Yesterday I did one of those uniquely Hoosier things that should be experienced at least once in ones lifetime – I braved the Vera Bradley Outlet Sale.
Over the years I would occasionally hear about this shopping frenzy in Fort Wayne where thousands of women would descend and literally shop ‘till they dropped. When I saw a small news item that this was the week of the sale I thought I’d take a drive to see if the event lived up to the hype.
To back up, in case you are unaware of this phenomenon, “Vera Bradley is the name of a luggage design company founded by Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller in 1982. It is an American design company best known for its patterned bags. The Fort Wayne, Indiana company produces a variety of products, including quilted cotton luggage, handbags and accessories.” (Thank you Wikipedia).
The first thing I needed for this little jaunt was a ticket so I fired up the computer and found that not only did I need a $5 ticket to go on a weekday, I also needed to select the specific time slot I would attend and ‘register’ as a customer if I planned on buying anything. This is some serious shopping! So, after a number of clicks I had one ticket for the 2:30 – 5pm time slot – the morning was sold out – and a sheet with my ‘customer information.’
Friday morning arrived and it was time to hit the road! On I-69 I noticed several vehicles crowded with laughing women and was pretty sure we were all heading to the same place. Then I spotted a billboard advertising the sale – as I said, this is the big time!
After an intermission to find a couple geocaches, I headed over to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum for the big event. I arrived about 2:45 thinking I could miss the line to get in but, oh no, the line was still all the way down the side of the building, around the corner and even doubling back on itself!
Roughly 97% of the crowd was female and there were lots of groups. It was a very good-natured crowd and eventually we were at the door and, upon surrendering my ticket, I was given a large pink garbage bag and let in to the hall. Wow, talk about sensory overload!
I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was rows upon rows of tables stacked with all types of merchandise from water bottles to suitcases to comforters. After some initial disorientation I could tell there was a method to the madness, home goods were over there and wallet-type things over there and suitcase things in this area. As I didn’t actually have a shopping list, I decided the wander up and down each aisle approach made the most sense to see everything while I was in among several thousand other people doing the same thing.
Quickly it was apparent that the pink bag was for ‘loot’ as people were tossing in items willy-nilly. There were also signs on almost very wall (and many PA announcements) about ‘sorting’ and how the fire marshall doesn’t want people sitting on the floor. It seems that the preferred method of shopping is to grab everything that strikes your fancy then find an area to review and discard the unwanted items. By the time I left there were at least a half-dozen laundry rolling bins overflowing with these cast offs!
A PA announcement also let me in on the fact that the star-shaped balloons indicated tables where there were special markdowns and I saw one woman with 7 or 8 of one type of shoulder bag going for $20! While this was the exception, I’d say most of the prices were 50-60% off of retail.
It also struck me that Vera Bradley makes many more items than I had thought – aprons, coaster sets and flip flops were just a few of the unexpected things I stumbled upon.
As I wandered, I did drop a few things into my big pink bag and also dropped some things into the cast off bin though people watching alone was totally worth the price of admission. My big splurge was a large tote that I kept admiring as people carried them around the shopping floor. I decided to take the plunge but, when I got to that table they were gone! As I was standing there reconciling myself to leaving without it, a young women and her friend were standing nearby debating the merits of that very tote versus one of another pattern. Fortunately for everyone, she went with the other pattern and I got the tote I wanted!
When I heard the announcement that there was only 45 minutes left in my session I headed toward check out to beat the crowd. A big sign over the door reminded shoppers that the per-person limit for the sale is $3,500 (I later learned that this is the point of registering as a shopper) – it certainly was not a problem for me!
Check out is in a completely separate exhibit hall allowing them to clear the sales floor in preparation for the next group of shoppers! The system is flawless, they have lots of registers and people directing people so the wait was actually pretty short. Items come out of the pink bag, get rung up, and put in to a white bag. Once the shopper crosses the line between pink and white there’s no going back!
In all, from getting in line to getting back to my car it was a little over two hours – long enough but not too long.
Surprisingly, it actually was rather fun – I think going with no expectations and no shopping list was good because there was absolutely no pressure to buy anything – I could just experience the event.
For those interested, the dates for 2015 are April 8-12.
So if you’ve never been to Comic Convention but you want to talk to creators up close I can recommend the next INDYpendent Show (in December). On Sunday I was fortunate enough to table at the first INDYpendent Show, a comic show with the mission to help those people who love comics and want to create their own, but either don’t know what steps to take or need a kick in the butt to get started. I ended up the show being not only a wise sage giving advice, but also getting kicked a couple times.
I arrived as prepared as I could be (which means I forgot stuff). I came in and fumbled around setting up my banner, laying out a progression of original strips, and a print of Cecil riding Bernice (a story I need to tell). I made a quick sign that said “Prints $5″ and sat back, calm and confident… OK maybe nervous and scared is a better description. I was fortunate enough to be next to Jim McClain creator of Solution Squad, a friend and fellow teacher who has done this a few times. I started to make a list of what I forgot or needed. #1 was business cards. While I had made business cards when I first started the comic, and around year two made another batch, I had either forgotten them or ran out. Everyone who made it to my table had nothing with the website on it! doh! Next thing on the list was some way to take credit cards… While I thought having cash to make change was good enough, and for this show it wasn’t a problem, but the next one, who knows?
