We got to know some of our fellow Dealers Room Denizens at the sf conventions we attended in 2023. They are an eclectic, creative lot. Ever since our season ended I’ve been meaning to write a post that mentions some of our favorites, but it just never came right.
However, now I realize that the start of December is the perfect time for such a post. All of the small creative businesses I list here have websites, sell online, and ship to customers. Every single one of them has very cool, fun, interesting things to offer. And of course cool, fun, interesting things make great gifts.
So, yes, in this post I am shamelessly shilling for some friends. But if you do happen to be looking for cool, fun, interesting gifts, I bet some of the Dealers Room Denizens in this post might have just what you need.
Dealers Room Denizens of Taste
Most food products are an iffy proposition in a dealers room. There are lots of rules, and they can’t compete with the onsite food venders. But that doesn’t mean Dealers Room Denizens can’t sell tea. Many kinds of candies are on the “okay to sell” list, as well. And because this first category is also the smallest, I decided to expand it by adding makers of vessels to hold or serve, or implements to prepare, food, drink, or ingredients.
My aim in this post is only to include Dealers Room Denizens from whom you can buy things online – but I immediately ran into a problem. My son has been cherishing his stash of “Space Cadets Candies” (specifically the freeze-dried Skittles) since Archon. I was all set to recommend them, but they don’t seem to be available online (there goes my promise!). They were such a hit, I wanted to recommend them anyway (they travel to a number of regional shows. Check their Facebook page if you live near the St. Louis /Mount Auburn, IL area). All the rest of these really are available – I checked!
Buy the Tea, while Pottering Around
My personal favorite tea emporium, Dryad Tea (and sister business Dryad Pottery) has a robust website. Get your toes wet with their Sample and Gift Sets, or dive right in and Shop Tea. This being an sf-convention-related business, they also carry dice-themed and tabletop role-playing game-themed trivets, infusers, dice sets, notebooks, and more on their “TTRPG” tab.
Another great resource for tea is Casting Whimsy. They, too, cater to gamers (click the “Tea & D” tab).And check out their Shop, replete with teas, accessories, themed gift sets and – if you’re in the Woodstock, IL, area – “Afternoon Tea” events each month.
And oh, my. If you want pottery, Rubiee Talynn Hayes’s Dryad Pottery has competition from fellow Convention Artists Guild member and the Grand Master of them All, Peri Charlifu. See his Aegean Goods website. He’s possibly even more reachable via his Aegean Goods Facebook Page. No click-to-buy with Peri, but he does take a few commissions.
All Those Creative Products!
One place that many Dealers Room Denizens shine for sf and fantasy lovers is their vast array of toys, games, and genre-specific garments and trinkets. We walk into a dealers room, and it’s a little bit like Christmas, no matter what month it is. So what could be better, in the actual lead-up to Christmas, than reminders about a range of well-crafted fannish gifts?
If the previous category was small, this one is ginormous. I’ve tried to whittle them down some by categories, but there are a lot of overlaps. First, it’s a small step away from tea to aromatic herbs used for soaps, herbal essences, and similar products – again with ample tie-ins to many fans’ favorite games.
Swords & Soapery has you covered, there! Their tagline is “Epic Scent-craft for the fantasy escapist,” with collections of candles body care, fragrances and gifts, themed for “World of Warcraft,” “Elder Scrolls/Skyrim,” and “Stormlight Archives,” plus book recommendations and other things.
Dealers Room Denizen Games
We’ve discussed accessories for games, but how about some actual games? Dealers Room Denizens are there for you. Try Ashelon Publishing, featuring fantasy oracle cards, developed and marvelously illustrated by Weird Sisters’ frequent favorite illustrator, Chaz Kemp. And take a look at the jigsaw puzzles by another Weird Sisters favorite, Lucy A. Synk.
You might also try the Jack the Ripper Card Game from Crypt Monkey Games. They also offer Mugs, lots of 3D Resin Printed Minis, “Mystery Crates,” and more, including “Monster of the Month” and “Dragon of the Month” subscriptions. Who doesn’t need one of those?
