Being a Good Neighbor In Artist Alley

Sitting in an Artist Alley is pretty different from being in the dealer’s hall.  You have much less space to work with and you’re working (sometimes literally) shoulder to shoulder and back to back with your fellow artists.  There’s often few to no barriers between the artists beyond what your display can bring.

There are many, many advantages to being friendly and open with your fellow artists.  Being a good neighbor helps foster a positive attitude in the alley.  Happy artists mean happy attendees and happy attendees are more likely to stop, browse and make purchases.  Additionally, when in the artist alley, you have a prime opportunity to network with your fellows and share resources and information and to make important connections that you can utilize later.  You can’t do that if you’re creating animosity with those around you.

Therefore to avoid common irritants in the alley, here’s a list of the top five Worst Artist Alley Attendees.  Don’t be one of these.

  1. Space Thief.  The space thief is the artist who tries to capitalize on table, floor and visual space that generally belongs to others.  Space thieves will do things like backward facing displays (displaying posters and art behind them when someone else is placed there), setting up displays that encroach on their next door neighbor’s tables, bringing extra tables to set up at the ends of aisles/behind the table and table jumpers who commandeer a space which has been previously claimed during legitimate times or is reserved for someone else.  Table jumpers are especially bad when tables are assigned and the jumpers switch spots without alerting convention staff, causing confusion.  They typically do this when they have been assigned a space with which they are unhappy and decide to move themselves to a more desirable spot.  Most artist alleys post dimension and space allowances, so be prepared to work with what you get and if you have a special request, make sure to communicate those requests when you reserve your spot.  If you must bring a second table for whatever reason, keep it small and able to be placed out of the way.
  2. Annoying Display Builder.  Annoying displays go hand in hand with space theft.  Annoying displays can not only encroach upon their neighbor’s spaces but also drive away customers rather than attract them.  Examples of really annoying displays include those who rely on loud music, unnecessary blinking lights, tall and bulky display set ups and displays that rely on the rearrangement of the alley configuration.  When designing your display, keep it modular and avoid any unnecessary sound and light effects.  Don’t bring anything that may require the artist alley tables to be moved from the convention’s initial configuration or that could potentially block exits.  It could cause you to be ejected from the alley.
  3. Brought my Entourage.  Nothing is more annoying than having your personal space invaded by a party.  While we all like to bring help and it’s perfectly acceptable to bring friends for that purpose, you don’t need to bring your dozen BFFs to hawk your wares.  Furthermore, large groups behind the tables tend to make messes and other artists will view large groups of unmonitored people a security risk.  While it’s easy to turn your table into the con hang out and rallying point for your friends, select a few who can actually work the table and delegate the rest for food runs or arrange a tag out system.  Most importantly, if they’re not working they shouldn’t be behind the table.  For parents, babies and children are fine as long as they’re well behaved – otherwise consider a sitter.  Screaming or misbehaving children can drive away customers just as quickly as annoying displays.
  4. Gracing You with My Presence.  You know the ones, the ones who are too good for this convention but they’ve come anyway “for the fans”.  If the lines don’t form or are not long enough, then people at that convention just don’t appreciate good art.  They view the work of their fellow artists with overly polite smiles and nods but they would never deign to actually talk to these newbies.  They are sometimes guests but often are not but they think they should be.  They also get frequently offended if their neighbors sell better than themselves.  When sales are bad, they talk about the “good old days” when the artist alley was just “artists with sketchbooks”, regardless if they actually remember that time.  This attitude is obnoxious and irritating.  Being open and friendly to the other artists is a must if you want to build good relationships and contacts.  You don’t have to be everybody’s very best friend and you don’t even have to like everybody’s work, but genuine smiles and a bit of encouragement can go a long way to making the alley a better community.
  5. Cut-throat Salesman.  This is probably one of the worst artist alley neighbors you can have and the most common.  The Cut-throat Salesman tries to garner every sale they can, even at the expense of their neighbors.  This includes setting up the infamous rear facing displays which attempt to mislead convention goers, calling convention goers away from other artists’ tables, shouting at convention goers from a distance, badgering convention goers into buying their products and generally pressuring any and all who come through the alley to purchase their wares and not others.  The reason why this is probably one of the worst types of neighbors you can have is that not only do their strongarm tactics annoy the artists, but the congoers as well.  As I’ve said before, happy congoers are more likely to spend money.  If they’re being giving the tough used-car salesman-like sell every time they pass through the alley, convention goers are less likely to stop and browse or even enter or return to the artist alley.  And this affects everybody’s sales.  It’s fine to explain your wares and to help your customers, but don’t call shoppers over to your table or try to pressure them into buying things.  Let your work speak for itself and draw in your target audience.

In the end, the general behavior rule for Artist Alley can be summed up in one phrase reiterated at a panel we did with our good friend Darrick – Don’t be an ass!  Remember, we’re all in this together, so let’s employ the golden rule and act like it.

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