Otakon 2017: Artist Alley

For the last few years of Otakon in Baltimore, there was a premium on artist tables. The lottery system had to be implemented with space so limited in their Artist Alley. That problem has been solved at the new con center in Washington DC. Artist Alley is now bigger than ever and even has space to expand!

Now Artist Alley shares its space with the autograph section which seemed to have been given a wide enough berth to not cause traffic jams in the alley proper. There was a snag Friday morning though. Some autographs were scheduled right when the alley opened so hordes of fans had nowhere to wait except the hallway and ended up blocking escalators. But this seems like an easily solvable problem for next year.

That was nothing compared with the chaos of Saturday night when a waterfall appeared inside the Artist Alley thanks to the storms outside. Videos from some inside show it pretty clearly, and it ended up closing down the alley for an hour or so. Some merchandise was ruined and many artists had to relocate within the alley causing some confusion. From the sound of things, Otakon responded well to the situation. However, some in the forums say this leak is not an unknown occurrence with this convention center.

I can’t reasonable start my exploits through Artist Alley without first discussing buttons. There were a lot less of the usual small, round $1-2 range buttons this year. I really had to hunt for them! Although, admittedly that was fun in a way.

What I did see was a lot more large, shaped (star, heart) buttons that were also more expensive, $3-5. And there was an explosion of enamel pins which have been really gaining steam in the last year or so. They are beautiful, I love them! But they are also quite high-end, $10-12. With my low budget this year, it really limited what I could buy.

I added three new sports boys buttons to my collection. Haikyu’s Furokudani captain Bokuto by Koi and Nekoma’s captain Tetsuro by Hyde. I still don’t see enough Bokuto anything so that was a no-brainer. And Tetsuro was my first purchase of the alley at the first booth I encountered, it seemed a good way to start.

The Yurio button by Ravefirell which just cracks me up every time I look at it, ended up being a quest for me. I saw it very early when I had just started my tour of the alley then planned to return later. That later ended up being after the rainstorm which displaced this artist’s booth among others so I then had no idea where she had gone to! I was finally able to find her Sunday and breath a sigh of relief.

I picked up an adorable Rohan button by Rii who I’d gotten Joseph and Cesar buttons from at a previous Otakon. It ended up being their very last one, the display one, so I felt very lucky!

Picking up the Sucy button by Vivian I saw that the Little Witch Academia character she was running low on was Akko. For some reason many think her unpopular though I don’t know why!

My one and only enamel pin purchase was a One Piece one from Bing. She had a vast array of wares that were all amazing. I definitely wished I could have walked away with all her pins.

I found a rare Detective Conan lanyard by Sayriin. I was really, really trying to stick to buttons this year but I could not pass this up. Not only are the characters adorable, but I love seeing all the icons she added.

Again, trying to not pick up too many non-button items, I did end up buying a single print. A super cute Kanda print by Suika who had lots of fantastic D.Gray Man pieces all of which I wanted to take home. We chatted briefly about how Kanda just needs love.

I feel every year I see more and more clothing and accessories shops as well as jewelry makers popping up in the alley. I also saw many amazing crochet doll and plushie makers throughout the hall like Anubis Studios. Pencil bags, coin purses, and small zippered bags continue to grow in number. Places like Pupcakes & Cupcats were seriously testing my willpower.

Bunnies and Cream were selling lotions, candles, body spray, and more. I loved the yummy scents and adorable packaging.  After spraying a test spritz in the early afternoon on my wrist, I found it lasted well into the evening.

A newer item I saw a lot of this year was notebook/sketchbooks/journals with printed covers. I even saw some people advertising them as bullet journals! The few I peaked inside were unlined, but I didn’t look through them at every table I visited. If this trend continues, and I could find ones with the dot grids, I’d probably be inclined to pick one of these up next time around.

The item that dominated the alley this year was definitely charms. Every type of material, plastic, wood, metal was represented as were all manner of sizes from tiny, pea-sized to comically large. There was even more than one booth that had created gachapon for their charms, complete with mini-machines. And yes, you could only get the charms through random chance.

As far as what series were most present in the aisles, from my eyes it was My Hero Academia with Voltron being almost equal to it. Fire Emblem Fates had a strong showing as did Persona 5. I was surprised to see very little Attack on Titan. And of course there were smatterings of things I didn’t recognize at all.

I’m very excited to see what next year holds. There is room for more artists and craftsman for sure. I hope to see more comic creators and those a little more established in their own works return. I’d love to see an exhibit space return to the alley as well. But to be honest, the selection was already so big that I didn’t get to hit everything and didn’t even step foot inside the art show this year.

Otakon’s new, expanded Artist Alley didn’t disappoint. I expect great things in 2018!

~kate


More Otakon 2017 posts:

Otakon 2017: Ani-Gamers Podcast
Otakon 2017: General Impressions
The Speakeasy #092: Otakon, More Ideon, More One Piece
Otakon 2017: Panels
Otakon 2017: 15-minutes with Hidenori Matsubara

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