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MARKET MONDAY: The Pros and Cons of Designer Con

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MARKET MONDAY: The Pros and Cons of Designer Con

Academy Of Handmade

There are makers of all kinds in our community and for some the typical craft fair isn't where they find their "people." If you do plush, toys, and anything related to cartoons, anime or fan art, then going to a con (Comic Con San Diego is the big one, but Wonder Con, Designer Con and other area Comic Cons) can be a place where your product will really resonate with people and you can gain some pretty loyal fans. Member Donna Letterese shares her experience at the recent Designer Con in Los Angeles. 

Q: Tell us about your shop! 
A: "Draw D.V.L. Productions" is the full name of what I call my shop online/my table when I'm at a comic con or art fair. The "D.V.L." is from my initials. I have a long-ish Neapolitan last name that people have trouble spelling/saying, and when I started out I liked how "Draw D.V.L." sounded. Because I make cards and comics that often use puns, I consider what I do/sell to be "card-tooning" (ba-dum-bum). Craft-wise, I'm currently focusing on making printed cards and handmade cards, and then art prints/Polymer clay figures, secondarily .

I started doing art fairs in and around L.A. in 2008. My first fair ever was at Self Help Graphics in Boyle Heights, at their "Botanica De Amor" Valentine's Day Fair. It was a great experience, and I've been tabling at fairs ever since. I primarily made handmade cards, and also sold prints/originals of larger works, and Polymer clay jewelry and toys.  Since 2010, I've been tabling at Artist Alleys at comic-cons mostly in or around L.A., and a few times in PDX, NYC, and Philly. Being at more comic-heavy shows has sometimes meant focusing more on prints, fan-art, self-published comics, and anthologies I've done stories for. But now, for comic cons and art fairs, I am moving back towards a focus on showing and selling cards I design (both handmade and printed).

When I say handmade cards, I mean each one is totally individualized and drawn separately. Bigger works of mine are done in watercolor and ink, but the handmade cards are each done with ink, Tombo Pen, and/or Deleter Pen/Copic Marker. There is a drawing on the front, you open it up, and then there's a punny caption on the inside. Whenever I make these "card-toons" I always made sure to caption some in English and some in Spanish, and to pun in both languages as much as possible. For this type of card, it takes me about forty-five minutes to complete each one. When I was first doing fairs I would aim to draw at least fifty different individual cards per fair.  

I still carry the completely handmade cards, but have also now designed cards that I draw, design, scan in, and then print. These newer card-toons have an image and words on the front, and the inside is blank. To make those, I have to plan out the caption and pun, design how the words will fit on the page around the picture, pencil out the initial draft, and then finish it with ink and watercolor before scanning them in to have them printed.

Q: How did you hear about this show?
A: I've heard about Designer Con for years and always heard great things. I think initially I may have seen a promo for it posted by Mister Toast, the character by cartoonist Dan Goodsell (who I believe also tabled at the event). I heard buzz about it again this year online and off. So, I figured I'd just bite the bullet to exhibit and see the show for myself.

Q: Why did you decide to apply to this show?
A: I feel that the things I make fall somewhere in the In-Between-Land of Comic Art and Craft. Designer Con seemed to be a show that was definitely not a craft fair, and not a zine fest, but like a comic-con type event, which was not necessarily focused on actual comics. Since it was a show celebrating pop culture, art, and design, I thought it would be a good place to try debuting the new printed greeting card-toons I'm doing, fan-art (which I also put punny spins on), and new Polymer clay toy characters. Most of the Polymer clay characters I showed at the event were actually 3-D versions of characters on the cards I had.

Q: What's the application and jurying process like? 
A: For Designer Con, the show is not juried. You apply on a first come first served basis, and basically as soon as you put your application and payment through, you're in. They do not seem to have specific requirements, but it describes itself as "an annual art and design convention that smashes together collectible toys and designer apparel with urban, underground, and pop art!" So, if you're a crafter whose work does not at all fit those descriptions, I think you would automatically be accepted, but it might not be a practical show for you to exhibit at.

Q: What was the atmosphere like?
A: It was a lot of fun! It really was somewhat like a comic con, art fair, and pop-culture/toy event all combined into one. There were a ton of creators there, and it varied from illustrators, to creators of plush toys, to vinyl/resin toy makers, to printing companies and art galleries having tables. The show was a sensory overload with all of the fun and beautiful things to see and buy. I was able to go and buy a few amazing sketchbooks and prints when I got a few breaks, although I spent most of my time working behind my own table.

Q: What kind of vendor would do well here or not do well here?
A: Without a doubt, people who make toys I think would do well. Plush toys seemed to be the most popular thing to buy, and tee-shirts are always of course very popular. A vendor who has prints, anything cartoon or fan-art based, and product like a tote bag, a shirt, or a toy, would do well. I don't think this would be a show for a maker who makes something like sachets or extremely intricate and high-end metalwork/jewelry. If there was a way to put a pop-culture spin or design on things like those, maybe they would somewhat sell. But I wouldn't recommend this show for those specific types of products.

Q: What should people considering the show know about it?
A: The show is a little pricey, but the great thing is that you get an entire booth. Comic-cons usually separate the artists into a section called Artist Alley, where the table is smaller and there's not space behind you to hang anything. Designer Con everyone literally has a booth with a curtain. The booth space is ample. And what they charge for a booth is more than Artist Alley, but way less than what a comic convention charges for a booth. That means it's considerably more space, it's totally customize-able, and so on. So that definitely makes it worth it!  

One thing I would say to consider is that the show is extremely big. There were over 300 vendors across two separate rooms. I had never even attended it before, so I can't compare it to last year. But people I met who attended and vended in 2013 told me that the show had doubled in size. Some people said it didn't affect their sales, but some others felt it made things slower, especially if they were in the second room. Some excited fans loved their stuff, but had already spent their money in the first half of the show. 

If they're going to keep the show that big, I would recommend doing it, but doing a lot of preparatory work before hand. Lots of social media posting a couple of months in advance, if commissions are your thing let people know they can be drawn/ordered ahead of time and picked up at the convention, offer special exclusives and sales, and so on.

Q: Anything else?
A: Well, I love Koalas and they pop into my work a lot.  But that wasn't the question.  To be serious, I really enjoyed tabling at Designer Con, I met a lot of great creators and attendees, and am looking forward to gearing up for other shows with a focus on comic art, crafts, or both. And, thank you for giving me the chance to talk about my experiences. (-:

Q: Where can people find your stuff?
A: My website is www.drawdvl.com, where my work can be seen. 

The best way to connect and see what I've worked on/am currently working on, would be to follow my Instagram atwww.instagram.com/drawdvl.

The link to my Etsy shop is at http://etsy.com/shop/drawdvl. I only have a few things up there right now, but will be posting more in the future. 

I can always be emailed at donna.v.letterese at gmail.com, either for specific commission requests or to inquire about something on my site or online that's not on my Etsy.


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