Perler Beads

“How do you use Perler Beads?”

That was the question I asked back in August 2010 when I first discovered them at a convention. Eventually we bought a few of the crafting sets and learned how to use them. It was an easy process and soon we branched out and began to focus on some other creations.

What are Perler Beads?

Perler Beads are small plastic beads that you lay beside one another to make an image, followed by melting them. There are clear plastic plates with tiny pegs which you use for the projects. They are about 4 inch square. Using tweezers to place the beads in formation- eventually you get an image.

Most of this craft is counting and separating coloured beads. Once the image is done- you use a wax style of paper and iron gently in order to melt the beads together. We liked to melt them only slightly to keep the the image, while I have seen other melt them flat, thus “bleeding” the beads together.

Today I discovered a set of coasters I had made years ago. Perler Beads are perfect for recreating 8 Bit or 16 Bit video game characters. Artistically- I found each image needed a bit of “shading” to make the images pop. By “shading” I used a colour that was similar but a tad bit darker. Greens, blues, red, yellows, etc.. all popped around the black frame.

Our kids used the coaster video game characters as templates and made numerous magnets which they would sell at conventions in order to earn some spending cash at the shows. They also made Hello Kitty hair clips and keychain Mine Craft tools which were very popular.

My favorite that I have made to date, also happens to be the largest. We bought an oversized plate and I filled it up with beads to create a Jack Skellington for the film The Nightmare Before Christmas. This particular creation took me about 5 hours and 3500 beads to complete.

Making Perler Bead creations was a fun family hobby when the kids were younger. We still have a metric shit-ton of the beads in all sorts of colours. After discovering my original coasters- I have a feeling that the kids may want to start making them again once more.

Or I could be terribly wrong and our kids will go on to be teenagers and grow their social lives. But I still like crafting and may return to it soon.

Saying Goodbye

Sunday was the last day of our Convention. I had to say goodbye to all of my friends. It was the last day of Calgary Expo, but also a bitter end to many years of shows. We won’t be returning.

I’m severely saddened by this. But many factors have come into play over the past little while. Last year I toted about My Fandom Family and how great everyone is. I love these people. Even back in 2016 we were hoping to Expand our small business- it just won’t be happening.

Since 2016, sales at Conventions have dropped. To be honest- the sales more like nosedived. What used to be lucrative and profitable, suddenly became, “Are we going to just recoup costs?” We gave it a couple of years, but sadly no increase.

Besides our declining sales, a few other factors have also come into the decision to not return. First, my wife has started a new job. She will be working for a company full time and can’t create stock or take off time for out of town shows. So her Business will be scaled back to just online sales- no more travel to conventions. We can now use vacation time to vacation!

Secondly, our children are getting older. We do not want to take them out of school as their workload is heavier than it was when they were younger. Our oldest has entered adulthood by getting (and loving) her first job, so time off for her means she makes less money. She is now saving up for her next big purchase.

Lastly, after doing Conventions for nearly a decade, we’re a bit burnt out. So many stresses lead up to a show as well as when we are there. We also haven’t done a decent cosplay in a couple of years. There was just too much going on in life. I am hoping to take on a new hobby and just make replica movie props for myself.

Yes, I’m saddened by the fact that I put down in words the finale of our traveling business. And just like that, our convention circuit is pretty much all done. We went out with hardly a whimper. No big fanfare saying it’s over. It’s just over.

Just some hugs and handshakes to say farewell to our friends- with many a promise to stay in contact. All of the conventions were a blast, but now it is time to move on. Let the next stage of life begin.

Weekend Haul

Here’s some of the fun stuff we got this weekend. These Conventions always mean souvenirs and fantastic art to come home with us. We already packed up some of the artwork safely for our drive home.

First off is a T-Shirt from Calgary Expo. A quick freebie for getting a bunch of stamps.

I got this cute pin from Anne Wheaton as she is here promoting her new book. I gave her a set of pink cosplay ears that reminded me of “Piggy” from her book.

