It seems like only yesterday (in fact, it WAS only yesterday) that I turned in the last of my postings on the 72nd Worldcon: LonCon3 . . . and here I am (along with dozens of artists) gearing up for the next. IlluXCon 7 (IX for short). Which will be a totally different convention experience – for me, as well as those who attend it.
IlluxCon, the brainchild of Jeannie and Pat Wilshire, started off small – in Altoona, PA – seven short years ago. Last year it was held for the first time at the Allentown Museum, in Allentown, PA. And it’s a convention like no other. It also is a convention that everyone has been gearing up for – mentally as as well as physically – for weeks.
Behind the scenes
Like other conventions, IX has grown into a community of “like-minded souls” who meet once a year (mostly, depending on what other cons they attend) and look forward to that meeting. Unlike other conventions, the group also has its own facebook “gallery” where artists and collectors can (and do) share their thoughts and art. And for weeks artists have been regaling us with snapshots of what they will be putting on display. At first, it was “should I bring this one or that one?” Then, it was “here’s one more!” Now it’s all “last minute additions” and “if the Fedex gods are willing, this is what you’ll see…..” BUSY, BUSY, BUSY. . .
The rules of the convention require that ALL participating artists be present IN PERSON. Even the program items are largely geared to the interests and skills of artists – with appreciative collectors in attendance – mostly informative slide shows and “how to” demonstrations galore. ART: It’s what everyone comes to see and learn about. As a consequence, it’s impossible for me to bring in and sell art “as a dealer.” I can attend it like anyone else, I can walk the show and BUY art as a collector – but I can’t (as I will be doing, say, for the upcoming World Fantasy Con in November) apply for panel space, pay for it when the artists I represent get juried in, hang the art on Thursday and then make efforts to sell it . . . as “artist’s agent”. All of which might lead you to think I’ve got no “prepping” to do for this show. WRONG! 🙂
Necessity: the Mother of Invention
Because I am congenitally incapable of just “hanging out” for four days without being busy doing SOMETHING, and because it was clear to me from the start that some artists (as well as collectors) would be more successful than others in buying and selling art in this kind of open, free-wheeling environment – I knew I would have to find a (new) niche (as it were) very quickly. I mean, apart from going to see (and buy) art . . . like everyone else 🙂
For buyers, the main difference is that the creator of the work is always there, and operating “front and center.” There are no dealers bringing in art they have in inventory, or taking orders on prints, or running the booths or tables,and being the only ones you interact with. Collectors HAVE TO deal with artists directly, and vice-versa – whether they want to, or not. At the same time, some of them don’t mind a little help from their agents (who operate as such outside of the convention. The good news: NO paperwork is required from artists: there is no master “database” of art to be displayed, no “checking in” of art by artists, no requirement to post prices, no silent purchases (no bid sheets, no auction), no one to keep tabs on what you’ve sold or for how much. In other words, it’s run like an antiques show. Sellers are on their own to make sales, so . . .
. . . it’s the kind of situation that breeds stress, and ramps up anxiety for many – quite apart from “What should I bring?” In short, It’s a situation I’m entirely comfortable with. 🙂 Actually, it’s kind of the ideal situation for me – because it’s allowed me to take on a new and different role. At IlluxCon I am not “Jane, the dealer,” so much as I am “Jane, the counselor and matchmaker,” I fly under as well as over the radar, wearing my different hats: offering advice when asked (trying very hard not to be a kibitzer, haha) and just sort of helping to make introductions when people are shy, and when invited, keep artists (or collectors) company so that communications and transactions go more smoothly.
Put another way, I help buyers to buy and sellers to sell. It’s just something I love to do, whether I am making a commission on any one deal, or not. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. My participation varies. The main fun for me is being part of the action. Which brings me to:
Interestingly, and right from the beginning, it was also assumed I’d be on the program . . . but in a very different capacity than usual, for me. I’m not an artist – and there are no “panel discussions” with talking heads, or interviews of the kind that are popular at regular cons. So instead, I do a “stand up” solo act: dispensing advice on the collecting and selling of art. My “how to” topics have ranged from the basics of framing, insurance, restoration, to the subject of pricing and how art costs what it does, to ever popular talks related to “How to sell for more, and buy for less” (negotiating tips) and more effective communication. My lectures are rather intimate affairs, although they are at times standing room only, and always rely on audience participation. “Talks” can last 1.5 to 2 hours, and may/may not include power point slides and “role play”. I love “role play”! I love doing this. But this also means I have to solicit audiences to come up with good ideas for talks, a year in advance. Which means: this year it will be two “lectures” – not just one!
What else am I planning for?
I’m planning on seeing in person the Best of the Best in an atmosphere that resembles OLD HOME WEEK for collectors 🙂 That about sums up the combination of barely suppressed excitement and expectancy that has surrounded this year’s convention….thanks to the closed facebook group “IX” artists have been “sharing” (no, “TEASING” us!) for weeks….showing off artworks they are planning to bring in. And from what I’ve seen so far, it’s going to be an incredible assortment. I’ve shown only a few here, at random….check the website for a complete list . . .
I’m tired already and I haven’t even packed the car. Or finished my talks Heh. Well, at least I’ve finished this post, and it’s not due until Tuesday! Next week: a full report on the convention itself! With pictures!