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St. James Court Art Show--yeah it is the original, but it's age is showing

Well, I am sitting in a kickass sushi restaurant in Austin, Texas enroute to Houston on Friday for the Bayou show. Shot pics in Clarksdale, Mississippi (Blues flavored city, think juke joints). Shot in Helena, Arkansas, Tuesday before King Biscuit Blues Festival starts, spent that night in Texarkana, just a pit stop there is nothing here to get excited about.
Which gets me back to here.
St. James, a legend in their own minds, now in its 60th year, is a fading maiden, long past her beautiful power years, still shouting out the siren call, luring the newbies in, as long as they can still fool them, they will endure. Frankly folks they are not worth their almost $600 booth fee.

So a little history about this show. Let us call it foreplay. I have done this show 21 years.
So, once upon a time in Anerica I met my darling wife, Ellen Marshall, here, 19 years ago.
Back then you could just show up anytime and start setting up, no waiting in two-hour-long lines.
Me and fellow photographer Jack Stoddard had traded friendly insults and copious shots of Cuervo while we set up. Mind you, I was still very clear-sighted.
So, around 5 pm I had finished my setup and I spotted this gorgeous apparition bathed in sun lite.
The sun rays bathed her in heavenly light, her ample figure was so vivid. I was smitten. I walked up to her and said, "You know, a man could fall in love with a woman like you."
She looked at me and cocked her eye, she probably felt like I was feeling my oats a wee bit too much. But I guess I intrigued her. I asked her out to dinner at a jazz club. My best bud Jim Wilbat served as a yenta. The rest is history. She is my wife, still a beautiful babe, the best blue eyes ever, and she is a phenomonel artist.

Oh well, a little history never hurts anyone.
OK Nels, how was the show?
Thought you would never ask.
This is a tough long, expensive show to do, it is not for everybody in spite of their lofty reputation.
For almost a $600 booth fee, single space, I would expect more. Hell, I did better in Kalamazoo, Michigan than here.
If you go to my past blogs you can find ample blogs about this show that give you the meat about this show. I am not going to repeat them now.
First off, you are looking at a minemum of $1000 in expenses to do this show. You are going to be there five days for a three day show. You are staying at one of the most expensive convention center towns in America, there are no cheap deals here. Sure, you want to sleep in your van and eat cheap boring food you can get by here. But why would you do that?
Most years, in the last 20, we have had cool, crisp fall weather. Lately, this show has been plagued by rains. This year, most of Friday was a wash out because of the weather. Slim crowds and slim buying. If you made $800 on Friday you were one of the lucky ones.
Saturday started off cool, a few raindrops but by noon it was clear sailing.
Most of the crowd walks done the middle of the street, sucking on their $9 bloody Mary's without even looking into the booths.
Mostly, low end sales were being made. Every once in a while I would see a big piece go by. Ellen sold a big cow, for a big price to a Canadian couple. She was one of the lucky ones.
There are five shows going on here. Much like Ann Arbor. Too many good artists for two few buyers.
If you have a good mailing list for Louisville it might help.
If you have low end repeatable items it will work, think under $40.
This is a very traditional, conservative audience. They do not easily embrace the new, like buying it. Compliments are plenty but they do not pay your rent.
Sunday was the best weather day but it did not produce the best sales for most of us.
I did better than last year, but it not take much to beat that, since I barely sold more than $1900 last year, it was a debacle.
Ellen said this would be her last year, but now with the big sale, she is conflicted. Is there another lucky Canadian couple waiting for her next year?
I am tied to her coat tails here, if she goes back so do I. I was a juror this year, so I am automatically in next year.
BTW. I gave every photographer at St. James a top score. I think this was some of the best photography I have ever seen there. Way to go, guys.
In closing, all I can say to you newbies, this show is an expensive gamble. Frankly, if Neptune remains on the same weekend (it will next year) I would rather be on the ocean any day of the week.
That's all folks, I got red bean ice cream to eat.

Views: 931

Comment by Nels Johnson on October 6, 2016 at 1:11pm
Somebody else had to have this show, how about a little input--especially you, Mr. Wallace Fuller, husband to the Lovely Lu.
Comment by Greg Little on October 7, 2016 at 10:17am

Carol and I have not done St James Court the last few years for the same reasons. Most people just seem to be out for a stroll with their dogs and kids in strollers. We even saw a couple of people with their dogs in strollers an their kids on a leash.

Sales were poor because most people were window shopping (tent shopping?) and as we always do...we look at how many purchases are walking past...not many at all.

Shows are like everything else in existence...they have a life cycle of birth, growth and death. 

