First Posted Jun 12, 2018
Hello to the new people, hello to the ones who have been so patient and supporting me all along– I so sincerely appreciate all the support! I’ve been meaning to make this post for a while, but excuses aside, this is just to shed a bit of light on the “postcard wall” that I’ve been doing the past couple years at AN. I hope it’ll be a good read (and one that was worth waiting for)!
Small Spiel + Background
My decision to print postcards originally stemmed from the weird rules that Anime North has with dividing their vendors. For context, in recent years they have split the area for vendors into four main spaces - Comic Market (CM), Dealers, Crafter’s Corner (CC), and Pro Plaza (PP). Comic Market and Crafter’s Corner combined is what artist alley is usually considered at other conventions; CM can sell only print-based paper items (and recently, washi tape and acrylic charms), while CC can sell everything but paper items (and subsequently washi tape and acrylic charms). In contrast, Dealers has been labelled as the area for official merchandise (although bootleg items are still highly prevalent), and Pro Plaza is for original work in all forms.
My first tabling experience ever at any convention was at Anime North in 2013, and miraculously, I’ve been able to go every consecutive year. I’ll do a post on my con background “experience” and things I’ve learned from that in the future, but for now I’ll skip ahead to 2016, when I took on the challenge of going for Pro Plaza tables when my luck ran out for Comic Market.
While it was freeing to not be bound to paper-based merch, it was still very daunting to have a table completely covered originals only. I’ve opted for printing my sketchbook on smaller postcard sized prints and having that displayed as opposed to a select few larger prints. I’ve always had the thought that for anything that I didn’t have confidence in selling as a larger print can always be compensated by printing as a smaller print.. it’s not necessarily the best thinking process since it gets to the point where you need to decide a threshold for what’s “worthy” of printing larger, despite the time and effort you may spend on the smaller pieces.
This is always a print I’ve wanted to make but a) ran out of time, and b) I wasn’t confident in its composition.
Based on observations, I feel like this works well in my favour since I observed over the years that there has been a mix of generations who have been going to these events. There’s a small window of age (probably between 18~21, give or take) where more people are wanting many larger prints to display in their room/workspace. When I was in that age range, I hoarded a lot of prints too, and my room in residence during university was always splayed with a mosaic of different prints just for inspiration, motivation, and just a topic of interest when friends came to visit. But I find those that are younger often don’t have the same freedom to put as much up in their room in their parent’s homes (and can’t afford as many), and those that have passed that age have grown to wanting smaller prints either because their life have already been saturated with many larger prints, or they are slowly just wanting a couple things to represent their likes and interests.
Maybe being older is just moreso about maintaining current relationships rather than constantly establishing new ones so you’re less likely to need to share as much of yourself hm..
I have really fond thoughts and memories regarding postcards actually. It was a way that I made a lot of my artist friends during my first days tabling at conventions. Like I said above, I would end up printing postcards for prints I didn’t have confidence in (mostly originals), and at the end of the convention, I would go around with a box of these postcards for trades.. it was so nice to see other artists really like my original work and it’s something small I could also trade for something small. Nowadays, I don’t seek trades as often since I’m more likely to just go and purchase things that I’m interested in, but postcards were definitely a start and nostalgic thing for me!
This year, I wanted to give a try at printing 150 postcard designs, an increase from the ~95+ I had from last year. My experience with selling so many was a mixed bag because while I tried to be prepared, there was still things I feel I could’ve done better (and I guess this post can also act as a bit of reflectance on that).
Last year when I started to build up my postcard wall, I didn’t really have a computer I could work off of (since I spent a year between Nov 2016-2017 using the iPad Pro as my main computing device). Henceforth, I was stuck to either drawing traditionally or only when time permitted for me to pull out my iPad to draw a little bit digitally (I was still learning the ropes of procreate so it wasn’t nearly as easy). I’m somewhat hoping I can get back to drawing digitally more frequently again, but that’ll be for another day.
