Sunday, August 12, 2012

Con Report: San Japan 2012

I spent the weekend at San Japan in San Antonio vending in the Artist's Alley.  I haven't passed out yet, so I'll try to write something up, I suppose.

The prettiest bustle dress of the weekend was on a DOG.
San Japan has always been one of my favorite cons.  This was my third year attending and my first experience being there as a vendor.  San Japan is primarily an anime con, but they've always welcomed steampunk and there's usually a good steampunk turnout.   San Japan is a fairly young con, in its fifth year, and the crowd tends to be young, too.  I don't have a HUGE amount in common with most teenage anime fans, since I'm mid-30s and my tastes in anime aren't very mainstream.  But even so, the vibe of San Japan has always been pleasant to me.  The young crowd is upbeat and positive, mellow, and I've rarely run into any assholes there.

The con has been growing by leaps and bounds.  This year was the first in a new location, the Henry Gonzalez Convention Center and Grand Hyatt.  The change was mostly a good one.  The con had outgrown its former location and the main problem last year was overcrowding.  This year there was plenty of space, and at times that made it feel a bit empty, even though final attendance numbers were over 9400.  The events were split between the hotel next door and the convention center, which required some extra walking.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I rarely had to stand in line for an elevator.  Things seemed to flow very smoothly.

Of course, most of my experience of the con was from behind my table in Artist's Alley.  I was lucky to get a table as they sold out in 2 1/2  minutes.  This was my first time in an Artist's Alley and my first time vending a large anime con.  Overall, things went extremely well.  I have absolutely no complaints about con or hotel staff and everyone was very helpful and friendly.  The reception of my wares and my booth was very positive, as was the reaction to steampunk in general.  I liked that even when people seemed to have no interest in buying anything, lots of people passing mentioned how "cool" or "awesome" steampunk was.  There was absolutely no attitude about "what are you doing at an anime con."  Also, I actually didn't get asked "What is steampunk?" once.  People seemed to have at least a vague idea, or someone in their group (i.e. the kids explaining to parents) was there to explain steampunk.  So I definitely noticed a change with increased visibility of the genre in the mainstream.

What I did get a lot was people who were looking to start putting a steampunk outfit together and wanted advice or assistance.  I heard multiple cosplayers say they were going to do steampunk next year.  So our ranks continue to grow.  Chances are many of these people will discover just how addictive steampunk can be.

A fantastic "Kraken" costume.
Since my previous vending experiences were at steampunk events, there were some surprising differences in what I sold.  For one thing my sewing patterns didn't sell nearly as well as they have at steampunk cons.  And my bustles were not nearly as popular either, which I don't exactly understand.   But I think people weren't shopping as much for steampunk stuff to wear that day, so much as accessories for a future outfit.  Whereas at a steampunk event, people are anxious to dress up and join the crowd.   But even if I didn't sell everything I expected to, financially, we did very well, though the price of the hotel, parking, taxes, and food did a lot of damage to our take-home.

My other major activity of the con was my presentation on corsetmaking.  It was well-attended, even if it was 11:30 on a Sunday morning.  I got some positive feedback, so hopefully people found it useful.  I always feel I'm throwing a huge amount of information at people really quickly, but I wasn't given as much time as I asked for, so I was rushed.

A customer shows off the gold skirt
 she bought from me.
As for steampunk at the con, I honestly can't comment that much since I spent pretty much all of my waking moments at my booth.  I didn't attend any evening events because I was so exhausted from vending every day.  (If you've never done it, you might not think vending is exhausting.  It is.  Especially when you're carrying your merchandise back and forth from your hotel room and setting up and taking down in the morning and evenings.)   Beyond a few steampunk panels I'm not really sure if there was any real organized steampunk activity.  I know there was some LARP on Sunday, but I don't know how it went or if it was very well attended.  In fact, I'd say this is something for the community to improve: we need a way to better advertise what there is for steampunks to do, except for standing around chatting or attending the usual  101 panels.  Even if it's not put into the larger schedule, there should be someway to let steampunks know what's going on when.  Even if it's just very informal stuff, like, "a bunch of people hanging in the coffeeshop, stop by!"   Maybe a twitter/FB account just for those kind of announcements?  Random thoughts....

At any rate, from my point of view it was a great con and a great weekend.  I look forward to doing it again!
And, probably my favorite costume of the weekend.
Sorry, steampunk, gargoyles captured my heart first.


  1. The steampunk dog is adorable! Glad to hear you had fun at your con. Steampunk is slowly catching on where I live: hopefully one day we will be able to have a proper steampunk convention

  2. LOL! I made the hat that the dog Yoko is wearing. The owner made the gown, and I made the hat to match.

    1. Yeah, she told me. So now you are a dog costumer as well! I'm amazed Yoko doesn't mind wearing the costumes.

  3. Haha! You found our dearest little kraken monster crew member! Thanks for capturing her fantastic outfit! She was sewing it up crazy the day before.

    Catch you at the next con, dear!
    Captain Valentina
    Airship Constantine