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Please Ma’am, Can I have some more??

No, I haven’t fallen off the good grammar wagon. Remember the line from the film “Oliver”? The little street urchin asks for more porridge to re-fill his freshly emptied bowl. Of course, a meager meal is one thing and art is quite another, but sometimes, whether porridge or metal sculptures, we just can’t get enough. We want more.

So you want more metal art from Haiti. Marvelous! Obviously, if you are on this website, you know that you can get it here, along with fabulous folk art treasures from Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and beyond. On our website you have the greatest selection, with the benefit of access to our entire inventory. Additionally, you trade directly with us to procure these treasures. Not a bad way to go.

Having said that, there are other avenues at your disposal to which I am only to happy to direct you. It may seem strange that I would do so, but the bottom line is this: Whether you buy at a retail show in Philadelphia, a Farmer’s Market in Santa Cruz, on our website, or on another website on which we have made our Haitian metal art available, you are directly supporting the artist that made your piece.

To buy our art on Etsy, simply type “Artunderthetree” in the search box at the top of the home page. Art Under the Tree is a specially designated collaborative effort with local Haitians to teach business skills and exchange ideas in the best traditions of Fair Trade. The name, Art Under the Tree was suggested by the artists themselves. While they often have physical structures which they use as workshops, during hot summer months, it is cooler and breezier to produce their art under the tree!

You also have access to over 550 pieces of our art on Amazon, many of which are available on Prime. That, of course means free shipping! To find us quickly, type “It’s Cactus – metal art haiti” in the search bar at the top of the home page. Easy as pie.

So to recap, we are happy to offer fantastic recycled metal sculptures, handcrafted by our artist partners and make them available to you in strict and faithful observance of Fair Trade practices. Whether you buy on our website or another, whether you get your art at a retail show or farmer’s market, or street fair, you can be assured that you are supporting artists and their families in Haiti and making a positive impact on their lives. Way to go!!!

Haitian metal artist
Jean Claude Soulouque, one of our top artists, has seen his business has grown tremendously through your purchases.

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Pin It!

Have you seen our new Guatemalan beaded accessories? On a recent buying trip to Guatemala, Casey came across some tremendously talented bead artists near the shores of Lake Atitlan, in the central highlands of the country. Women there are undertaking this delicate craft, designing and producing intricate bead work to support their families. Needless to say, those were the magic words! Casey bought up the best of their wares – paying fairly and upfront of course, fair trade is our game after all. Now happily, we can share them with you!

Each item of bead work is created by individually sewing together tiny seed beads sourced from the Czech Republic. Unlike weaving, which has been practiced for centuries among the Mayans of Guatemala, beading is a relatively new craft. Indigenous women are now producing a growing variety of designs and their excellence in execution continues to soar. As you peruse our website, you’ll find ornaments to hang, bracelets, necklaces, hatbands and pins. Ah yes, that brings us to pins…..

It’s funny, but not everyone knows what to do with a pin, besides fastening it to a lapel. They are so versatile! Accessorize your clothing, accessorize your accessories! Even use them on decorative items around your home. How many times have I said it? You are limited only by your imagination. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Get creative and above all, have FUN!

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus


It’s Owl Season

metal wall sculpture from Haiti

Exceptionally detailed owl sculpture to hang indoors or out in any season.

What is it about owls and fall? Why is their association with the months of Sept. – November so strong? Every home decorator worth her salt

Owl sculpture by Haitian artist, Francois Wilnord

Haitian metal artist, Francois Wilnord

hauls out owls of every shape, size, and function in the fall but why? Are they the right color for autumn décor?  I suppose they are, in the sense of intense golden eyes and feathers in rich, luxurious shades of brown that many of them have.  Is their seasonal popularity linked with Halloween?  Their plaintive “Whooooo” is mournful and positively eerie coming as it does in the dark of the night. In that regard, owls “fit” the spooky theme.

I dug for a plausible scientific explanation that binds owls to the idea of fall.  According to such venerable sources as, “The Barn Owl Trust,” and “The Cornell Ornithology Lab,” many species begin their courtship rituals in mid-to-late autumn, making them more vocal as they beckon their lifetime mates to come hither. Also, avid bird-watchers and casual observers alike realize that owls are more visible during the fall since the tree limbs have become bare. So there’s that.

It seems that autumn and owls do lend themselves to linkage.  But why should it be limiting?  Owls are wild and free.  They soar the skies and penetrate the darkness. If they can do all of that, they can hang in your living room in the spring! Why not??? When they are portrayed in artwork this beautiful, they should be out anytime.  All the time.  It’s always owl season!

