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The Shaw Art Fair (SF)—Last weekend in St. Louis

Well, I was halfway thru this blog and it disappeared into the eternal ether.

So here we go again.

The things I do for you guys.

Be nice to me and read this review and then, actually comment about it.

It is my birthday in two more weeks so be kind and read and respond.

This is a great little show in a very historic neighborhood. And, it is a moneymaker for most.

SF is held in the Shaw district slightly south and west of downtown.

Henry Shaw founded the Missouri Historic Botanical Gardens here.  And the show is held right beside it on two blocks of tree lined Flora Street. The gardens are considered the top ones in all of America.  So old Henry had his shit together and figured out a way for people to remember him forever.  Pretty crafty.  I would have loved to drink Manhattens with Henry and cull his mind.  He was a true visionary.

OK, back to the show.

As I said before it got lost in the ether, this show has a lot of parallels to St. James Court.

In fact the woman who founded SF forty years ago was originally from Louisville.

When she moved to St. Louis, she wanted to mimic the SJ show and make the Shaw just like it.

Both are held in old historic neighborhoods.  Both are run by associations who use the money produced from the show to make neighborhood improvements.

The Shaw is a far better show to do.

Here is why.

One. It is two days rather than three days to do.  Yet, I made just as much money in two and had a great time.  Later I will tell you about The Rooster, Thurman’s and Sasha’s.

Two.  It is cheaper to do.

Three.  It is a smaller show, only about 140 exhibitors.

Contrast that with SJ which has almost a thousand booths between their five shows and associated scab shows.  The one big problem with SJ is too many exhibitors for too few customers.  Fine artists have a tough time making a living here.

Four.  It is a far mellower setup and teardown than SJ.

OK, to balance it out.  Here is the only downside to the Shaw.

Weather can ruin it, especially rain.

This year, around 2pm a storm hit us out of the blue.

No soft beginning with floating drops hitting the canopy.

This storm rained down two inches of windy, hard-driven rain in less than twenty minutes.

After that, the crowd disappeared.  I made about $100 in sales til close of show at 5pm.

A photographer near me said, do not worry this is a Sunday show.

Guess what?  He was right, thank God.

OK Nels, enough with the yada yada.  Gives us some meat, facts.

Thought you would never ask.

How I did, and made money at the Shaw Art Fair.

First off, I forgot this.

The SF can put artists up in the neighborhood homes for free.  No hotel bill, what a concept.

I took advantage of it.  Arrived Thursday nite after a six hour drive from Saugatuck listening to Tom Petty on Sirius while going 80 mph.  “She went down swinging.”

Arrived at this 125 year old house with my room at the top three stories high.

I tried to time it so I showed up when they got home from work, about 7pm.

Being anal, I got there at 4pm, damn you Tom Petty.

So I consulted Google maps and found two cool bars and restaurants to hang out at.

OK, now we are into a Kill Bill moment, but no bloodshed, just lots of shots.

How I found Thurman’s and blundered into Sasha’s.

Thurmans was three blocks from the house I was staying at.

Luckily, they just opened at four.

This is a full on bar. Liquor, wine and craft beer.  They also do California food truck kind of food.  Think chicken, pork or fish tacos— for $3.50 each.

I had a well earned Eligha Craig Manhatten, chilled up in a martini glass.  Followed up with a shrimp taco and then a chicken one.  I bought a bottle of Spanish Temponillo wine for half price, which I was taking to my host’s home.  They were doing vegan chilling.  They loved the wine.

OK. How I found Sasha’s.

I realized while I was having fun at Thurman’s I still had an hour to kill before I showed up at my guest’s house.

My neighbor at the bar, JD was his name, said I should try Sasha’s.  It was five blocks down Thurman Avenue from Thurman’s, the bar.

Hope I did not lose you there.

Thurmuns, the bar, was also on Thurman Avenue.  Sashas was just down from Thurmuns about four or five blocks a way,

Heck, after a good Manhatten and a few tacos, what’s another block.

Sashas was very chic. Marble bar tops, music loud, a young tattooed crowd. Everybody drinking and talking at the top of their lungs.

My kind of place—sometimes.

They had a great wine list, I had one, wine, not the whole list.

They had lots of tapas dishes, think cheese trays,olives, cured meats and pizza.

Eventually, I ended up eating here every night.

OK, I got home safely, ate vegan chilli qand drank some wine.

I slept very well that nite.

