fairy lights are indeed best in events that are dimly-lit. :D 
Come Best of Anime and Cosplay Mania, I realized the rotating display just had to go. Sure, it was nice and cute for interaction (as people liked touching and rotating the display). However, I learned that in conventions (such as in the case of starting artists like myself that time), most of your customers will be people who had just passed by in front of your table and got attracted to your art/merch on a whim. Most of them don't really have time to browse around (or rotate my bookmark display) - so getting their attention and hooking them in with a display that shows most my merchandise easier was indeed necessary to remove the need to touch or rotate anything on the setup to see all the designs since everything will be there up front. From this, I started using mesh wires and L-hooks. 

I cut a tall, but narrow wire grid into two (because the one I bought was too big), and connected them with cable ties. They stood up balanced and sturdy when placed on a flat surface at 90°, but it was very wobbly when touched. The base was scarily unstable.
As my merch count added up, with more kinds of items joining in (like the Born to Make History Monthly Planner and the Collectors' Blank Sticker Albums), upgrading my table arrangement became a necessity. At that point, it was no longer out of wanting it to be more stylish -  functionality comes first, then style. 

So, I opted for a bigger mesh wire. An incident during Best of Anime (where a group of cosplayers destroyed my setup accidentally by bumping its base, sweeping all my bookmarks onto the floor) pushed me to do something about that unstable base. I connected the base of two big mesh wires to a smaller mesh laid on the table that acted like a "flooring" for the whole arrangement. This was a very good idea, as when we placed the quite-heavy notepads over them, it was secured af. 
^My setup last Christmas Ozine, December 2017. I was so upset about the organizer placing the Artist Alley inside the almost hidden function hall that I didn't even take any other pictures other than this one.
Otaku Expo, in February 2018.
The new setup with the two big mesh wires with another smaller mesh as a base was astounding-  it could hold all 60 bookmark designs we had. No clumsy con-goers could topple my display anymore because of how secured it was - which was amazing. However though, with this setup, we encountered a problem because of how huge the mesh wires were - the setup was wobbly and dancy  when put together. It just kept on swaying easily. And while the merchandise had been growing and improving around that time, the setup made the whole thing looked lousy-looking and lazy, specially because of how big it was. Most of all, I couldn't use the width of the table because the notepads are lying there, using up all the space.

As my merch count were rising again, I had to think of better ways to display everything without the lousy look. After all, we got the functionality - now we just need the style.
I braved Divisoria and purchased little square wire grids and  connectors for the new setup. I also (finally!) got a greeting card rack where all my notepads can be displayed neatly, so they no longer hogged the horizontal space. Look at how stunning it looked when I debuted the new setup at Cosplay Matsuri 2017! ^__^  The bulky fairy lights were also replaced with thin, copper ones as to not take the attention away where the eyes should go - the merch. 

I also adopted Nari金's brand, Makanesque during the event, and housed his collection of food stickers in my share of the table. It took a good half of the bottom of the table, since his merchandise were loose stickers and were flat. I suppose we still have to work on that, and make a proper place for the now expanding number of blank sticker albums we have so it doesn't just lay there lifeless at the foot of the notepads.

To complete the look, we started printing my shop and artist name with product info at the top of the towering wall of wires, and coordinated the product price signage with the same motif - my favorite, pastel nebulas. I was really satisfied with how the whole setup had progressed. 
Come Born to Make History 2 on the 18th of March, I took a whole table for myself for the very first time. It was a marvelous experience to see all of my Yuri on Ice merch in one full table setup, and it gave me insight on how I should place everything in the next upcoming months. (Also, I realized just how many YOI-stuff I have in my collection!)

It wasn't perfect, like how I wasn't able to put emphasis on the new letter sets I made (I wanted to elevate them a bit with some sort of pretty organizer with info on it). On the contrary, I liked how there was space for everything and it felt easy on the eyes. I also considered getting a full table in the next conventions, as long as I can afford it. 
Throughout my journey to find that 'perfect' Artist Alley setup, I learned that the 'perfect' setup is subjective to the artist and the products they're selling. What's perfect for me and my creations, might not work for everyone else, and vise versa. However, as a personal preference, I like putting elements in my setup that show who I am as an artist - so I make it a point to put effort in how I present my art during events. 

For now,, my quest for that perfect convention setup will never stop. Instead, it will continue to evolve as I learn and progress, just like all the merchandise and offerings I bring each conventions I attend. 

I hope to make an update post soon when I make improvements in the setup. Wish me luck! :D