Comment by Robert Wallis on October 7, 2016 at 12:03pm

It's been three years since I did St. James Fourth Street section. That was the year it closed early due to bad weather. I had to go back to my blog post to see what I had sold, and it was even worse than I recall with a single $20 unmatted piece for the day and half the show was open. I had seriously considered getting a couple of those chase light ropes and stringing those up around the entrance to the booth, flashing lights going in opposite directions, just to get the herds of cattle/people to look inside. It seems like bright shiny objects got their attention, and even moreso if something was moving. Nope, too many people there for the social aspects of the show, not even serious buyers, and way too large for its own good. I said at the time I wouldn't go back, and I'm sticking to it. I do far better at a springtime show there in town with a much more leisurely pace and a show small enough and laid out well enough that nothing is more than five minutes away.

Comment by Michael Lee on October 7, 2016 at 4:38pm

Hear is my 2cents for what its worth. I have been attending the show on 4th street for 5 years now. This year and last year my sales were pitiful. I am an oil painter I sell horse racing paintings for the first three years I had a great show.

Last year I did not sell a single original but a few prints and I covered my expenses just barely. This year exactly the same thing happened I sold some prints but my largest sale was $60.00 and I only had two of those the rest were $30.00-$40.00 and there was barely enough of those to keep me awake. My work is in the Kentucky Derby Museum I have a lot of collectors in the Kentucky area. Three of them came by to show me pics of my work hanging in their house. These people have money but they were not buying from me or any one for that matter. 

I can tell you my opinion they need to crack down on the scab shows! What is the point of having to have the special vendor tag on your booth sign if the city allows the scab shows to exist. Do the scab artist remit sales tax? Why should they the city has no idea they are even selling there.

I saw the photo letter things got by all day long from at least two different vendors. The West End Baptist Church Parking lot really degrades the quality. I know the church likes to get the money but they are part of the buy sell problem at St. James. They will let anyone in with $550.00 and a tent.

Here is my idea for the Church let the other sections mange the area make it a lot for emerging young artist to get a chance to break into this business. They are after all the future as we all get to old to do this anymore. Give them a break on the price but they have to be juried! Let some high school or college kids have a chance to sell their work.

I have seen the scab artist increase over the five years I have been there. I am sure many of you have seen it as well. The buy sell at St. James will eventually take over if something is not done to eliminate it. I am not putting the church down or the ability to make money but they are not helping the overall feel of St. James. Maybe even group a lot of the food vendors there. The economy gets a big boost from us artist staying in the motels, eating etc. they need to try and help us keep the show a fine art and craft show for handmade items. 

Comment by Wallace Fuller on October 7, 2016 at 7:58pm

Well Nels you asked for it. we had an OK show with nothing to shout about. Our set up is easy as we are 3 booths in from Hill St. we park and dolly in. started at 9:00 Am and finished at 3:30.we mare slow and in no hurry.

our next door neighbor who does beautiful woodcuts could not keep up with his customers. Best sale was to man who told him he wanted his largest framed woodcut and was closing the sale when he asked what the price was, It was for more than we made. Congratulations to him. He had a tremendous show, most around us were trying to eke out a  profit for the show.

You have to play the get a room early game. I ended up with a Ramada Inn by Exposition Center for $49 plus tax thru Priceline. We eat cheap and no alcohol so we keep our price down.

Most fun was to make it from home to Louisville and back on a bad axle on our trailer, but we did $550 for new axle when we got home.

Now to IRS for audit next week. They do not understand all of our Travel expense and jury and Entry Fees. I am ready to blow there minds.     

Comment by Joel Lockridge on October 8, 2016 at 10:21pm

This was my first year for the show. I was on the court, inner section, and I honestly had a very good show. You can't control the weather, but the people were very nice and I did well with my woodwork.

Comment by Oscar Matos Linares on October 9, 2016 at 5:23pm

This was my worst show of the year. I even put below The Other show Des Moines with the car accident because there was no interested on my body of work. It was so sad that watch the entire series of Luke Cage and still have 5 hours to kill at the show. I should go back and risk 950.00 again I guess not. I am so sorry that decline Cottonwood for this sad experience. I think the more gross thing was that few artists was not put in the list to onsite jury. Thank you Nels.

Comment by Paula Decker Haynes on October 10, 2016 at 2:42pm

This was my first year in the St James show and I was very pleased. The whole atmosphere with all the historical homes and kind neighbors was great. I sold my first big sell which more than paid my expenses and then sold a couple of small pieces and several prints and cards. I was in the 1300 Association and won first place in that section so a ribbon, I am in next year and booth paid for. It was great for me. I am a small town girl and had never done a larger show so I am sorry for those of you who did not have the show you were hoping for but I am a happy camper. I did not have expense in where I stayed, I had a small teardrop camper which we pulled into a private garage in the Highlands at a friends home, so that helped too.

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