Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Evolution of an Artist's Alley Table Part 1

(My display has since leveled up! See the new display.)

After the last couple of conventions, it seems my artist's alley table is growing and evolving into something grand! I am always seeking ways to improve and welcome any suggestions you might have.

It started out at an Anime Weekend Atlanta of years ago where I just tossed unmatted and unbagged prints on the table and sold them for $5-$10 with a banner hung out front. Then we had the Dragon Con display this year with an elevated banner and slightly more offerings of necklaces and matted prints.

Now, we have the Anime Weekend Atlanta display where we pulled out a few more stops to make our display the best it could be. Here's a run-down of what we did.

The Elements of an Artist's Alley Table

1. One Sleep Deprived Artist - Complete with circles under the eyes and friendly smile. Customers like to see the artist at the table so they can talk to you personally and maybe watch you while you're working on a project. People like to be close to that creative flow and are generally curious about 'the life'. ($100,000,000 or 100 steak dinners)

2. Professionaly Printed Vinyl Banner - Printed at my local sign shop by my wonderful brother over at Graphic Signs Atlanta. I chose vinyl because it can take abuse and weather the elements. It's guaranteed to last longer than a paper sign. (FREE, generally $6 per square foot)

3. Backdrop Display - This is actually a piece of photography equipment called a backdrop kit. The poles break down and it comes with a handy carrying case to store it all in. It is relatively lightweight. I generally use this set for my stock photography needs. Bought from eBay. ($85)

4. Jewelry Stand - My dad made this wood stand ages ago and I stole it from my parents' bedroom. You can buy cute tree style stands from eBay for pretty low prices. Having a stand for necklaces helps draw in the crowd with more visibility for your shinies. (FREE, generally $25 for a nice one, less for a wire one)

5. Small Prints - I like to have these out for folks who don't have a large budget for buying the larger pieces. At only $5 a pop, they're a colorful way to help fill up empty space on the table and provide a low end price option.

6. 3 Tiered Magazine Display - Purchased from displays2go.com. Instead of magazines, I put in matted prints. People enjoyed rifling through it, but I want to invest in one with deeper compartments with more room for people to flip through. ($30)

7. Greeting Card Rotating Rack - Purchased from displays2go.com. I used this to display matted 4x6 prints and unmatted 5x7s which fit snuggly in the slots. It's amazing how a rack like this can give your work a more professional feel. This is pretty lightweight for transport, if a bit bulky. ($35)

8. Canvas Bin - Purchased at Big Lots. I used this to display more large prints to rifle through for those who wanted something a little more beefy than the 5x7's. ($15)

9. Cube Grid Walls - Another item that was donated to me. These grid walls were a lifesaver for making my display project upwards more. They stack easily when broken down and give you plenty of space to play with as far as hanging art. I had only 6 cubes, but imagine what you could do with more! (FREE, generally $16 for 6 cube set)

What am I missing?

Display Portfolio - I didn't have it out in this photo, but I had a portfolio of my best work laying out on the table housed in an Itoya notebook with a custom printed spine. ($8)

All in All...

I feel the weakness of this display setup is that it is slightly bulky, but the ability to project upwards I feel is a necessary one for my tastes. I've also been told carrying primarily more expensive items forces people to buy those instead and that a lighter setup is easier to do. My experiences have shown this does not work for my particular set of items and audience, though this lighter setup with more expensive items may work at conventions where customers are more willing to pay for top dollar items. At smaller cons, customers seem to like an option for smaller budgets.

The next big step in my display campaign is to figure out what I need for a large 10 x 10 foot space, the standard floor plot for art fair space. I sense canvas panels, tents, and god knows what else in my future!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to drop 'em here!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Product Review: Mustek Express A3 1200 Pro

There comes a time in every artist's life when they want to toss their scanner out the window because it's such a pain to scan large paintings into the standard format 8.5x11 Inch scanners. The pieces don't fit together right, the exposure between passes are too different, and it's such a time waster to have to sit and stitch them together in Photoshop. The problem becomes compounded when we go shopping for a large format scanner that can process anything larger and we find that such scanners cost in upwards of $2000!

In my journey to find a solution that wouldn't cost me selling my kidney on the black market, I found a humble scanner called the Mustek Express A3 Pro USB Scanner with a scanning area of 11.7x16.5 Inches (29.7x42.0 Centimeters) at the equally humble price of $150. I bought one from Newegg, which had a comparable price and 30 day money back guarantee. So with little ado (and my love of lists), I present the Pros & Cons of the Mustek Express A3 1200 Pro USB scanner.

The Pros The Cons
The large format is a dream. All that lovely scanning space! (11.7x16.5 Inches total) The scanner is all you get. There are no quick buttons for you quick button fiends out there.
Seems to pick up a decent amount of detail and is particularly effective at picking up color luminosity.Subtle tones are somewhat lost in the scanning. But you can pop those out again with post-processing.
Compatible with Photoshop import options (which is the only thing I use) Like most new scanners, this one is finicky about anything that is not pressed flat against the glass. Anything raised from it will be out of focus.
Scans up to 9600 DPI
Very affordable price tag at around $150
Cover is removable with no lip around the glass, which is handy for scanning oversized pieces.

Image Quality
I currently use an Epson Workforce 500 as my main scanner and will continue to do so unless I need to scan larger format work. Though the Mustek is decent, it does not pick up the more subtle details that my Epson does. I have also been told by my publisher that the Epson is about as close to print quality as can be.

The Skinny
The Mustek is by no means a bad scanner, but it does have its minor shortcomings. However, for the low price, it's a pretty sweet deal if you're in search of an affordable deal on a large format scanner with decent scanning quality.

EDIT: It's also come to my attention the company is no longer making updated drivers for this device! In essence, it can only be used with Windows XP machines, for now.

EDIT 2: They finally came out with a new driver for this one!  You can find it here.