After setting up I helped Chris Ludden of Chris & Gin, The Brothers Grant, and Indy Webcomics Group with an educational session on “Bringing Your Character to Life” which, for the first session, was well attended. We talked about some of the basics of drawing and expressions. Chris and I agreed that we did more talking than we had intended, but when we asked the group to draw, they seemed to look like they were deer caught in the headlights.
After that I was at my table for the 5 hours. I happily sold my first print to a boy named Elliot and spoke to friends who stopped by and kids who were interested in how I created this comic. I talked about Micron pens, and non-photo blue pencils the different between regular and Verithin Prismacolors (Verithin are harder and easier to work with IMHO). Scanning as Line Art and the simplicity of Photoshop Elements for the beginner. I chatted about hand lettering and the transition to digital lettering. I just went on, and on, and on. I talked about how and why character designs changed over time. I played teacher, something I’ve been doing since at least 1983. So I was in comfort zone. Then I got my butt kicked.
As a member of the Indy Webcomics Group I get to meet up with other local creators and we encourage each other with projects offer advice and criticism when needed. Like I said I was next to Jim McClain someone who over the past year has become a close friend. Jim knew me mostly as a teacher who admires his work, not as much as a comic creator. He played the role of big brother sharing with me tips and tricks for conventions that he has picked up. ”Can I have one of your business cards?” was one of his first questions. As we talked throughout the day during breaks in the crowd he asked me having a book… I made my typical excuses about not being ready, needing more time to polish little things like story and art. A little bit later I noticed he was looking at the comic from day one. He turned to me and just stated- “Next time you’re at a convention you need to have a book. You’re more than ready.” I jokingly replied, “You aren’t the first person to tell me that.” He bluntly said, “I hope I’m the last.” He wasn’t, a kid who admired my monkey drawings asked if I had a book he could buy… doh!
I had a wonderful time, learning about how to table at a small convention and I’m really looking forward to the next INDYpendent Show, but before then I have the monster that is the Indy Pop Con and putting together a book, even a small one of Cecil’s greatest hits… wish me luck and I’ll keep you all updated as to the progress.
Years ago Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book about how when a certain number of events occur then someone goes out a tips a cow… or something like that.
I think right now I’ve reached that proverbial tipping point when it comes to My Geek Odyssey. As we start our fifth year I’m going back and looking at some things I’ve done (mostly what I haven’t done) and after a series of events am thinking about the direction we are headed.
Basically the recent events that I elude start with Watching Dear Mr. Watterson on the flight to visit family over the holidays, & then on the same trip visiting the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. From there it seems that a lot of little and not so little things have been pushing me. From the submissions for the Circle City Aerodrome art show. Having my first table at a Con (next week’s INDYpendent Show) which led to having a banner made. Watching Stripped a wonderful documentary about the history & future of comic strips. Hanging out with some wonderfully creative people in the Indy Webcomics Group and teachers passionate about the power of comics in education. All added weight and then today- the proverbial straw the broke the camel’s back- A retrospective of Bill Watterson’s work at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State.
I came in thinking I needed to change some things up and had started taking some steps in that direction (signing up for a few MOOCs on Comics, rereading some of the classics like Scott McCloud’s Making Comics). I left shattered… the whole “I am not worthy” vibe but also thinking “What can I do to become worthy?”
Last night I got to a point in Making Comics where a small card fell out of the book… it was the original card I had made up when I started this whole crazy endeavor. It was pretty simple. one side was a section of my original drawing of Tink and me, on the other was the dictionary definitions of “Geek” and “Odyssey”. As I looked at this card, I started thinking that maybe I’d strayed from my original intent… I still don’t know, but thank you Bill Watterson & the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum for giving me an idea as to what I need to do, and where I need to go.
Like I said, I left the exhibit shattered… an emotional wreck. Not something you would think could happen to someone looking at comic strips, but it happened to me. I looked at the concise storytelling, the art, the layout of the comics… all were genius.
The exhibit is divided into various sections including the original strips and pitch , something on each character along with the various reoccurring themes, the tools he used and his inspirations. I started with the original concept and moved around the room taking it all in. I know I need to return some weekend and just sit at every section and really take it all in. It’s like watching a movie and knowing that you missed a bunch of things so you have to see it again, and again.
Because of what I saw I am going to reexamine my past strips and see what I can learn and improve upon. This is going to be a long process and with the real world intruding it will take more time than I can imagine, but I will update you as to the process and how it is going. I’m not going to stop drawing, but as you have noticed my productivity has not be great recently… hopefully with this renewed vision it will improve, but that will take time.
