Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Taking Artist Alley to the Street

It's expected for comic artists to set up tables in artist alley at comic-cons and similar events. It totally makes sense. At comic conventions there are people who are interested in comics, so they will most likely be interested in what you make. But I've always wondered, what would happen if a manga style artist, such as myself, stepped out of that environment and set up a table at a general arts and crafts market. So I decided to run an experiment, and here is what I found. And honestly, I was a bit surprised.

The Plan

There is a local farmer's market where I live that sells a variety of items, including arts & crafts. It was only ten dollars for a table, so doing this wouldn't be that expensive. My initial plan was to sell art prints, ACEOs, and to do a little bit of promotion by giving out free copies of  my mini-comic, Couture.

The Set-up

A lot of thought went into the how this table should be set up. My husband suggested that I display the prints in frames and keep the actual items I'm selling in another box. That was a good idea because it really showed shoppers what this artwork could look like if they had it hanging on the wall. I was able to find very inexpensive frames--they were so inexpensive that when I sold my first print, I had no problems selling the frame with it. Since I also have classical art skills, I made some pieces displaying that kind of work as well, so it won't be all manga, and hopefully would have more appeal to the general public.

The Experience

I had to get up at 6 a.m. to get to the market at 7 to set up my stuff. Unfortunately, it was a very gloomy day, and so the turnout was much lower than usual.  The other vendors there were very supportive and had loads of good advice to give to the newbie (that's me!).

Camera! Hide!

Okay, I'll be serious now...


People appreciate art as long as it looks nice. A few noticed that some of my work was related to the manga-style, but in general, the majority simply liked the beauty of it, regardless of what style it's in--and I received plenty of good feedback. The positive reactions of those who walked by my table was very encouraging.

Art must be Functional: This is not the crowd for wall art. However, other vendors gave me suggestions on other local markets that are geared more towards people that will buy art for art. At this particular market though, people want to see the benefits of buying it. "Yes, it's nice, but what can I use it for?"

No matter what kind of art you do, it's important to be relevant.

So to fill that need, I'm going to test putting some of my art on to usable products, such as greeting cards, note cards, and journals. I'm not sure which will work out the best, but figuring out what people want is definitely a trial and error process.

Have Awesome Business Cards: I ordered business cards from It's a very popular site, and for good reason. Their products are great. I ordered the mini-business card, and I put a picture of my artwork on each one. So people who stopped by my table didn't feel like they were just getting a business card. My business card is actually a mini-piece of art. And when I handed people my business card, they were like, "Wow!"

Possible Comics Market (!) :  On the two front corners of my table were copies of Couture. The most surprising thing was how many people actually stopped and flipped through it. Books are a functional item. They entertain, and people like to pick them up in their hands. Also, it allows them to have art in a way that is easy to store, and they don't have to worry about where they are going to display it.

My mini-comic ended up being the most popular item. It being free definitely helped, but I didn't tell people that it was a free book until they picked it up, started flipping though it, and made comments about it. Mostly women took a copy of my comic, and they were of all different ages. And most likely, they've never read a manga style comic in their lives.No one picked up my comic and said, "Oh, this is a manga!"

But yet, they were interested in it.

I would've given out many more copies if I would've put my comic on the table earlier (I didn't put it out until hours after the market opened), if the day wasn't so gloomy, and if there was a full color picture on the cover. I guess I just wasn't expecting that kind of reaction to it.


I will definitely do this again after doing some tweaking to my inventory.  Next time I want to make sure that I have items that shoppers can pick up in their hands and look at. With art prints and originals, people are kind of scared to touch them out of fear that they might "mess something up."  I want people to feel free to pick up whatever is on my table and take a closer look at it.

The most exciting thing about this whole experience was getting to share my work with those who aren't manga fans or even comic readers, but still seeing that they enjoyed my work just as much.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to share. And If you want to see what I'm going to do next, make sure to follow me!