My son bought a “Box of Mystery” from one of our artist friends. It contains some fan art stickers, magnets, and pins. Pretty cool for only $5! Sadly, it is our friend’s very last ever convention.

After our recent trip to Japan, we have had a renewed love of Studio Ghibli. I found an artist that makes glass with shadows over prints. So I had to buy one.

Lastly, my son worked hard helping me this weekend, so I picked up a Mudkip Pokémon for him. It’s rare for us to find this Pokémon, and he loves it.

As usual, we also traded some of my wife’s hats and such for other art. People love using the barter system. We all have a value that we put on our time and work. Sharing is a great way to create new friendships and showcase work.

Only one more day to go. Maybe more art is going to grace our home.

The Bad Eats

Traveling around and doing convention shows often means eating poorly. It just goes hand in hand. Like fries and a burger…

It starts on the first leg of the road trip with a stop at Costco for a cheap hotdog. We always get a hotdog on our way from our home. It doesn’t matter if we are driving east or south. We plan Costco as the place to stop for lunch. Cheap and easy so that we can hit the road again quickly.

Yesterday’s Dinner was cheap pizza. After a day of sitting at our table making idle chitchat with strangers, making a food choice is tough. So basic pizzas get ordered. Ham and pineapple, pepperoni, or meat lovers are always easy and quick to choose. Pizza is like the safety net of food.

Throughout the day we end up grazing through candy, chips, granola bars, and sodas for the most part. Sure, a bottle of water or heavily processed vegetables are consumed periodically, but not enough to offset the other junk.

Dinner on day two is usually a side of french fries and some sort of grilled sandwich or burger. Again, just like pizza- ordering is easy, quickly served and digested. Then off to end the evening in the rented room before day 3 of the show is upon us.

That is pretty much every Convention weekend for us vendors. I’m positive our next couple of days will involve bad eats as well. It’s the price you pay to do these shows.

My Favorite Convention

My son and I leave today for my favorite convention- Calgary Expo! We’ve been coming here since 2012 and have enjoyed every year so far.

This year has all of the artists placed in the “Big 4” building. So many of my friends have been designing pictures to showcase their new locations. It’s one of my favorite things to follow along on social media and see how excited they are getting. Countdowns, messages, fun new products… so much to see and talk about when we get together!

It’s also nice that there is so much love shared throughout our groups. Last year I mentioned how I feel that they are all A Fandom Family. I look forward to seeing them every year. These are some of the most artistic and energized people I know.

Oh, and I’ll be having fun as well being a Table Tart at table AA 5211 for Ningen Headwear. If you need to find my son- he’ll be teaching people Table Top games like he does every other year.

So remember to stop by the Artist Alley in Calgary this weekend if you want to see the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse…

Desperate For Company

Next Wednesday I leave for Calgary Expo. I’m taking my 11 year old son and we are driving 10 hours from our home to get there. This is immediately after I finish a 12 hour night shift. By the time we get there, I’ll have been awake for over 24 hours. I’m not too excited about that aspect of the road trip…

This year, my wife cannot attend as she is only a couple of weeks into her new job. Because she booked for the show last year, we have a couple of tickets and a place already booked. At the show, my son and I will be able to wander a bit since we have many Convention Carny friends whom we trust that can look after our table. So now I’m trying to find a friend to come with me to share the driving duties. I have to make it through the mountains to the other side.

So I’ve tried to see if my friends on social media want to join me. I’m practically begging. I love my son and his company, but really shouldn’t let him drive the car.

But if it doesn’t pan out, I may have to find a Rest Area and take a quick power nap to recharge my batteries. Pretty sure Alberta has some nice Rest Areas.

I’m looking forward to the show no matter what. I have tons of good friends to see again. If I don’t hear from any of my other friends- it’ll be time to stock up on Red Bull and Coffee!

The PPG

The City of Townsville”

When I first met my wife, she introduced me to two things: “Run Lola Run” and “The Powerpuff Girls“. I fell in love with both of them as I began falling in love with my wife. We used the PPG as a common ground to show our love for one another. Buying bedding, toys, Game Boy & N64 games, and clothing… most recently we picked up the Lego Dimensions Powerpuff Girls sets.