My usual procedure for creating my digital files is just to scan my images in at 300 dpi as a jpeg or bmp, but recently I’ve taken to using PDF and at 600 dpi (when not in mass). I’m actually not too sure about the best specs for scanning in images and whether the larger size is worth the effort if not being used for scaling up or for cleaning the image digitally, but please comment if you can clue in on that!
I cleaned up my files on photoshop and after talking to my usual printer about what format to send my files in, I basically made a 150 file PDF and sent it over in the correct specs (300 dpi, CYMK, etc). I tend to use photoshop for everything because it’s fastest for me, with 4.25” x 6.25” file size (.25” on each side for bleed as seen by the grey border on the screen capture). I save each file separately as a PDF and just join everything using the thumbnails on Preview via drag and drop. I could essentially create a faster workflow using InDesign, but I’ve gotten adjusted to doing the edits and colour adjustments altogether on PS.
I let my printer know there would be 15 copies of each design. It took around a couple days, but as usual, she was really fast and I picked it up within a week’s time (bless).
Last year I printed only 10 of each design (meaning only 8 to sell of each, since display copies and in book display), and decided to organize based on colour. I actually spent a lot of time with the physical cards on the floor and moving them around before making a final decision.
For labelling, I decided that there would be 4 pages of “catalogue” and organized based on when the image was drawn, and whether it was done digitally or traditionally. There was a significantly higher number that were done traditionally (around 10 digitally). I moved them around on my Finder window because it didn’t require as much computing power, provide a window where I could see all 150 images at a glance, and would allow me to move the file icons as collective groups.
The catalogue was posted on my respective social media sites prior to the convention to allow people who couldn’t attend the convention to pick out ones they wanted friends/siblings to get on their behalf, or allow for individuals who have purchased in previous years to compare their old purchases to decrease the number of doubles.
I opted for pages to be categorized by letter (A, B, C, D), with A being the most recently drawn images.
Similar to a matrix, the first number dictated the row on the page, starting with 0. The second number indicated the column, also starting with 0. You can see what colour I had a tendency to use at the time of creation haha (whatever ink was currently inked in a brush/fountain pen).
I ended up printing three of these catalogues to be physically present at a convention, to not only draw people closer to the table and spark some conversation, but also to allow people to pick out the ones they wanted to purchase and relay that information quicker.
This was honestly the hardest part of making so many postcards. Displaying them and allowing the labels do their part in communicating which design corresponded to which postcard. On top of printing three catalogues, I also labelled two postcard albums for Table Display (see above video), labelled a set of postcards that were on display for my stand (discussed below), and also the boxes which housed all the stock.
This seems fairly straightforward, but previous years have proven this to be quite a challenge as well.
I opted for using MUJI post-its despite it being slightly more expensive than cheaper post-its, but it was good because it was a good size to lie across the 6” side of the postcard, and also allowed me to follow the pattern of my row > column pattern as shown in my catalogue. I used colour to make it easier to find each section. Blue pen for the letter/page along with the colour of the tab. A white, B orange, C yellow, D green.
Another problem that arises is how my table helpers and I will pick out the respective postcards from the stock. Let me explain: as an example, say you’re to pull out the image corresponding to the A13 tab – would you grab the A13 tab and pull it forward to reach behind it, or would you grab A13 tab and reach in front of it? What about the last one of A13? Should the tab be placed on the image that it corresponded to?
These were all problems that arose in the last couple years when it was essential for me to label my postcards. My solution was to write on the backside of the sticky and stick it to the back of the corresponding postcard it labelled, and have that at the front of the stock.
This way, Red will always correspond to the last Red postcard, but also be able to find new stock behind the Red label. This was many iterations in the making (three years actually), but so far it worked fairly well in a busy busy convention!
It’s amazing to see the progression of how much my collection of postcards have grown, and consequently the display as well. The next couple pics are going to be a bit of a reflection.
My first year tabling and my small bulletin board of postcards!