If you’re interested in custom handmade action figures, toys, and sets, try Top Tier Figures. Their website wasn’t working well when I checked it before writing this, but they have some rather cool offerings if you can get access to see them. Another interesting shop with game-related items among their vast range of offerings is Kreative Menagerie.
Creative Denizens of Many Types
Dealers Room Denizens are creative and resourceful. They come up with some amazing things that are completely their own thing. Take the Whimsical Whiskers of Brenna Deutchman – stuffed fantasy animals in a rainbow of colors and a variety of sizes, for kids and kids-at-heart.
Practical artwork takes a different turn with hand-crafted pens. I found two wonderful pen-makers at this year’s conventions. For Fantasy Artwork Dragon Pens (Also other designs) Check Turtle Cove Imaginings’ Etsy page. Take a look at D. Jensen’s fantasy art, too. For gorgeous wooden, or resin-filled wooden pen bodies and more, explore the Mazurka Pens website. How could you not write better if you’re wielding one of those!
So Many Tees, So Little Time – And More!
You want T-Shirts (and few fans don’t)? The Granddaddy of All Fannish T-Shirt Dealers has to be OffWorld Designs. Cultivated for decades by Raymond and Barbara VanTilburg as a screen-printed T-shirt shop, they’ve recently passed the business to younger hands. They also updated their production to “direct to garment printing” that is more responsive to shifting trends. Bonus: Old favorites that went out of print are available once again!
Two young women I met at Archon, Jennifer Stolzer and Jessica Mathews, are “the whole package,” writers, artists, and more. They also have developed lines of T-shirts and other printed goods with their designs on them. Jen’s Dogs Gifts and Custom Designs offers a whole range of “pet breed themed” shirts and gifts (she’s also an author and illustrator). Jessica Matthews Books offers bags, scarves, stickers, backpacks, T-shirts, pins, and much, much more. In the rest of her busy, busy life, she’s an author, podcaster, and artist.
One last addition to the “clothing category” must be MacCamie Studios, who “make and sell clothing that fits everyone. Clothing that is inspired by our love of history and fantasy, but wearable today.” Shop their sometimes-hand-dyed, all-handmade chemisettes, cloaks, corsets, and skirts. When they say their clothing fits everyone, they mean it. They even set up a portable fitting room in their SoonerCon31 display so customers could get a just-perfect custom size.
From Teas to Tees Doesn’t Span the Breadth
This post could only share a few of the wonderful Dealers Room Denizens we found at the four shows we attended in 2023. I’ve left broad categories unexplored. These posts can only be so long, so I’ve tried to cherry-pick some personal favorites who actually have websites from which you can buy things.
But I hope maybe I’ve offered you some resources! I’m happy if I’ve provided some new ideas for the stockings on your list to stuff. Maybe I’ve opened the door to a range of just-right items that might satisfy one of the favorite fen on your holiday gift list. If so, we all win!
And next year, perhaps you could practice a little proactivity at a local sf convention (they’re everywhere – and often. Here’s one of several lists you could begin from). Many conventions offer low-cost one-day passes or even free admission to the Art Show and Dealers Room only. Perhaps you could uncover even more wonderful Dealers Room Denizens on your own!
About the Author
Jan S. Gephardt (pronouns: she/her) is a science fiction novelist, fantasy artist, publisher, and longtime science fiction fan from Kansas City. She, her husband Pascal, and their son Tyrell did a
“summer tour” of four science fiction conventions in 2023 to test the idea of a Weird Sisters and Friends Dealers Table.
This post is one of several she has written about her “sf con” experiences in 2023. Read her thoughts on DemiCon 34, a two-parter about ConQuesT 54, a summative post on SoonerCon 31, and reflections after Archon 46.
Most of the sources for photos in the montages above are mentioned and linked inline in this post. Follow the website links embedded where I mentioned them, or go to their Facebook pages, and you’ll find nearly all of the screen-captured or downloaded photos, with very few exceptions. Those would be a few photos Jan took herself (including the Ziggy’s West table at SoonerCon, with Tom Ulrick mugging for the camera), and the Archon 36 Dealers Room panorama taken by her son Tyrell E. Gephardt.