Anytime I see people dressed in PPG Cosplay, I have to get a picture with them. It’s nice to see other folks with a love of the girls. Even our children love the Powerpuff Girls. So much so that our middle daughter hung out with the female voice actor of “Blossom” at a convention for almost the entire weekend. Cathy Cavadini was so nice. She even gave my daughter an autographed Blossom doll and a dvd box set of the show.

That was the convention that we had our PPG Movie poster autographed. I received the poster back when I worked at the movie theater. When we screened the film, there was only four of us in the auditorium. My very pregnant wife and I, and two other fans. (Our first child was born less than two weeks later). It’s probably my most coveted piece of film memorabilia.

The Powerpuff Girls has always been very significant in my life. My Mojo Jojo shirt has been one of my favorite pieces of clothing- I was wearing it when Felicia Day kicked my ass at Munchkin back in 2013. It’s still in almost pristine condition. And I wear it constantly.

A couple of years ago, I made my own PPG character. He had purple hair (just like I did at the time) and beard stubble. He just needed to be a bit taller and he would have been a perfect cartoon version of me.

In the end, I have but one simple opinion: The Powerpuff Girls are the best.

All In Good Fun

Yesterday I had a pretty great time wandering the show floor at Fan Expo Vancouver. I even got to do it with my wife- which is rare. But now that our children are older and more responsible, they were able to look after our table from time to time.

My wife and I laughed and goofed off. I was in my Obi Wan Kenobi Cosplay and decided to have some fun with it. I used my Jedi Mind tricks on a vendor and got my purchase with no tax added. Never mind that he had a sign out saying “no tax”- he played along.

Later in the afternoon, I wandered around with my daughter to find a quiet place to place some Nintendo 3DS. So I got her to take a picture of my impression of Obi Wan from the end of Episode IV. It got some really good laughs. We made the most of our Convention time while we were there.

I do find it odd that filming is everywhere in the Lower Mainland… Even though you’d think Vancouver would have a tremendous Convention, it kind of lacks a lot of celebrities. It is also rather small compared to some of the other Conventions we attend. Because it was a local con, we had to go. At the end of today, we’ll see how the sales did.

This year felt like an oversized craft fair, but still fairly fun. The price of tickets for attendees are somewhat reasonable compared to other shows. But there really needs to be a bigger draw to the show. Hopefully everyone got to enjoy their convention experience. I know those who I spoke with had fun.

Vancouver needs to set the bar higher and make it not just fun, but mind blowing.

Evil Footwear

I’m an idiot.  I thought wearing some rugged shoes would have been a good idea in Alberta. I was wrong.


Standing on my feet for the last six hours has pained me.  The concrete floor of the convention center sucks.  Luckily My wife almost always remembers to bring some foam mats to cushion below us.  This year, she brought her gel mat from her studio with us. 


I am eternally grateful that she did this. Tomorrow I am going to wear my runners instead.  Forget looking good- I need to last three more days on my feet.  I don’t want to be grumpy at my favorite convention of the year.

Perhaps when we get back to our AirBnB I will take some Advil and soak my feet.  A little me time… Maybe some scented candles? Aroma therapy? Foot rub? That last one won’t happen- who am I kidding.

Emerald City Comicon: Saturday.

Saturday.
The hardest day of nearly every con is Saturday. All of the artists and vendors know it. We power through the crowds and the overabundance of human interactions in order to have a successful day. Emerald City was no different.

We made it through. A couple of lulls in the crowds towards the end of the day allowed for an escape from our vendor table to visit fellow vendors.  The consensus seemed the same:  The traffic flow was odd.  Many of us attribute it to the fact that they have added an extra day to the show (Thursday).  So instead of a traditional three day event, it’s now four days.  This spreads out the spending from the crowds over an extra day.

My wife did fairly well for the day.  As with most Saturdays at any show- we are limited to the amount of wandering we do (besides a quick visit to see friends nearby).  There always needs to be someone at the booth watching it.  Having both of us there for the majority of the time made it difficult to enjoy the show floor.  This worked in our favor- we didn’t spend much money!