 

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus


Underway in Philly at the Flower Show

Setting up the Flower Show

The Convention Center becomes a virtual construction site as exhibitors prepare for this year’s Flower Show.

Preparations are underway for the opening of the 2018 Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s annual Flower Show.  Exhibitors are bustling, loaders are hauling, forklifts are beeping, and tens of thousands of glorious flowers are being placed in artful array, ready to bloom their little hearts out. Somehow, amid the chaos of set-up, everything falls spectacularly into place. The show doors are flung wide to welcome an estimated 250,000 gardening enthusiasts, flower lovers, and visitors who are simply ready to escape the greys of winter.

For our part, Casey is on site and hard at it, putting together the It’s Cactus booth.  Everything is trucked overland

It's Cactus booth

The Booth – fresh off the overland truck and ready for assembly.

weeks in advance; the solid structure that is the booth itself as well as hundreds of pieces of Haitian metal sculpture, screws, drills, lighting, business cards, a TV, cash register tape, shopping bags, and, and, AND! For a while, the booth resembles nothing so much as a 3-D puzzle, but bit by bit, the pieces come together.  New sculptures as well as old favorites will be unwrapped and arranged, ready to be discovered by happy, exuberant shoppers.

And so it begins! Opening times are as follows:  Saturday March 3 – Sunday March 11, 2018Hours. Saturday, March 3 — 11 am – 8 pm. Sunday, March 4 — 8 am – 9 pm. Monday – Friday — March 5 – 9: 10 am – 9 pm. Saturday, March 10 — 8 am – 9 pm. Sunday, March 11 — 8 am – 6 pm * last entry at 5 pm. Member’s Preview Hours. Friday, March 2 — 12 pm – 3:30 pm.

We hope to see you at The Show!

 

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

 


It’s All Good

They Are One organization

They Are One is in active partnership with this school in Bercy, Haiti.

The shift from the old year to a new one often brings with it a bit of introspection. How can I do more? How can I do better? Where should I put my energy and resources for the greater good? So it was true at It’s Cactus. With the passage of 2017 to 2018, we looked for answers to those very questions – and we found a few! As is frequently the case, the answers were surprisingly close at hand.

As it turned out, excellent opportunity was right in our own backyard. Salinas, CA is the action center for “They Are One,” a charitable organization which has local outreach as well as ongoing projects in Haiti. They conduct fund-raising activities year-round to aid and empower needy children in Monterey County as well as sponsor a faith-based secondary school for children in Bercy, Haiti. In partnership with Lifesong MBO, they not only deliver funds to supply hot meals, school supplies, and uniforms for the children, but also support teachers and staff with contributions toward their salaries.

In the words of Jackie Scott, Vice President of They Are One, “Our organization is all about empowering orphans in Haiti by connecting our community with their community. Our first priority is to build a long term relationship with the staff and children of MBO School in Bercy, Haiti. We do this by taking trips there to connect face-to-face and determine how we can best come alongside the leadership in the work they are already doing well. TAO:Local is the division of our organization that works with local vulnerable children and families in need ”

metal crosses hand made in Haiti

It’s Cactus donated crosses like these to They Are One to augment their fund-raising efforts.

How perfect – a match made in heaven! Opportunity to help our own community as well as school children in Haiti. With an idea budding, Casey contacted the TAO officers and proposed a donation of several dozen pieces of Haitian art from It’s Cactus which they could use in fund-raising efforts and reap 100 percent of the profits. Not only would TAO programs benefit, the plan would also give greater exposure for our Haitian artists and their work.

Done and done! They Are One posted their items on Facebook and the resulting sales have been fantastic! Additionally, they have sold items at church fairs with great success and interest in the art form has risen in tandem. Moments of introspection have thus paid off: Energy and resources are being forward for the greater good. And it’s ALL GOOD!

 

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus


Travel Tips: Antigua, Guatemala

Traveling to Guatemala is nothing new to Casey and her family.  Casey and her mom, Gigi have been going on buying trips since the 1990’s, Casey and her husband, Brian got married there in 2001, and daughter Georgie took her first trip at the tender age of 3 months. I think you could call them seasoned!  But every trip is an opportunity for discovery and this one was no exception.  In addition to buying handcrafted folk art items for the online shop, they attended the wedding of a friend, and set about building upon the Spanish language skills of now teen-aged Georgie and her cousin, Quinn. The discoveries came in the form of finding an outstanding driver/guide to Antigua named Carlos, and an equally outstanding language/cultural instructor, Ruth.

