Five Fast Questions with the man who makes Oddmall so… odd

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Meet Oddmall founder Andy Hopp
feature image courtesy of Oddmall.info

1.) I know Oddmall is “part art fair, part craft show, part comic con, part gaming festival, part cosplay extravaganza, part toy show, part antique show, part vintage fashion show, part geeksplosion, part music fest, part magic show, and part various undefinable othernesses” but *why* is Oddmall? How did it come into being?

andy hoppOddmall’s roots probably start with a trip we took to Cleveland’s Bazaar Bizarre in 2008. This was a great show. It overflowed with incredible art and fantastic creations by some very talented artists and crafters. If you have the means I highly suggest you attend (I’m pretty sure it has evolved into Cleveland Bazaar nowadays). The place was packed, although the digs were intensely industrial (some sort of post-apocalyptic abandoned factory, but in a good way) and not very amenable to the toddler and baby we had in our party. Nevertheless, we were all very impressed by the art on display and the whole sort of general vibe of the thing.

We already had connections with various venues in the region because we’d been running Con on the Cob (cononthecob.com) for several years by that time. So, inspired by Bazaar Bizarre and just sort of on a whim, we decided to give our own art show a try. We didn’t want to simply copy a model that was already invented, though, and we didn’t want to compete with or take business from other shows, so we hosted the first Oddmall: Emporium of the Weird in May of 2009 at the Clarion hotel in Hudson. The show was very successful, with about 1500 attendees and 110 vendors. So successful was it, in fact (despite the obvious learning curve and lessons we’ve learned along the way) that we pretty much immediately decided to do another Oddmall the following November. The idea was to present the populace with a show we ourselves would want to go to, so it had to overflow with the sort of things we like. We dig strange and unusual art, so that was the primary focus (especially in the early days when our space was more restricted), but the idea from the beginning was to throw everything we love into the mix (live entertainment, games, geeky things, comics and books, toys, curiosities, tattoos, costuming and cosplay, and everything else fun, imaginative, unique, or wonderful). Also, it had to be FREE (because we decided to make the show we want to go to and we don’t want to pay, although donations are sincerely appreciated).

OddmallSidebar2) Where else has this Oddmall weirdness spread (and how)?

Currently Oddmall: Emporium of the Weird is happening every Spring at the Knight Center in Akron, twice a year at the Culture Center for the Arts in Canton (Oddmall: Expedition Elsewhere in February and Oddmall: Chrishanukwanzmadan in December), and several times a year near Seattle, Washington. My brother David runs the jazz in the Pacific Northwest. I think he is planning on shows in Tacoma, Washington and perhaps Portland, Oregon soon. We also have plans for another Ohio show this autumn (Oddmall: Hallowondrous), possibly in Columbus or Cleveland (but maybe in Akron). We’ll have details available at the Akron Oddmall April 30 and May 1. Oddmall: Emporium of the Weird (Bluegrass Edition) might also be a thing relatively soon in Lexington, Kentucky.

3) What’s your favorite Oddmall story or moment? What example exemplifies the experience?

I’m going to ask a few of the friends and peeps associated with Oddmall to help me answer this question:

Heather: I loved watching the doors open that first day at the John S Knight Center. The rush of people through our first big scale opening. I looked at them and thought, ‘How do we provide and entertain all of these thousands of people?’ The answer was obvious and keeps on going: Just keep doing what we do for the art & geek communities and they will keep coming. It’s a genuine two way experience where we care about and help grow the community and they keep coming together with us to create a unique experience every time.

Aurora (age 7): I love wandering around selling Oddmall stickers with my bandolier covered in buttons.

Jessica: My favorite is seeing people surprised by the Zombie Massage. And hearing from those that got a massage how much they loved it and hope that she’s at the next OddMall!

Iliana (age 11): My favorite Oddmall memory is when I entered the costume contest with my friends and we were all dressed as characters from Five Night’s at Freddy’s.

Kylan: I loved seeing Steve Gonsalves from “Ghost Hunters” come in and hear that he came because someone told him about how cool it was and he came to be around his people.

4) Is there anything particularly Akron or Northeast Ohio about Oddmall and Mutha Oith?

Northeast Ohio has a consistently growing and very exciting art scene. There are so many talented and creative people up here. I like to think we’re doing our part to help bring them all together (along with our friends at Crafty Mart, Wandering Aesthetics, Geek Watch One, Dr. Sketchy, Summit Art Space, SynHak, The Devil Strip, and many other artistic, geeky, and imaginative local endeavors). There’s a wonderful sense of openness and friendship among Northeast Ohio’s creative community that’s practically bereft of the stereotypical arrogance and pretension people often associate with artists and creative peeps. Oddmall is proud to support and foster an environment where openness, understanding, acceptance, encouragement, and imagination are cherished virtues.

oddmall-oct-2015_-ken-love-615) How in the world do you all juggle these events, your games, stories and artwork, and still have a robust family life?

I can only answer for myself (Andy), but I do indeed have my hands in many cookie jars. A lot of the credit for Oddmall’s continued success should be heaped upon my talented assistants Krystal and Greg. They do a lot of the grunt work so I can try to focus on the creative aspects of the job (writing, illustration, game design, and such). Both Oddmall and Con on the Cob have an extremely helpful base of volunteers and friends who help us give the illusion that things run smoothly. We are extremely grateful for the help we get from our friends in the community and in the local media.
Of course none of this would be worth doing if it infringed upon family life. My wife Heather and my daughters Iliana and Aurora are the beans in my chili. Wait, that was a dumb metaphor. They are the vowels in my alphabet soup. That was a little better. The raisins in my bran? Anyway, they’re awesome, which is why I try to keep work hours as regular as possible and involve them in every aspect of the jazz.

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