Monday, April 29, 2019

GeekCraft Expo KC 2019

[Left] Super fly design for the show badge. [Right] I just want to take the time to acknowledge that the opening weekend of this show was on the same day as three super hero movies being in cinema at the same time, Avengers: Endgame, Shazam, and Captain Marvel. Think about just how surreal that really is to life in these days of geeky fandom.
Thankfully, most shows I review and participate in have been fairly balanced in it's ups and downs. Let's be honest, putting shows on, and for many of us that ply our wares and creations at these shows, it can be fun, exhausting, stressful, rewarding, and sometimes all of those things at the same time.

But before I get into that, let me explain a bit about GeekCraft Expo KC. It is not a comic book show, nor is it a general pop culture themed show per se, as much as it is distinctly a weekend market place for creators of pop culture items from clothing, to gaming accessories, to artwork, collectibles, and other items. I had heard about the series of GeekExpo shows from other vendors who had done the St. Louis show. Online reviews for the other locations that GeekExpo had been, showed favorable and positive reviews. So I decided to do the show that came to the Kansas City area.
[Left] Newest additions to the Ardor limited series of giclee prints. [Right] I was working so late on these, my assistant Luna Lovefood passed out in a fuzzy ball of cuteness.
Show prep was pretty tight this time, as I had ordered more acid free backing boards, and had finished up some new illustrations. I was also working on refining my display just a bit more to be more flexible and give people that see it at shows a better initial draw in visual. It's still a work in progress.
The front entrance to the show. 
I had to do a bit of figuring out which part of Bartle Hall the show was taking place in, and it turned out to be in the back of what I considered the music hall. One early issue was the lack of signs for foot traffic to find the show. Found out later, that was something on the part of the venue not allowing signs out front.
Curbside assistance?! This was unexpected and very cool of the expo to provide as a service.
When I figured out which door to get to for unloading my gear, I found that GeekCraft had people with long bed trolleys out in front to get our stuff inside.

NO OTHER SHOW I have ever been a part of, has done this. Now granted, I roll pretty slim, as you can see from the image above, but I know a lot of other vendors really appreciated this.
GeekCraft had great greeting/entrance setups. So far so good with the show looking professional.
So this same weekend, aside from three mega comic based movies, there was also Plaza PopCon 2019. Now mind you, Planet Comicon and Naka had only been a few weeks prior. So in doing this show, I did have some reservations on how it was going to pan out. But other vendors had told me about just how ba-nay-nay the St. Louis GeekCraft show and other ones had been for them, so....
If this angle is looking familiar, it's because the last year that Spectrum Fantastic Art Live was in KC, they had a similar set up in I believe a different hall in this same building.
Having an 8 foot table at a show is like a dream come true, and I clearly came under prepared to stretch out my stuff across it like a butterfly spreading out it's new wings.
I may need to add one more rack set up to this, as most people could not tell I had comics for sale until they were all up on the table.
Getting past the set up, which went very smoothly, next was to see what would happen when the doors opened. Now to give you all a run down of some of the points from my notes:

  1. Weather: Friday (setup) and Saturday both had breezy and sunny weather, great for foot traffic.
  2. Show layout: As you can see from the photo earlier, lots of space, wide aisles, well lit showroom.
  3. Hours of the Show: 10-5 Sat, and 10-4 on Sun - not too long on show hours, just about right.
  4. Extra activities: Some for the kids, but no panels, it was a straightforward retail sort of market, which is what it was billed as.
  5. Advertisement: From what I could tell it was primarily Facebook, unsure/unaware of any Instagram/Twitter/Twitch presence.
  6. Admission: Free with pre-registration, or $2 at door, was waived on Sunday.
  7. Table Cost: Standard booth $295.00

While I didn't get photos of everyone that did pick up my book and art reproductions, I do want to say thank you to all of you that did!
Armed with the notes above, I knew what I had to hit to make the show worthwhile. But off the bat, challenges would begin to rise. The show was not allowed to evidently have signage out front, so that led to a large amount of confusion from attendees. I spoke to one young lady who had two children in tow, that arrived at Bartle hall at 10 am, but did not find the show location until almost noon.
The last of "the Hunters" series finally went home at this show.
Some of the confusion came from other events happening nearby, that let to people heading to a cheerleading competition, and a dog food expo that also was happening nearby, because they saw crowds in those areas.

I know that any event that takes place in Bartle Hall's general area will have the odds against them when it comes to attendees finding parking that is reasonable in price and distance of walking.
Bright spots of any show is getting to talk to so many people. Sincerely, you all make it worthwhile.
So to be completely honest, and you all know, this is something I do in all of my reviews, the attendance was low. Compared to other events they had put on, I believe this one may have been the leanest in attendance. This was not for lack of trying and effort on the show runners, Dan and Kim were clearly doing their best to promote the show online, highlighting vendors and creations.

But I think that the location was not the best to have had an inaugural show at, especially one that was a bit more specialized in it's presentation. KC does have shows like Strawberry Swing and a few others that are more generalized but still Art/Craft in nature.

Sunday, thankfully, let to a better early crowd, but then in one more twist, the spring like weather decided to change to overcast heavy clouds, wind and rain. An unfortunate further deterrent to any foot traffic we would have been able to get.

General thoughts? The show has potential, but Kansas City is a weird market for new shows to get into and get a foothold in. KCCC for example was a casualty of that in some ways. The truth is that as I've stated before, in years past, pop culture themed events were just that, EVENTS. But Kansas City has shows from Witchita to Overland Park, to Lawrence out to the heart of KC, and in between. I was worried about the booth cost for a yet unproven show in this area. That is something that crosses over for any creators/vendors doing a show. It's a gamble, and that's part of the environment. I get that, but almost $300 in the hole when doors open and no large number of attendees are coming in? That can make anyone reluctant to do a show again.

Kansas City in general is fickle on art. Don't believe me? Go down to first Friday's art walk and tell me it's not just people who don't know a lot about art wanting to see what new food trucks are out on the streets. I know that sounds a bit arrogant, but even the galleries will open earlier in the week for real art buyers to make purchases.

This permeates a lot of comic/geek shows as well. But more so in the aspect that, if one doesn't make it to this convention, there will be another one at some point in the year nearby to attend. And for my own reservations about Planet Comicon, it is still the amazing juggernaut of comic/media in the area. Even Wizard World isn't crazy enough to take on Chris Jackson's show. Most other shows aside from NakaKon (who really draws a whole other crowd), would never schedule near the aftermath of Planet. This is something I hope that GeekCraft can embrace and move forward with this next year.

Yes, next year. Late on Sunday afternoon, it was announced that they would be going to a more accessible event space somewhere in Overland Park. That is a huge step in the right direction, and one I support.

Will I do this show again? Yeah, I'm a gambling man. You can't have ups without downs. I lost money on this show, no shame in that. To be honest I initially thought I got close to the booth fee I paid at least, but I did not, coming in at just under $200.

Since I do not have any other shows planned currently in this facet, it gives me a bit of time to recoup, reorganize, and research other shows. And I did meet more comrades in fellow vendors, and finally got to meet some people in person that I only knew via online interaction, AND lined up more people for some new Creative Interviews!

Until next time, support your local artists and businesses. Be kind to your fellow beings and always take the path less traveled. We all may live in times uncertain, but kindness, understanding, and believing in the good that is in most each and every one of us is what can bring about better days!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Voice Actor, Writer, Animal Rights Activist

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