We also didn’t see much in the way of cosplay in our location.  But the cosplay we did see was quite well done.  It made me sad that I didn’t have a plan for this show.  But I have six weeks to get something together for our next show.

After the show tonight, we met up with a couple fellows from my work for dinner and beer.  It was a good way to relax- but knowing we had an early morning ahead of us, meant cutting out early.  Even though we are at the convention, it’s still a business trip for my wife.  

I can’t escape it- Sunday will be all work and no play.

Expansion

The spring convention season ended and we had one summer show this year. This fall, there are only two shows we are confirmed for. The last convention we did this spring was Calgary Expo and it’s also our favorite convention (also happens to be the first big convention we ever did; prior to this one we did smaller venues) and we don’t want to drop it from our shows. One of the hardest parts about doing the same convention repeatedly is the worry that the market will get bored with our products. The other issue is the economy and there’s not much we can do about that.  But Alberta has always given us a warm welcome and the people we have met over the years are fantastic.


Running a home business is tough at the best of times.  You can have really good sales for a couple of months, then nothing for half a year.  My wife has a fairly successful Etsy Shop and her website is getting more traffic flow lately as well.  Her online sales are the majority of her business which helps keep initial costs down.  We do however enjoy traveling to different conventions to showcase her products to more people.  Costs of doing a con is much higher, but for 3 or 4 days the sales pay for everything surrounding the convention.  From table/booth costs to hotel and travel costs.  Doing an extended weekend push is worthwhile.  Conventions drive sales to my wife’s website as well.  

Doing the regular circuit is great.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, we get a lot of returning customers and people who specifically search us down.  That’s a wonderful feeling.  It also makes us want to add more shows each year.  We have only been doing the West Coast of North America for the past few years.  After talking with other vendors and artists, we think it is time to expand further east and south.

A photo of our daughter courtesy Edmonton Expo.

But in the meantime, look for my wife and daughter at Edmonton Expo this weekend.  She will be there selling her hats and hair clips.  This Convention is run by the same people who do our favorite one in the spring, and it is guaranteed to have some amazing guests and vendors.

Don’t worry East Coast!  We are coming your way soon enough!

Adapting to the market

I love hitting Comicons.  The people are fantastic, the artists are talented, and the energy is high.  Every con we attend, I wander around checking out what merchandise is popular and what is falling off.  

Being in sales, especially if it’s your own handmade product that you’re selling, isn’t always easy.  Besides making great products that people want- there are constant changes and adaptions that need to happen in order to make money.  


This is our sixth year in the artist alley at Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.  My wife started here with her handmade fleece hats and Perler Bead art that our children helped make.  A year later my wife added Cosplay animal ears and cut back on certain styles of hats.  The third year, she dropped more hats from her display and added headbands.  Last year, she began phasing out Perler Beads. This year, she dropped the Perler Bead art completely and focused more on headbands and hair clips.  She still sells foxes, cats and dragon style hats at this convention.

The reason for dropping products come down to four major factors:

  1. The market (convention floor) is saturated with similar items.  Often if another vendor or artist sees that you are selling numerous quantities of an item, their greed kicks in and they start to steal your ideas in hopes to take a piece of that pie.  When people have stolen my wife’s ideas- often they aren’t making as nice a product, and charging much less in hopes to just make a sale.  It’s even more disappointing when the people who steal the ideas and market cheap knock offs are your “convention friends”.  We’ve begun distancing ourselves from a couple of these people in the social circle of the convention circuit.
  2. The products don’t suit the city.  We found certain colors/styles of hats are more popular than others.  For example, panda hats don’t sell in Calgary and on the flip side, Rainbow Dragons sell out in Seattle, Vancouver and San Jose.  My wife even accounts for the previous year’s sales and adjusts accordingly, but sometimes the hats are still just that popular, that she sells out.
  3. The products just aren’t selling.  This reason is pretty much a no-brainer.  If something isn’t selling, stop dragging it around thinking it will sell one day.  There could be no reason whatsoever for why it’s not selling.
  4. Even products in the artist alley can become “last year’s model”.  My kids made a bunch of Perler Bead keychains based on Minecraft back in 2012 before there was anything toy related for sale.  They sold like crazy!  But the next year, the “Chinese import” vendors flooded the market with everything Minecraft.  This year, good luck giving away anything Minecraft related to a kid.


