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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


Shop Amazon for Savings on It’s Cactus Haitian Metal

Haitian Metal sculptor, Jean Claude Soulouque with his recycled metal art.

Jean Claude Soulouque holding his “Cross with Milagros inside his workshop in Croix-des-Bouquets.

As most of you are well aware, It’s Cactus’ reason for being is to fight poverty with art.  We pursue a market-based solution to uplifting lives and improving economic rnd330__53239.1430492501.100.100security for our artists, their families, and their communities.  We’ve been dedicated to that purpose for over 20 years and we’ve been doing it at various times through physical storefronts, retail and wholesale shows, and building a strong online presence.  This includes not only marketing on our own It’s Cactus website, but also on social media, such as Facebook and Pinterest, as well as on retail sales sites like ebay, etsy, and the retail mega-giant, Amazon.winged_heart_with_bird__45644.1439168484.100.100

“Why Amazon?” you may ask. “Isn’t that kind of like bargaining with the Devil? Aren’t you in competition with yourself that way?” The answer to these questions lies in the numbers.  According to Michael Hayes of “Shopify,” Amazon lands 85 million unique monthly visitors.  Another source tells us that 44% of online shoppers go to Amazon first when looking for goods.  In other words, while a new customer may find us on garden_butterflies__07942.1439228030.100.100Amazon and make his/her first purchase through Amazon, we have the opportunity to win that customer through giving them a wonderful product, providing excellent service and fulfillment, and have the chance to introduce ourselves and our own company to them.  It’s a chance we can’t afford to miss and more importantly, it’s a chance we don’t want our artists to miss.  Giving them the greatest opportunity to sell their art is why we are in business.
SO…strange as it may seem, I am encouraging you to shop Amazon now through Feb. 15th for It’s Cactus products.  It’s a great time to do it! It will happen only twice per year; now and again in August.  Amazon works with us to determine how much SM181B__01835.1453512105.100.100product to ship to their fulfillment centers and, for a set amount of time, those products are stored for distribution there for free. However knowing exactly how much will sell lies somewhere between math and magic.  Rather than pay for having the goods returned to us after the specified time has passed, we’d rather have a sale and enjoy our customers reaping the benefit of 40% off our regularly priced pieces of terrific Haitian metal art.
Below is a list of links to all of the products that we are selling at the reduced rate.  Just enter promo code “Cactus4U” at checkout and score the discount!  BUT, we would so appreciate it if you would take the time to give your new and wonderful sculpture a star rating when you have received it.  Marketing research by “Big Commerce” shows that 92% of customers across the board rely on product reviews when making their purchase decisions.  What these product reviews mean for our artists, is that their work is something to get excited about.  That excitement translates directly to their increased sales and greater economic security.
Ready to join us in fighting poverty with art?  Shop the sale, rate your product with (lots of!) stars, and know that you are fighting the good fight!
Sweet Summer Angel                            Spring Garden Flock of Birds
Tree Sculpture with Birds                       Garden Butterflies
Angel Playing the Horn                          Cross with Birds
Birds in Flight                                       Metal Sun
Spring Garden Tree                               Garden Flowers
Cross with Milagros                               Little Mermaid Under the Sea
Angel with Attitude                               Sea Turtle
Garden Birds and Sun                           Garden Tree with Birds
Moon and Sun                                      Heart with Wings Set
Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

A Poet’s Vision of Croix-des-Bouquets

IMG_6339 (640x640)

While doing some research online, I stumbled across a poem entitled “Ode to Croix-des-Bouquets” on a website coincidentally called, “Beyond Borders.” This is not the wholesale Haitian metal art company owned by Janet and Joel Ross, but a charitable organization in Washington, D.C. that is working in Haiti to end child slavery. (They are beyondborders.net, while Janet and Joel are beyondbordersfairtrade.com) The author of the poem, Marcus Ellsworth of Chattanooga, TN, visited Haiti as part of an artist’s pilgrimage a couple of years ago. While in Haiti, the group ventured out to Croix-des-Bouquet and Ellsworth was moved to jot down his impressions in verse. So instead of writing my usual blog, I thought sharing his poem with you would be a pleasant change of pace. His evocative words quickly bring me back to Haiti in my mind….

 

“Ode to Croix-des-Bouquets”  By Marcus Ellsworth

There are secrets one can only revealIMG_6427 (640x640)
with a hammer, a chisel, and skill.

Kneeling at the edge of the steel sheet,
like a fisherman in his boat
on deep still waters
breaking the surface
to catch the truth of the heart
and bring it up into the sun.

