Chatter,  Convention

My Life At ACen – a Look Back

There’s a thing on social media called Throwback Thursday. It’s a way to have a post that isn’t involved and detailed by just showing something from the past, usually a photo. Of course much like The Bloggess, I’m not really good at following directions so this post will be pretty detailed.

My first Anime Central was way back in 2003. The specifics are fuzzy on how we found out about it but I do know that we ended up driving to Illinois with a friend of a friend (hi Nicole) and stayed at her friend’s place (hi Shannon and Rich) who I’m happy to say are now our friends.

We thought “hey, we’ll take the train over to Rosemont on Saturday, get a one day badge and see what this anime convention thing is like”. Yep. Newbs. After the 4 hour wait in line at 9am I was so totally completely over it. By the time we bought our badge (they misspelled Chris’s badge name and I nearly choked someone) I was in full meltdown. Ready to just leave.

Eventually we hit a few panels, and it was ok. The fun was over before it started for me, and we might not have come back except that we decided to try another smaller convention and give it one last try. This was Anime Reactor – the first year it ran (fall of 2003). That was absolutely awesome. I got to talk directly to guests, and see panels, and watch videos and it was everything I didn’t know to expect from a con. (Sadly that convention derailed after a few years.)

When the next year rolled around we were PREPARED. We stayed onsite and pre-ordered a badge. It’s hard to see in the photo, but this was the year I started dying my hair purple for conventions. Because that was normal with this crowd. :D

At Navy Pier on the ferris wheel. We came to love visiting Chicago as much as ACen.

More purple, but still not the nice stuff. This was before I discovered RAW at Hot Topic even. By now we’re staying onsite, getting a 3 day badge, and starting to know staffers by name.

2006 – our friends (hi Heather, Amy, Jen) decide to foray into selling at an Artist Alley and had heard us loving on Anime Central. We split a table three ways without any of us having a solid plan of attack for what we were going to sell. You can see how amazing our display was…. I had said yes without having anything to sell at all. It just sounded like something fun to do. (I know, you’d think I’d learn about the newb thing).

I remembered I had this hand press badge-a-minit machine from High School in the back of my closet. Dragged it out, ordered parts for a small size and a large size (again, since day one!), and printed some cheesy designs from their stock catalog along with one or two that I had created. I also had the brilliant idea to bring my travel printer and do photo buttons (yep, cosplay buttons were day one!). We didn’t have anything as extravagant as power, so I had to take a photo and print them in the room that night and deliver the next day. One of my customers that year came back every year after for a long time.

Sadly, badge-a-minit is just not the best quality and we learned quickly that it wasn’t up to par for sales. We had several customers come back hours later with a button that had fallen apart. We always replaced no questions asked and that definitely endeared us to our customers. 100% guarantee, always.

That is mdf board with fabric wrapped around it. High class!

We got bit by the Artist bug despite the problems though. I had so much fun watching people light up at my custom designed buttons that we applied for a few local conventions that fall. Despite upgrading to the “better” all metal set for BAM, it was still failing more than not and I knew I had to research better options.

Now 2007 rolled in and invest in our craft we did. I now had a 1.25″ and 2.25″ TECRE brand all steel, intended for high production, set of button machines. You can see we’re now at our own table – custom tablecloth (sewn by me), signage, acrylic displays (hand made by my amazing husband / then boyfriend), and even a studio name. The works. We were a proper setup.

The previous year we had brainstormed (I still have the paper of various names) what to call ourselves. DisjointedImages won because it embodied the broad scope of what we did and were interested in doing. Graphical based stuff, but no one medium or focus. I do traditional art, digital art, photography and together we’ve made several video games.

Chris is still pre-ponytail days here!

2008 Another year – another upgrade. We now have so many designs in each size that we expanded to 2 tables.

I also made this kick ass Japanese army flag inspired banner for our table.

2009 We need more sleep and decide to make the Embassy Suites our home base hotel. A little quieter (no events are run here) and you get a hot breakfast each morning (less trips away from the table for nourishment). This was the year I decided to invest my time beyond the table and started staffing with IT.

2010 Our first evacuation / fire drill. Not the first for the convention of course, sadly some schmuck always thinks this is a hilarious thing to do. This was the first evac that we were caught up in however (pretty impressive for the number of years we’ve been attending). In this instance, it was legitimate. There was no fire, but there were fumes that triggered the alarm.

2011 We have a full on printed banner with our pricing to go with the “flag”. We’re both now on IT staff.

The IT team in 2012.

Our setup as of last year. The chair out front at the end is for customers to make their own button art. It’s something I added years ago (and part of the need for two tables) and it’s as big a draw as what we make. Almost everyone has that one doodle that they’re proud of and to have it permanently on a button is a really fun way to carry and show off your art.

So now we’re in 2014. AA opens tomorrow (Friday) and this is our 12th year attending. Our 9th year running a table. My 6th year staffing. It is amazing fun (all of it – attending, selling, staffing) and a lot of hard work (often year round).

I’ve made a ton of amazing friends. Laughed with them. Have standing dinner dates with them (every Sunday after con – Chinese buffet). I even photographed a wedding for one!

If you’re not here this year – I’d love you to come by next. See my buttons, say hello, maybe catch the staffing or selling bug.

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