The challenge of making money and still enjoying what you do is tough.  The economy took a slump a couple of years ago, and is slowly climbing back out.  This is both in Canada and the USA & it shows at the conventions.  I’ve been speaking with my fellow convention carnies regularly about sales.  I don’t sugarcoat how we are doing- good or bad, I tell the truth.  (When it comes to trying to be successful, knowing where your strengths and weaknesses are is extremely beneficial.)  I’ll talk about other cons and describe the hardships as well as windfalls we experienced.  Sharing and discussing the business with like-minded artists/vendors can help both parties become successful by branching out.  It also helps to learn what to expect at a new convention that you’ve never attended before.

The convention circuit is in its own way an ecosystem.  We all talk.  We all share.  We all enjoy it.  We all want to succeed.

SWAG

Swag.  Conventions are full of vendors giving away swag.  But the term has lost it’s meaning these days.  

  
The term “SWAG” originally meant “Stuff We All Get”.  It was coined a few years ago for the Hollywood elite when “Swag Bags” were given out at events and they had exclusive Louis Vuitton and Cristal Brut merchandise inside.  The term and the merchandise has trickled down to those of us who barely afford a ticket to Comicon, and have come to realize that “free” means “advertising”.  The SWAG being offered these days is a leaflet or bookmark promoting whatever the artist/vendor is selling.

  
I understand it.  Advertising is only a part when it comes to making money on any venture a person starts out on.  Working for my wife at these cons, I have seen it all.  I’ve even come home with it all.  No, I’m not coming home with a $2000 piece of jewelry in an LV satchel.  I’m talking more about free buttons, free lanyards, free bookmarks, free crap.  My kids love getting free stuff.  I’m done with it.  I walk the con floors and have to say “no” when someone wants to hand me free SWAG.

However, there are people who walk the halls of the convention floor, and stockpile whatever free stuff they can.  Even business cards.  At the end of the day, I guess the term SWAG holds true, but the value isn’t there anymore.  

Perhaps the term should be “Shit We All Grab”.

A weekend away.

It’s sort of like a weekend away…  We are out of town without the kids.  I won’t be at my regular job as a Yardmaster, but I will be working for my wife’s company.

We are at Convention number 3 of this year in less than a month.  Number 4 will be the end of April…  We are going strong and pushing our limits of confined spaces (hotel rooms and road trips).

This weekend is just my wife and I.  It’s our time together without kids, maybe taking in a pub night after the con, maybe going to sleep early without having to shush talking children.  Whatever we decide, it’s a bit of adult time.

This is what the fridge at a convention without kids looks like:

 

Is 24 beers enough for the weekend away from the kids?

 
We are in Seattle and enjoyed our first dinner at Blue C Sushi.  Amazing rolls, brought past you on a conveyor belt, and you pick what you want.  I recommend the Spam roll.  It surprised me at how delicious it was.

 

Spam Sushi from a conveyor belt. Must be high class!

 
Romance may be in the cards for the weekend, but I think we both just need a breather (even though it’s still a business trip) from our everyday routine.

 

Geek or nerd.

I’m a bit of a geek & a bit of a nerd.  I’ve grown up knowing that’s who I am.  These past few weekends have been great.  Now we are hitting the road to return to our regular lives (just for a week, then more geeky times).  Here’s some quick highlights of my adventures diving deep into dorklandia:

 

Apple Infinite Loop


 

Googleplex. I found it using Google maps.


 

Silicon Valley’s first ComiCon


 

Disneyland’s Season of the Force.

 

A tall nerd hanging out at the Nerdist.

 

Best highlight of our trip- I met the king of nerds at the end of our visit.  The magic of the Internet finally had some physical locations and real people this trip.