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Main Street Fort Worth--Absolute killer show for most of us

Putting it succinctly, I made more sales at this show than all the previous eleven shows I have done since January.
In my 42 years of doing art shows this was the second best one, only the 1999 Kansas City Plaza was better.
I was not alone. I talked to four other artists who said this was their best show ever.
Almost two thousand artists apply for about 160 spots. Many are called, few are chosen.
My wife, Ellen Marshall, got in and was selected as the poster artist and tee shirt too.
She got her $600 booth fee refunded but she had to sign 300 posters that they sold at the show.
I initially made the waitlist. This year there was no ranking, it was director's choice, that being Jay Downey.
About two months ago I was called off the waitlist. We both celebrated cause we were going to Texas to make some serious moola.
This was my sixth time doing the show and it has always been a killer for me, better than Saint Louis or the Plaza.
Two years ago, I was number one on the waitlist and Ellen was in. I took a chance and showed up there with her. On the morn of setup someone cancelled and I was in. I made pretty serious moola, but this year was way better.

Gee Nels that is all very nice, but jeez are you ever going to tell us about the show?
Thought you would never ask.

Some meat about the show.
It runs down six blocks on Main Street plus a number of artists set up their booths on Sundance Square.
Booths on Main Street are under big tents that hold 10 booths with five facing one way and the other five facing opposite.
There is literally not an inch behind to store anything. They supply electricity and a covered open tent. Most exhibitors set up their booths, complete with roof and zippered side curtains.
People on the square setup their booths with about two feet behind for storage. Competition for booths on the square is intense.
The show runs four days, starting on Thursday. Hours are 10 am to a minemum of 8 pm,except Sunday when it is 10-6pm. Some artists stay open later than 8pm, especially on weekends.
The show does a nice artist breakfest Friday morn when awards are given. All award winners are in the next year. They have a great artist snack/refreshment area on the second floor of the Marriot Hotel which is almost dead center in the show.
Artists get the best name tag badges in the whole circuit. They are colorfully inscribed with your first name and your hometown. A rear magnet holds it to your clothing.
There is serious wealth in the FW area, oil and gas money. They love their show. It is the only serious one in the area all year. Over 400,000 people come every year and there is no gate charge. Earth to Houston, can you hear me!
With a crowd like that, if just a small percentage buy, it amounts to a hell of a lot of money. Most artists easily make $5K-$8K here.
As always, there are a few who do not do well here. Their work does not resonate. They are a small number.
The show is notoriously known for its high winds that bounce off the tall buildings and spill into tents. Pieces can go flying. People with corner booths, especially on the street intersections, can see a lot of serious wins shake. Also temps can fluctuate from very hot to very cold. Almost every year it will rain at least one day.
That said, everybody wants to be in FW.
This year we lucked out with very fortunate weather and the crowds on Sunday were some of the largest ever.
Since I keep track of numbers sold by image for this show, I was well stocked. I curtailed my golf playing about 12 days before the show. I cranked daily, my Epsons were sizzling hot, drinking up ink cartridges like they were frozen margaritas. I use an Epson P800 which prints up to 17x22 and also a smaller Epson that does up to 13x19. I sent out for larger work.
I still cut all my own mats. I use an ancient Altos Ezy Matcutter. I cut all my own blanks from 32x40 mat board. I frame under glass. I know, I am old school but I like doing it that way. But hey, I have been making a living at it a long time, I have seen many fall by the side and I am still standing.
For this show I went with over 400 matted and framed pieces. I sold over 325 of them.
From our Ybor house it is a 24 hour drive.
We drove 12 hours to Baton Rouge on Monday. Tuesday we drove eight hours more to FW. Ellen had a Tuesday nite booth setup.
We stayed at the Marriot where the artists got a great rate of $119 per nite plus tax. Also we were able to park our vans there. Our booths were one short block away from the hotel.
I helped Ellen setup her booth, we ate at the Thai Restaurant near the hotel. Yummy food and reasonable prices. Wed I set up promptly at 7 am, we had the whole day to get our booths in order.
Thursday we had perfect weather and good sales during the lunch hour, the afternoon was slow, then after 6pm the crowds showed up and started buying. If you do $2K on opening day you are doing ok. I did a little better.
Usually Friday nite is the start of big sales at this show. This year it was a little off, it was more low end sales and the crowds were smaller than Thursday. I saw lots of small packages go by all day. I did about the same as opening day.
We were warned there would be a fron come thru late Friday nite, winds, hail and rain. We were spared. Twenty miles north and east of us they got some hail as large as tennis balls.
Saturday morning it was fricking chilly in the 50's. Glad I had a warm vest. Also it was windy, up to 20 mph gusts.
The crowds came and came, and came.
I sold, and sold, and then I got really busy.
When it is like this, it is better than any cocaine high. I had four people trying to give me money all at once. Had one woman say, "Can I take the two frames off the front?" Meanwhile two other people were reaching for them.
I sold five prints to one guy, a large frame right behind it and then two more 16x20 frames. In thirty minutes I made $2500 in sales. I ended up having an eight thousand dollar day. What a rush.
Sunday the weather was perfect.
I had to put little signs on four of my images saying these were the last one, and that I would ship them one, with me paying the shipping.
I figured I would not do very well. Boy, was I wrong.
I sold out of seven other images. I had brought 26, 16x20 framed images, priced at $150, to the show, I sold 24 of them.
I had an almost record day like Saturday.
Ellen, had the artist poster curse at first. But by Sunday night she was a very happy camper. She went home with a lot of moola.
Like I said, I was not the only one that sold like that. When I passed photographer Russell Grace, he was pleasantly wiped out, he nearly sold every framed image he had hung. That boy was going home in a very light van.
Shows like this do not come along very often. But, I will be able to savor the pleasure and intensity that comes to you when people really resonate with your art.
It is every artist dream to have a show like this. For most of us it will always be the dream. For me, it has happened twice in my career. I feel truly blessed.
I will do a separate Tequila Report tomorrow.
Next up for me is Artisphere in Greenville,SC. This is another biggie. I am playing golf tomorrow, then I gotta start smoking up those Epsons again.
I hope you will not think I am bragging, my intent was to let you know and feel how it is when an artist is really recognized and rewarded for their good work. I wish everybody out there could experience this at least one time. You could die happy, knowing you were rewarded for your talent.
Amen, and aloha.