Carlos Mijangos is a enterprising Guatemalan man, proud of and passionate about his country.  He worked as a bi-lingual guide for a large company for several years, but with the encouragement of his father, struck out on his own at the age of 40.  Carlos offers custom tours for individuals and groups in his large, comfortable van.  When asked how many the van could hold, Casey replied, “Well it held me, my mother, the girls, and lots and LOTS of boxes of wood carvings and textiles.  And we all fit!” Based in Antigua, Carlos provides transfers to and from the airport, tours around Antigua and vicinity, as well as excursions further afield.  His knowledge base is as impressive as his fluency in English. Additionally, he is “as trustworthy as the day is long.” To learn more, go to his website http://guatemalanguide.com/ If you are planning a trip to Guatemala, it would be wise to book well in advance.  The word is out:  This guy is good!

As for language instruction, Ruth Acabal Reyes has no match. With ten years of experience teaching Spanish to learners of every stripe, she has her methods down. Not only does she offer personalized instruction in Guatemala, she also offers lessons via Skype.  While both methods are effective, says Casey, “You can’t beat learning Spanish on the street. Ruth came to the hotel every day and took the girls out to practice.  She got them to learn the language by using it in real-life situations. Shopping, eating, asking directions – when you have to speak in another language, you find a way.” Ruth, too has her own website loaded with information.  If you have the slightest interest in Spanish language acquisition, Ruth is just the instructor you need to get you on your way. http://ruht.weebly.com/

 

Contrubuted by Linda for It’s Cactus

 


Celtic Dragons, Druids, and the Ley of the Land

 

Celtic inspired dragon with tail worked into a trinity knotCeltic inspired dragon with infinity knot

Wiseton Brutus has done it again. His Celtic-inspired designs of crosses and claddaughs are wonderful. (And have, incidentally, been selling like hotcakes!) They are his Haitian homage to familiar and ancient symbols of of Ireland; their classic forms embellished with intricate knot designs typical of the Celtic tradition.

And now:  Enter the dragon! A powerful image, fearsome yet charismatic. It is difficult not to be drawn to its aura of mystery and magic. Wiseton has made two, both unmistakably Celtic, with distinctive interlocking knots front and center.

In medieval Ireland, the dragon was thought to have been the First Being, a seed born of the Earth and fertilized by the Sea and Sky. From this union, the dragon sprung forth, a supernatural creature that held the secrets of the universe. Where it walked, a pathway of cosmic energy remained. Druids were Celtic “seers,” capable of finding these pathways, which were known as leys. In fact, the modern phrase, “getting the lay of the land,” is derived from the ancient practice of Druids looking for the “ley of the land.” With their ability to see the ley left in the wake of a dragon’s footsteps, they could reveal those places which had been cosmically “energized,” and designate them for temples, monuments, and festivals.

Later, when Celtic Ireland became Christianized, the dragon assumed the persona of Satan. A serious reversal of roles, the dragon was thenceforward regarded as a formidable foe to be vanquished. Saints, kings, and knights alike threw their righteous might against the forces of that Evil so that Peace, Justice, and Holiness would prevail.

Maybe you thought a Celtic dragon was merely cool…

 

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus


Starfish Possibilities

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Our latest design addition – this lovely set of starfish by Ybernson Excellent. Get all the details at itscactus,com

Creating designs is one of the fun aspects of working with our Haitian artists. Often, we see new and wonderful designs in their shops in Haiti and we can draw and discuss our ideas face-to-face.  In between trips, they send us photos of their work. When we see something that we particularly like, we talk about tweaks and refinements back and forth through text and emails and then we submit a sample order to the artist of half a dozen so that we can see that the quality will be consistent.

One of our latest successes has been our new starfish. Based on a photo sent to us by Ybernson Excellent, we knew they hadIMG_9048 (640x640) terrific potential. We sampled them back in June, placed a fulll order in July and now, having arrived at the docks last week, they are in our warehouse, ready to go. And look! See how beautiful they are? The contouring and beadwork is spot-on and they have so many decorative possibilities!

One such decorating opportunity occurred to me this weekend, while I was setting up for a wedding shower with an “Under the Sea” theme. Arranged on the table with a few other theme-appropriate accessories, everything combined to make a nice centerpiece. One large one looked terrific propped up against nautical lanterns on the drinks table. No nails or easels required – how great is that?

Of course it goes without saying that the starfish can be hung easily on the wall. One nail through the hole provided is all it takes. They can be arranged together or in groupings with other items, such as around a mirror or another piece of art. They also look great when paired with another of our sculptures – say a mermaid, for instance. Scatter a few underneath one of the larger pieces to ” tell the story.”