IMG_6348 (640x640)Hammers pounding as thunder
Chisels falling as rain
Hands summoning patient storms
that awaken life
from the quiet metal

Angels come to dance
Flowers bloom immortal
Spirits gather
to laugh, and rage, and teach,
IMG_6180 (640x640)and be made solid for our eyes and hands

Such is the gift of steel and those who mold it like clay
Listen to the sounds of Croix Des Bouquets
This is the sound of dreamers bending the world to their will.

 

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus


Going Big

A Haitian version of Lady Godiva created by John Sylvestre using and entire 55-gallon barrel.

A Haitian version of Lady Godiva created by John Sylvestre using and entire 55-gallon barrel.

When I am in Haiti looking at sculptures, I have to admit that sometimes, I get overwhelmed. There are so many, everywhere! Each workshop has them on the walls both inside and out, there are sculptures stacked on tables, on the floor, in the rafters – virtually every available space is fair game for display or storage. At the end of the day, it is a bit like not seeing the forest for all of those trees.

And yet, even at the end of the day, sometimes the scope and mastery of a piece will jump out and grab me. The forest becomes visible again. It happened to me most notably in the workshop of John Sylvestre, one of the first artists with whom we collaborated and, indeed, one of the proverbial “Old Masters.”

John, now in his late fifties, learned from Janvier Louisjuste, who learned from the orignal metal art master, Georges Liataud. Starting as a laborer at the age of twelve, John was a quick study. He soon headed his own atelier and began forming his own style, with a body of work that is tender, sensual and otherworldly. The piece that stopped me in my tracks was a tropical version of Lady Godiva. (above) The execution of detail was superb, but the design element that got me and held me fast was its size. The whole barrel had been used in its creation.

There is something to the old adage that “bigger is better.” To use a movie analogy, “Avatar” is entertaining on a 46″ diagonal flat-screen, but in the theater, it’s AMAZING. It needs to be big. It’s richness is fully realized only when it is projected on a grand scale.

So it is with Haitian metal art. Some design images are sweet and cute and need to be expressed as a suggestion or a hint, rather than a statement. Others crave to be boldly expressed or they lose their intrinsic intensity and their power is lost. An entire barrel, when completely utilized, gives the artist a “canvas” that is 34″ x 72″. A hummingbird that size would be weird and ridiculous and possibly scary, for whatever fineness there may be in texture and line. But Lady Godiva, champion of the poor, executed in near life-size is stunning. Her pride and her elegant bearing are fully communicated. Similarly, the Angel Couple on our website seem as divine, projecting the grandeur and infinity of Heaven. With them in large scale, you are drawn there too. A slice of Heaven is yours.

How great is that?

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


The First Day of Spring

Lovely floral scene struck in metal by Haitian artist, Charles Luthene

Signs of spring in metal: Growing The Flowers by Charles Luthene

While Casey is back in California, madly selling metal at the San Francisco Flower Show, I am still on the East Coast.  In Washington, D.C., now and I awoke this morning eager to greet the First Day of Spring.  With joy and anticipation, I went to the window and  raised the blinds to behold what Mother Nature would reveal.  Well, that Mother Nature, she’s quite a character, with a well-developed and somewhat ironic sense of humor.  Today, on the first day of spring, it snowed.

This should not be.  Average temperatures for this area range in the fifties by now and teasing into

These new buds are just going to have to tough out the unseasonable snowfall.

These new buds are just going to have to tough out the unseasonable snowfall.

the sixties by the end of the month. Today represents a full fourteen-degree shortfall, according to the historical weather record.  Now, I know that averages are AVERAGES, i.e. the compromise between the lowest recorded temperatures and the highest.  But COME ON!  It’s the First Day of Spring!  There should be something cosmically sacred about that, right?  Surely Mother Nature has an intrinsic obligation on the First Day of Spring to bring forth a day bright and glorious, emblematic of the season of renewal and rebirth.

You would think.  Or at least you might allow yourself to hope.  But Mother Nature clearly has a mind of her own.  Spring will come, but at her pleasure and in her own time.  We mere mortals in the Middle Atlantic will simply have to wait.

 

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus


Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

Photo op with Dan Akroyd, selling his Crystal Head vodka at the Philly Flower Show 2015

“Who ya gonna call? ” Everyone! I got to shake hands with Dan Akroyd at the Flower Show!

By now you know, if you have been keeping up with our blog, that we were at the Flower Show in Philadelphia a little over a week ago. But what you may not know is that we had a brush with fame. Yes! In the aura of a true celebrity.