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Comment by Roxy Lentz on May 3, 2017 at 11:29am

People have said I should do a show in Texas, I met some people from Ft Worth, and they said that, but I never know if people are just saying things. This is encouraging though, I am so sick to death of people saying they love my jewelry, but, alas, they have no money!

Comment by Barry Bernstein on May 2, 2017 at 6:55pm

I just walked in the door from my 2 shows, the amazing Main Street Ft Worth and the torturefest in Oklahoma City. This was my first Ft Worth and I hope I'm in for the next 5 years. It was my best show in 15 years. For many, it was their best show ever. It reminded me of the shows in the 1980's and 1990's with good sales all 4 days. For me, it started out slow. My Saturday equaled Thursday and Friday. My Sunday equaled Thursday, Friday, and Saturday's totals. It reminded me of Ann Arbor and Coconut Grove when they were the top shows.

If you are looking for ego strokes, this is the show to do. Everyone was friendly and extremely complimentary. If I ever stop doing art fairs, I can make a killing taking pictures with everyone. $5 for a picture of you and Albert Einstein.

I'm exhausted. I may tell my story in a few days when I get some rest. I almost didn't make the trip. I almost had to cancel because my van wasn't running and two days before I had to leave for Texas, I had no finished pieces. I literally crammed 4 days of firing pots into 2. I did 2 days of sunup to sundown driving to get there. It was well worth the effort.

Comment by Nels Johnson on April 28, 2017 at 9:26pm
It is now posted, drink up
Comment by Nels Johnson on April 28, 2017 at 3:20pm
It's coming in about one hour.
Comment by Tammie T Everly on April 28, 2017 at 12:02pm

I feel like in this day and age even 'good' art shows can be a Vegas poker game, thanks for showing that a royal flush is still possible! Now awaiting the food & beverage review...  :-)

Comment by Connie Mettler on April 28, 2017 at 10:43am

Love it, love it! Earlier this week I heard similar raves about the 4 Bridges show in Chattanooga. This is why people stay in the business. This is why we pay those jury fees and high booth fees and drive 500 miles just for the chance. It is a lot like gambling, stay close to home choose your shows by the price tag for the booth and who wins? Travel farther, incur high overhead and with fingers crossed it pays off. Through thick and thin times you've got to be a gambler. 

Better at one show than at the previous 11! Way to go, Nels. I'd love to see that poster image that Ellen did. Do you have a contact who could send it to me so I can post it here? 

On to Artisphere, not as huge, but just as fine. You are one lucky boy and the drive to S. Carolina in the Spring time is very sweet, through the Smokies and into this fine city that supports the arts. Good luck in Greenville.

"Can I take two frames off the front?" were sweeter words ever spoken?

Comment by Barrie Lynn Bryant on April 28, 2017 at 9:55am

Great news, Moe Pho. Congratulations to you both! No need to tour juke joints on the way home after this one. WOOHOO!

Comment by Larry Sohn on April 28, 2017 at 9:49am

Never received it. I just checked again. Perhaps it went to another Larry?

Comment by FaithAnn Givings on April 28, 2017 at 9:42am

Your retelling made this relative newby's day. Thanks, Nels!

Comment by Nels Johnson on April 28, 2017 at 9:09am
Replied back to you, Larry

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