Geez, Nels, when are we going to hear about this show.

Thought you would never ask.

So Friday, we could check in at 1pm and setup, take The whole day if you wanted to.

I ate breakfest at the Rooster, on Grand Blvd, just blocks from the show. They were awesome, think omelets, crepes, tomato jam and sriracha.

So It was about 10am and I was  ansty.

 So I went to the show and spocked out my site, booth 45.

Hell, I parked right there, we setup on grass.  Position A.  I pulled out my chair and sat under a shady tree.  Figured I could do a few hours of Candy Crush til registration time.

Then I noticed the next block down, a guy was unloading and setting up.

It was  Bill Lemke, who I know well.

He said, it is a mellow committee, you can setup, no problem.

So I did.

Was done by 2pm.  It was hot, high eighties,  But we had big shade trees.

Also, there were tons of room behind the booth.  Also had room on both sides to hang.

Friday nite, I ate at Sasha’s, the pesto pizza, was awesome.  Made it to Thurmuns and listened to great live jazz.

Saturday. Show started at 9am, ended at 5pm.

The Show has plenty of heavyweight exhibitors there.  Saw Darron Olsen, Ronnie Phillips, Sara and Marc Aune, Miki and Reicko, even saw Nels Johnson.

Crowd was slow coming. Never got busy til about noon.

Most people were walking with their dogs, not really looking at the art.

I mostly sold precious little pieces of paper.

Around 2pm the storm hit us fast.

The crowd never really returned.

I was not very happy, so I went to Sasha’s.

They put on a free artist dinner at a nearby restaurant. So I spent one hour at Sashas

and ambled over to the dinner.

They had great tapas chased down with free wine and beer.

Everybody was happy.

Sunday dawned with heavy fog. Went to Roosters, got a NY Times at Starbucks and got my van into Position A, ready for teardown.

 Crowd  never showed up til about noon.  Now I noticed more people carrying art in bags, a big difference from Saturday.

By 2pm, I was still sitting with a very low sales figure.

Then things started popping.  Bam, bam, thank you mam, I doubled my total sales in one hour. An hour later, I doubled it.

My neighbors were raking it in too.

Half hour from closing, a woman, who had been in three times before, walked in and bought my biggest one of a kind piece.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Trust me this is a great show to do—if the weather does not get you.

Well, I think I have said a mouthful.

Aloha, Nels.

Views: 744

Comment by Nels johnson on October 9, 2018 at 5:47pm

Had a bunch of typos but went in and edited.

Comment by Hal Moran on October 9, 2018 at 7:17pm

Appreciate the review and colorful narrative. Just one minor correction. Shaw is located in the southwest section of STL not northwest. You wouldn't want to do a show in northwest STL.

Comment by Nels johnson on October 9, 2018 at 10:07pm

Thanks Hall

Comment by Layl McDill on October 10, 2018 at 10:27am
Nels it was great to finally meet you and sit next to you at the artist dinner! Very fun to hear you tell stories of your first shows to the newbie at the table! Glad to hear Sunday was a big day for you. The show came out awesome for me too. This show hits the mark in so many ways! Thanks for the great review!
Comment by Kris Tracy on October 10, 2018 at 11:06am

Glad you had a good experience despite that awful rain! I was there, scoping out the show. I am glad to know that the Sunday sales boom happened because I noted that Saturday was a low crowd, no shopping bag kind of day. Your review has made me rethink my decision about pursuing this show. I'm new, so it is highly unlikely that I will be invited next year, but I am learning that resilience, and optimism are hallmarks of a successful art fair exhibitor.

Comment by Nels johnson on October 10, 2018 at 2:01pm

Kris, you are very wise little grassshopper.

Comment by Connie Mettler on October 10, 2018 at 9:40pm

After all these years finally a review of the Shaw. Glad it worked well for you. I live those shows where they find you lodging. Shows they care and theocommunutcares too, plus bring the new kid in town you make friends who may show up at your booth and bring their friends along too.

Not that much farther a drive for you either, maybe an extra hour? Two days always better than three. For you probably means an extra day on the golf course. I know you were busy at Thurman’s and Sasha’s, but any chance you visited the Gardens? So wonderful. Norm and I spent a day there with Bill Coleman when we were doing Laumeier. This sounds like a dream show.. hospitality, easy set up and sales on top of it.

What’s next?

Comment by Rosie Wilhelm on October 11, 2018 at 9:11am

Great Review!  Thank you so much!


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