Y'all. I'm stoked. I've been preparing, packing and gettin' all kinds of ramped up for weeks. This will be something like my fifth convention and I've learned a coupla things along the way. I thought I'd share them with you in this here Top Ten Things You Need to Survive NAEA 2016!
So let's hit it!
1. Comfortable Kicks, y'all
Lookie here, kids. I'm a girl who loves her shoes. And I can usually spend a good 8 hours in a pair of heels. However, I learned real fast when making the two block hike from my hotel to the convention center in NOLA last year, that such shoes weren't made for walkin'. Thankfully the convention center was next to a mall that provided me with the most fashion-less and flattest of flats known to man. My feets were happy. My sense of fashion cried itself to sleep at night. C'est la vie, baby.
This year, I'm all sorts of prepared. Chicago in March is a total crap shoot when it comes to weather. One thing is for certain: I'll be walking a lot and my feet will prolly be a lovely cocktail of cold, wet and/or tired. For that reason, I decided to invest in a comfy lil lace up boot and a flat stacked-heel golden sneaker (yes, this qualifies as legit comfy shoes in my book). I've spent the last week or so breaking in these bad boys and I do believe they are NAEA ready.
Trust me on this folks: Get you some comfy footwear (more on the pencil shoes here).
2. Ditch the Shoulder Bag, Use a Pull-Behind
You guyzz. Last year I scooped up the cutest pencil-shaving themed bag from ebay-ville and thought it'd be the perfect thing to schlep around all my stuff. What I didn't realize was just HOW much stuff I'd have to schlep: snacks, water, laptop, wallet, vendors freebies, you get the idea. Throw in that 20 lbs. NAEA catalog and I thought I was gonna need a shoulder replacement by the end of the first day! (Love this Britto-inspired one!)
I noticed that several NAEA veterans were using a wide variety of pull-behind wheelie bag things. From those plastic fold-out carts to the backpack on wheels, these peeps were zipping around the convention without a shoulder/neck/back pain on their minds. Take it from me: get you some wheels. If you love this one, check it here.
3. A Coffee Mug/Water Bottle/Flask
When I don't drink enough water, I get a headache. When I don't drink enough coffee, I get a headache. When I have a flask, all is right with the world.
I've found that for some wild and wacky reason, getting hydrated at conferences isn't always the easiest of tasks. For that reason, might I recommend BYODD (Bring Your Own Drankie-Drink). It don't matter what it is, you know we art teacher's aren't here to judge. Just make sure you are armed with your go-juice of choice. My fave travel mug is this one by former art teacher turned full time artist My Friend Court!
4. A Miniature Drugstore
I'm married to a boy scout. Which means I'm married to a man that is ALWAYS prepared. I can't find my a## with both hands but that man can tell me exactly where he keeps his altoids, Advil and Aveeno. Sadly, he won't be coming with me to the convention which means I need to (wo)man-up and create my own pocket-sized drugstore. Might I recommend y'all do the same.
Here's a short list:
* gum or breath mints (enough to share, it's nice to make friends)
* headache meds (for when the coffee fades)
* hand sanitizer (like, ew. What did I just touch?)
* hand lotion (like, ew. Why are my hands so scratchy?)
* tissue (for that tear-jerker session!)
* dental floss (cuz you got some spinach riiiiiiiight there)
* GLITTER PILLZ (get you some here)
5. Cash, not Credit
If you're like me, you're all about the plastic. However, being in a big city like Chicago, plastic isn't always your friend. Cash is fast, everyone takes it and there's not a chance that someone is gonna swipe your identity. Loading up on singles is always a good idea so that you can tip (or tuck a buck, I'm not one to judge) easily.
I'm, like, always cold. Except for when I'm hot. And then I'm REALLY hot. Between the Windy City weather and nervous sweats from presenting, my internal thermamertor is completely whack-a-do. Which is why you'll usually find me swaddled in layers. From a sweater to a scarf to jacket layered by another jacket, I almost always look like a colorful art teacherin' onion. And, if you've got that handy dandy pull-behind on hand, you can just keep your rolling closet with you! You can see more of my splatter paint coat here.
7. Un-Business Cards
Business cards are a necessity but they're also a dime a dozen. Because you'll be running from one session, museum, dive bar and tourist trap to another, you'll need a quick and easy way to exchange info with new found art teacherin' friends. But let's be honest: unless that buznatch card is something out of the ordinary, it's gonna hit the bottom of your handbag and more than likely be forgotten. So that doesn't happen to you, might I suggest create a lil un-business card?
Instead of the normal sized shape and size of a card, why not go bigger? This will allow you to showcase more images of whatever it is that makes you unique: your blog, your students work, your art. A nice photo of yourself is also a good addition. I'm terrible with names but I don't usually forget a face. I think most folks are the same.
If you are in a pinch, why not create your own card? Use a die cut machine, stamps, collage, ribbon to create a mini-masterpiece. If you someone something you've made, they are likely to save, cherish and remember who it came from. So clear that dining room table, set up an assembly line and get to un-business card making!
8. Cheapo Camera and Sketchbook
Leave that big and expensive camera at home! It will just cause you neck/shoulder pain and stress (cuz if you're anything like me, you'll be uttering the words "where did I put me camera?!" all too often). I always carry my lightweight and dinged up cheapo point and shoot. I wear the lil strap like a bracelet around my wrist and use it like a mad woman. I prefer it over my phone because it doesn't wear the battery down. (Camera fabric found here!)
A pocket sized sketchbook is also a must. I get a new and shiny one for NAEA every year. I've got a lil collection of NAEA sketchbooks with business cards, notes, thoughts and drawings. I have the habit of uploading photos and forgetting about them...but I always go back and flip through my sketchbooks.
When I get hungry, things can go downhill real fast if I don't refuel. Finding fast, healthy and inexpensive snackage at the convention is a near impossibility. That's why I always have on me Lara bars (a healthy alternative to PowerBars), nuts, dried fruit and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Trust me, nothing is worse than a growling belly in the middle of a session. I speak from experience.
10. Patience and Positivity
Okay, here's the truth: you might not make it to that session you had your heart set on because of people traffic, shuttle lines, accidental detours (searching for a restroom without a mile long line will take longer than you'd ever imagine) and conversations with long lost/new found friends. Just breathe, y'all. Enjoy the moment. Slap a smile on your face and know that you are with your people. Those that do what you do everyday: have fun teaching and creating with young artists. Be in the moment with these peeps as the convention will go by in a blink! (and if you missed the emoji dress, it's here).
See y'all real soon!