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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


Happy Earth Day 365!

"Children of the World Tree" by Winston Cajust, made entirely of recycled metal and proudly brought to your attention on Earth Day plus One.

“Children of the World Tree” by Winston Cajust, made entirely of recycled metal and proudly brought to your attention on Earth Day plus One.

Yesterday was Earth Day. I had failed to note it ahead of time and only realized when I had an email in my inbox from our garbage and recycling service with the subject heading, “Happy Earth Day!” I was caught with my pants down, so to speak, but found myself at a loss as to how to respond. It kind of seems like a day for school kids to read “The Lorax” in science class and follow up by dutifully filling cups with potting soil, gently pushing bean seeds under the soil to a depth of 1/2 inch, watering carefully, and anticipating the sprout. What does a middle-aged female such as I do to be observant? Send a note, written on recycled paper to my congressman, voicing my environmental concerns? Plant a tree? Make a donation somewhere? What kind of big deal is it, anyway, really?
Well, it turns out that it’s a pretty big deal, at least if you’re logged onto earthday.org. According to their website, “The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and establishment of the EPA soon followed. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN) works with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.”
That’s all well and good. But I’ve thought it over and I’ve decided to play devil’s advocate here. I am of the opinion that Earth DAY is not a big deal at all. If we’re going to protect this planet we share, it’s going to take alot more than one day a year to do it. Earth DAY is a nice gesture, but we need to be thinking and acting pretty much 365 days a year. No breaks. No time off. Every one of us, every day.
I will make no pretense of being an “Earth Angel.” I am mindful of the impact of my actions, but I’m not perfect. One thing I am proud of, though is promoting our recycled oil drum sculptures through It’s Cactus. They are NOT part of a land-fill, they are repurposed as art, transformed from refuse into something beautiful. It feels good to hang recycled art in my home, and to share it as gifts with my friends and family. It feels good, because it does good. When you buy it, when you give it, don’t you feel it too?
What else shall we do? Walk to work. Take those shoes to the cobbler and have them re-soled.  Spend two minutes less time in the shower. Shop the farmer’s market with a reusable bag. Today is Earth Day plus One!

 

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus


Visit Us Online!

Casey in the new retail office of It's Cactus, your online source for the finest in folkart

Casey in her new office!

It is a fait-accompli: It’s Cactus, which started out as a brick and mortar store in Carmel, CA in the early 90’s, is now online only, operating strictly out of our Salinas warehouse. In February, this was an idea, quick to gel. Today, it’s the way we roll.
Or at least we’re starting to. This has not been a small task, and there’s still a good distance to go, especially in the way of re-vamping the website. Though you will continue to have unmitigated shopping opportunity in the meantime, we are only going to get better. Coming one

day in the not-so-distant future (July, hopefully) the website conversion will be complete, with

There's lots of recycled metal in the Salinas warehouse.

It is widely suspected that there is more Haitian metal in the warehouse than there is in Haiti. Care to count?

oodles and boodles of great folk art of every stripe. From Haiti of course, with new designs and creations in wondrous array, but also a much larger presence of our folk art from Latin America. It was in the shop, and locals had access to it there, but now it will have full representation online. Equal folk art opportunity for all – how great is that?
We’re also going to have what, in the biz, is known as a responsive website. (I confess to have learned that terminology….um……recently. Like last week.) That means that our website will be easily viewed from desktop and mobile devices alike. No more pinching and widening and shifting from side to side. You’ll be able to see every page in all it’s glory, no matter how or on what you choose to view it. Now, isn’t that a wonderful thing?
We’re pretty excited about it all. The wave of retail seems to be evermore about access and evermore driven by convenience. Our aim is to be all of that, convenient and accessible on a much broader scale, yet to remain the friendly, trusted, personable – and very fun! – purveyors of folk art you’ve always known and loved. Visit us online!

 

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

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