Sold in sets of three, these sea stars are well-crafted and versatile. Additionally, they are weather-proof, handmade, fair trade, and all of that good stuff. So what would YOU do with a starfish? Love to see YOUR ideas!IMG_9041 (640x637)

 

 

Contributed by Linda for “It’s Cactus”


Create Your Own “Peacock Room”

A peacock in flight.  "Full Feather" by Yves Rober Buisson

A peacock in flight. “Full Feather” by Yves Rober Buisson

The glory of nature captured brilliantly in this metal sculpture by Norvh Bonheur.

The glory of nature captured brilliantly in this metal sculpture by Norvh St. Bonheur.

Isn’t this peacock  to the left by Yves Rober Buisson beautiful? It perfectly captures the bird’s majesty and elegance. And the one right, “Peacocks in Love” by Norvh St. Bonheur is a scene of quiet splendor. Though both pieces are wonderfully rendered and appropriate to numerous decorative styles, neither quite depicts the characteristic with which the peacock is most closely associated: Pride. Leave that to James Whistler…

In the late 1870’s Thomas Jeckyll, a respected interior designer was commissioned by Fredrick Leyland, a wealthy shipowner from Liverpool, to create a room to display his collection of Chinese porcelains in his London home. The focal point of the room was a painting by James Whistler, entitled “Princess from the Land of Porcelain.” The artist was working in Leyland’s house on some interior painting in the foyer when the designer asked for his help in painting some of the trimwork in the porcelain room. Whistler volunteered to take over and Jeckyll, happy to have Whistler finish what little remained of the job, returned to his business in Liverpool.

At that point, artistic passion and prideful zeal overtook Whistler. In addition to touching up the wainscoating with yellow paint, as agreed upon with Jeckyll, Whistler covered the entire ceiling with imitation gold overleaf and painted it with a lavish pattern of peacock feathers. He then trimmed the shelving for the porcelains in gold and embellished four of the rooms shutters with four magnificent peacocks.

In his own words he explains, “Well, you know, I just painted on. I went on ―without design or sketch― it grew as I painted. And toward the end I reached such a point of perfection ―putting in every touch with such freedom― that when I came round to the corner where I started, why, I had to paint part of it over again, as the difference would have been too marked. And the harmony in blue and gold developing, you know, I forgot everything in my joy in it.” Forgot everything indeed.  While Leyland was yet away, Whistler went so far as to entertain his own guests in the sumptuous surroundings of his patron’s home.

When Leyland finally returned, he was shocked by Whistler’s costly and presumptive behavior and refused to pay for more than half of the total amount billed. They quarrelled violently and in spite or retaliation, Whistler secretly gained access to the room once again. He painted two fighting peacocks with features clearly reflecting those of himself and Leyland, titling the work, “Art and Money, or The Story of the Room.” (View photos of his finished room here.) In a final retort, Whistler proudly told Leyland, “Ah, I have made you famous. My work will live when you are forgotten. Still, per chance, in the dim ages to come you will be remembered as the proprietor of the Peacock Room.”

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus


Weird You Say?

 

Recycled Haitian metal art sculpture

“Lid Tree of Life” by Charles Luthene.

Recycled oil barrel lid converted to sculptural art

“Fish Lid” by Evenson Thenor

Does this sculpture on the left look funny to you? Do you wonder about that hole in the trunk of the tree? How about this one on the right? What about those eyes? Are they a little weird?

Well, maybe they look funny to you and if so, that’s fine. You know what you like. No argument there. But if you bear with me just a bit and I’ll tell you why they look amazing and clever to us. The hole in the tree and the eyes of the fish are barrel spouts. What was old has been made new again! The old spouts for pumping fluid in or out of the drum have been incorporated into the design of the new sculpture. The recycled lid is in clear evidence in the revised form.

In Haiti, an artist floats his new design idea featuring the spouts of an oil barrel lid

Artist discussing his idea for a new lid design.

Part of the process of preparing the metal for sculpting is to burn out the residues within the barrel

Barrels stuffed with leaves, ready for burning. The first stage of recycling the metal and preparing the metal to become art.

The first artist to integrate the spouts into his sculptures was Evenson Thenor.  A couple of

years ago, It’s Cactus sponsored his visit to California to do artist demonstrations throughout the Central Coast.  When he arrived at the airport in San Francisco, he came off the plane with an inspired idea in his head and a gleam in his eye.  When we asked him what he had in mind for his work he said, “I have an idea in here,” as he pointed to his head, “I don’t know if you are going to like it.  But I think you will.”  Over the next several days we watched in amazement as the idea took form on the metal.  Slowly, the features of the fish took shape around the spouts of the oil drum lid.  When it was finished, he presented it as a gift to Casey, saying, “I can make more – a little bit different, if you like.”  Yes!  We like!   His new design is “Fish Lid” pictured above right.

Weird or clever?  You decide…

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

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