At every convention, I got accustomed to using PVC pipes because it was very easy for friends to set up if I’m unable to get there earlier (in the past couple years, thank you to my twin and my friends who helped me out). To drape the postcards across, I will usually use a backing since having free-hanging postcards make it hard to be seen and very susceptible to falling.
In the first year of my trek to making a postcard wall, I decided to use kraft wrapping paper because I had some lying at home. It was pretty good since it was light and I didn’t have that much stock– but it didn’t help that when being carried to the convention, it had started raining. It’s semi-evident in the images, but it got soaked and crinkled a bit. This made some of the taped postcards fall off the stand at some point, but thankfully near the end of the convention.
Last year in 2017, I asked my twin to help me with labelling the physical postcards and setting up. She had some leftover canvas from her stretched drum project, and I thought it would brilliant to use.. except it really wasn’t.
I thought I could tape each postcard to one another in columns and just use push pins with a pin backing punching through each column of postcards.
The only problem was that my poles.. weren’t made to hoist up a heavy sheet of canvas. And I didn’t have time to add eyelets or punch repetitive holes in the top of the canvas, so it meant I had to drape it over the top (and got my mom to sew a round so that I could feed my poles through). It made clean-up more difficult than it should’ve been and my final display was hoisted up another 2 feet so I could sit behind the table. I ultimately had to use string to fasten the poles to the table legs after much struggle.
This year though, I continued to use the column accordion-tape style, but it wasn’t as bad because this year I used.. *drumroll* a shower curtain along with some cable ties. I picked up some removable/reusable cable ties. With a thin shower curtain, it had pre-cut holes and I could easily feed the cable ties through and fold it for super easy clean/set up.
I did sit down and have to label each postcard with a sticky and tape the postcards together which did take a couple days, but I think the final display wasn’t too bad. To affix the postcards to the shower curtain, I decided to use velcro strips that I cut into smaller cubes (each strip into 8 pieces).
To be completely honest, I don’t think they were the best solution because they were not only expensive, but also didn’t do a much better job than tape or the push pins I used previously. I think it’s something I would have to consider for something different if I go about doing another postcard wall next time.
I tried to keep each letter together to represent how it looked on the catalogue (A was along the left side, B and C were at the top, and D was stretched along the bottom), but I think during a busy convention, not many people realized there was a pattern to the display.
Next year, next year..
This year, I decided to print 15 of each since a lot of them sold out throughout the weekend in previous years. I think it wasn’t a bad decision because it gave me some breathing room for multiple designs but in future years, I think I will opt for printing less.. Having more stock meant that people didn’t get their “second best” option and other designs didn’t get the same amount of appreciation..
I think my 2016 year was the most successful because limited selection meant that the stand could be lower and each postcard had a better chance to stand against one another. Being lower also meant me, being very vertically challenged, had a chance to reach and grab postcard stock if people wanted them and visually see that they were sold out.
It definitely beats having this tiny card that that I continually added numbers to haha (young me was very disorganized, but also was unexpecting of all the support too T_T thank you). In recent years, I had a catalogue and a photo album on the table so I was able to mark them directly and remove them from the photo album (or sell that copy), and didn’t have to reach up too often to cut down some of the display copies.
I do still feel like 15 was possibly too many since I brought home quite a bit of leftovers comparative to last year, but knowing that I have AX and Otakuthon coming up, I’m actually quite grateful I went with printing more.
Anyway, I think that’s all I have to say about this endeavour. I feel like I definitely wrote more than anyone could’ve about organizing and displaying many many postcards but I hope it was worthwhile to read and I also hope that people appreciate my efforts to build the wall from a background standpoint!
Thank you for reading! ☆
Wanted to do a shout-out to the person who came by during 2017 and actually bought one of each of my postcards. He also sent me an update on what he did with all the postcards following the convention, thank you so much @Mijoad!
This really warms my heart, I was (and still am) so touched..!