If you are in the area for the INDYpendent Show, I’ll be there and we can chat. If you have the opportunity to visit the exhibit in Columbus, I recommend it… but if you ask me to come along, bring tissues.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to have a table at Brickworld Indy. Brickworld is a series of Lego Conventions throughout the midwest and having a table basically means I had a display. I did the same thing last year sharing the space with a friend. This year I figured I’d build bigger and better and need the entire table… I was wrong.
To start off let me explain how Brickworld works- Think of it as a juried art exhibition. Displayers are asked to contribute their work for the public to see, vendors pay for booth space, and activities are put together for the attendees. Activities include large piles of “playbrick” to build with, cooperative mosaic builds, stuff like that. Some displayers may have remote control cars for kids to operate, or robots, mostly this show is about seeing the potential in a little plastic brick. Displayers do not pay for their space (as far as I’m aware), they instead get a small percentage of the profits from the show after plugging things into a long complex formula dealing with how engaging their display is.
One of the great things is that most displays are team efforts. So IndyLUG or MichLUG get together and build a massive layout. The night before Brickworld opens they gather and put it all together. Yes, it’s mostly built, but there will always be some last minute tweaking. IndyLUG for example has a massive M-Tron layout (M-tron is a Space set from the 1990s- basically lots of red & black) along with other cooperative builds (Castle, the Lego Movie, the Great Ball Contraption, etc.).
I started with the idea of the improving the Death Star trench display I had last year having it go the length of a 96″ table. For about a week, I worked out how it would look and started with a great idea of incorporating the “Palace Cinema” into the design. Then I was asked if the Cinema could be part of “The Lego Movie” display. So it was time to redesign. Which really wasn’t that bad, I didn’t like how it was turning out.
As Friday rolls around, I’m bouncing between schools and decide on a new idea on how I want it to look. So when I get home I start tearing apart what I had, and rebuilding. Remember the show is Saturday. I bring what I have done to the Fairgrounds that evening and lay it out. Then I start to add detail- towers, guns, and ships. After a while I head home leaving things to sort out in the morning.
Saturday morning as the local news crew is going around I’m back building more and getting ready. The biggest problem- the trench. You see, it’s going the wrong way. Last year I had it cut the width of the table so everyone could see the details in the trench. By making it longer- kids were unable to see it. since it was only viewable on two sides it basically looked like a bunch of grey base plates on a table. At the last minute I took all the Minifigs I had from school put them on two base plates so the space was filled and walked away figuring I would tweak it throughout both days.
Over 19,000 people came to Brickworld Indy this year (thank you Lego Movie), and I watched as kids ran over to see what I had built… and then stare at the MiniFigs. “Look! There’s Emmet! and Lord Business!” Some people were impressed by the actual build, some AFOL (Adult Fans Of Lego) liked it but but commented on the lack of greebling (that’s the term for using small pieces to add random and excessive detail to spaceships). Star Wars fans commented on the fact the trench was too narrow.
So what did I learn from this? If I do it again I’ll work smaller, and add more detail. I have an idea on improving the build. I really do like the way the Lego Movie has a design element to it that makes thing fanciful and yet detailed. I joke that I need more bricks, but even with the tubs I currently have, I used the grey 2×4 bricks I had purchased for school to complete my build. Then again, if I just buy about a thousand more MiniFigs I could just cover a table and be done with it.
If you’d like to see some of the photos check out my Flickr photostream.
I was asked a while ago to contribute something to this show and you may have seen some of my initial attempts during the 30 Days of Drawing challenge. The artwork is due today and is finished. While I could (and probably will at some time) color it I felt the initial ink over non-photo blue pencil had a nice feel to it. Plus since I color digitally the finished work would end up looking mass produced and not original. The pieces are not for sale, since I have no idea what I should charge, and kind of feel that if I just charged for the frames, it would be silly and overpriced. The art show is being held at New Day Meadery in Fountain Square with the following events (descriptions taken from the New Day Meadery website):
IDADA First Friday: Circle City Aerodrome Friday, February 7, 6-9 PM
Circle City Aerodrome has done it again! This juried show is a collection of pieces that fit this year’s theme “Time Travel is Messy: Vonnegut in the Aerodrome”.
Stop by to see this amazing collection of works from artists and inventors from Indianapolis, and around the country. Curiosities and thrills shall be had by all!
Circle City Aerodrome Artist Reception: Friday, February 14, 6-9 PM
This is a fantastic opportunity to meet the creative minds behind the amazing juried art show presented by the Circle City Aerodrome, as part of their national convention!
This year’s gallery theme is “Time Travel is Messy: Vonnegut in the Aerodrome”, and is part of the weekend-long A Dark Victorian Romance. Not to be missed!!
As for the drawing I guess you could also call the “30 days of drawing… day 32- yes I skipped day 31″ The wrench is an antique that I felt added the certain something to the work…
As for the events.. I’m not sure if I can make either due real life work commitments, but who knows?