As an artist and a cosplayer, when going to a convention I will enjoy being in the artist alley more than anywhere else as I love to meet local creatives and buy their wares. I’d usually try to give the vendor’s hall at least two scans, but I can never justify getting the expensive figurines I want (read: need). I enjoy panels but find it hard to sit still; it might be due to the constant thought that the convention only lasts the weekend, and outside that room there is so much to do, so much to see! Saying that will explain my experience better: I have never been so enamoured by an Artist Alley than at SMASH! Sydney Manga and Anime Show.
When we first arrived, there were gorgeous performances on a stage just outside one of the main entrances. Throughout the weekend, the stage was used for a variety of live performances including singers, bands, and even martial arts demonstrations. It is also where they held the Cosplay Battle Royale, which I sadly missed.
Next to the stage was one of the many entrances to the JR Fleming Stand building, the ground floor of which was dedicated completely to Artist Alley. Before going, I had an idea on how hectic it would be as the map showed the 198 artists that were selling their wares, but it wasn’t until I was there in person that I could comprehend the amount of love and dedication vendors had for their craft and customers had for their favourite characters. Other shows may have had artists that I never thought I’d meet, with them being big overseas, but the alley is never exclusively about them. SMASH did something I never thought possible of a convention, by having a building dedicated to art in so many ways. Not only was there the alley itself which spanned most of the ground floor, but there were activities patrons could participate in that were free and inspired creativity.
There was also a display of an artist I regret missing, but I was so blessed to see the display in person. Yusuke Kozaki attended the convention as a guest and was available for fan meetings, along with holding panels about his work. I planned to see him dressed as a character he designed from Fire Emblem – Tiki, the Divine Dragon – but sadly I lost track of time and didn’t manage to see him in any capacity. I can only hope he will be back at the next SMASH, giving me another reason to go again. However, I was thrilled to see TeddyLoid’s set that night. He is brilliant, and it felt like a dream being able to see him in the flesh, playing his jams.
To me, the artist alley is all about bringing all the indie artists in to marvel at their pieces. A lot of these – if not all – are self-publishing and self-made, which is astounding considering how filled to the brim these tables were. The walls behind each artist were covered in their prints, and their tables covered in charms, plushies, stickers, and all sorts of cute items. Even art of fandoms that aren’t so recent could be found, along with so much original work. It was brilliant to see such a diverse selection of art and once I can go through my pile of business cards – that are over an inch thick stacked together – I will be excitedly following them all; trawling through current art and waiting for anything new.
At many of these tables I stopped to fawn over characters I love, and in cosplay it is so much easier to start that conversation. I highly encourage everyone to take part in it, whether you make or buy a cosplay. It is always so much fun to find people dressed as characters you love, especially when they’re dressed as your favourite from the series!
Making cosplay isn’t for everyone, and the main reason we do it is to have fun as the character and be them for a while. Besides, people that buy cosplays are supporting creators who are making them, so please do not feel discouraged if you buy cosplay (I know there is a stigma around it). I ran into so many Fire Emblem fans on Saturday in cosplay and normal clothes alike, and it made me want to pack up and move to Sydney. Everyone was so lovely and it was great to make so many friends with similar interests.
This is definitely the most I’ve spent at a convention. I considered the fact that:
- I was forking out money for travel and accommodation, along with taking leave
- This was my first SMASH and it is exclusive to Sydney (we’ll never see it here in Brisbane)
So that is why my haul looks a bit… well…
I always like looking at all I bought at the end of the event, but this is excessive. Honestly, it was out of my hands. There were just so many incredible artists there and I had to have everything I bought. My bag jingles, my walls will soon be redecorated, and I will never use any stickers I buy as I am afraid of commitment; I blu-tack them to my wall but that’s all I can handle!
An artist I need to make a special mention to is Papricots.
I won’t go into the details, but coming all the way from Canada to a convention, she did something she did not need to do. With so much love and kindness in her heart, she went above and beyond for a friend of mine who was having an extremely stressful experience. Papricots not only helped my friend at their booth, but also tracked my friend down later to help them even more. Her wares are wonderful and you would be giving your money to an absolutely phenomenal human being.
I think the only downside of the convention is that it wasn’t nearly long enough. Usually after a two day con weekend, it’s pretty good to just lie around and chill, but after such a fully packed weekend, it still didn’t feel like I’d had enough. The environment, the people, the vendors, every interaction with a stranger was lovely and it couldn’t have been a coincidence.
It really makes you want to go back as soon as you can.
I want to thank the organisers of SMASH as I fell absolutely in love with the convention, head over heels. It was a truly fantastical experience and I will definitely be there again next year.
Bonus: Here’s Ray for scale