It was Friday afternoon and all week long we had seen posters on our way down to the booth advertising the fact that Dan Akroyd would be in the Convention Center entry hall from 2-4pm signing bottles of his “Crystal Head Vodka.” So when a man wearing a black button-down shirt with the “Crystal Head” logo embroidered on it wandered into our booth, it didn’t take much of a leap in logic to figure out that he was with the Akroyd entourage and most likely, the other man with him as well. Brief conversation confirmed our assumptions. The man in black, David, asked, “Hey, are you going to go out and get a bottle of vodka signed?” We recluctantly replied that, though we’d love to, the booth was much too busy and likely to remain so. Sadly, we wouldn’t have time to stand in line.

A bit more conversation and Casey and I had an inside track, with assurances from both David and Michael, that if we waved them down when we got to the signing event, they would expedite our access. True to their word, we were ushered straight to the signing table. In our turn, we were able to shake hands and get our photos taken with Dan Akroyd and walk away with bottles of Crystal Head in our arms, the ink of his autograph not yet quite dry. How fun! How nice of David and Michael! “Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!” We were giddy with excitement. (Read about the signing event here: http://www.crystalheadvodka.com/news/dan-aykroyd-and-the-head-stop-to-smell-the-roses )

Giddy indeed. Why weren’t we thinking? Why didn’t we take up three of our skull stakes and give them Haitian metal with OUR autographs and OUR compliments? How fun would that have been? One good turn deserves another, does it not? Coulda, shoulda, woulda….!

Autographed skull garden stake

Dan, Michael and David, this skull’s for you!  Until we meet again, this will have to suffice.  (Darn it!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

 

 

 


It’s Philly Time!

Seen at the 2014 Garden Show.

Seen at the 2014 Garden Show.

The warehouse in Salinas could be taken for a beehive these days for all the hum of activity. We’re preparing the truck for delivering the goods to the Philadelphia Flower Show. Metal must be selected, counted, sorted, and packed. The booth – which will have a new look this year – has been designed, constructed, painted, and crated. (Thanks Brian and Lalo!) Lighting – Check! Tape, scissors, pens, tags, promo literature, calculators, screw drivers, energy bars, Starbucks cards, shrink wrap – CHECK! Have we thought of everything? Check? Not Check? Ah yes, change. We need quarters, nickles and dimes. Better run to the bank!

But we love coming to Philly every year. Return customers are starting to feel like old friends, business is always good and the flowers….Oh! The flowers! The floral displays this year promise to excite with the theme, “Celebrate the Movies.” According to the offical website of the Flower Show, http://theflowershow.com/ the theme is taken from a Walt Disney quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” And these people can dream, let me tell you! The rich elaborate floral creations are breath-taking and leave me thinking, “When I get home, I am going to GARDEN.” This is no small thing, for I have no talent. Walt Disney never met me. I can dream, alright. But execution is….ummm….problematic. I usually start with a Haitian metal garden stake. ( Like these: http://www.itscactus.com/catalog/garden_stakes-21-2.html ) From there, the plan falters somewhat. The stakes are pretty and I can’t kill them, though strictly speaking, I don’t know if sticking one in the ground and admiring my own eagle eye for placement qualifies as gardening.

A floral headpiece of one's own design ALWAYS makes a statement!

A floral headpiece of one’s own design ALWAYS makes a statement!

Aside from inspiration, another of my favorite things at the Garden Show is kind of a combination ofthe flowers and the customers. The Show includes what is called a “Make and Take Room” where patrons can create extravagant floral headpieces to wear at the show. Some of these creations can be quite beautiful, and all of them – beautiful or not so much – are delightful. The people making them and wearing them are stepping out and having a good time. That is something to appreciate. (Incidently, we in the booth secretly vote on the best headpiece of the day. We’ll let you know if it’s you!)

See you in Philly!

 

 

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus


Bringing in the New Year

New Years Eve is a funnny holiday at our house. To be honest, we are usually kind of partied out by then so we don’t really plan much. We mark the ocassion, do appreciate the day off of work, do spend it with a very small gathering of friends and/or family, but we do not tend to dress to the nines, dine extravagantly late, and toast the dawn of the New Year with fine crystal and finer libations. Our observances are distinctly more casual and free-form, centering around movies and munchies in the living room with a decent bottle of champagne at the ready for the countdown to midnight.
Oh, and hats. We do have hats. And we do turn up the music for dancing, though I would describe the choreography as more tribal and exuberant than elegant and graceful. I am sure that households throughout the world have their unique and time-honored traditions for bringing in the New Year. These are simply ours.
Happy New Year one and all!

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

Enthusiasm is everything.

Enthusiasm is everything.

 

Don't they say that you should dance like no one is watching???

Don’t they say that you should dance like no one is watching???

 

 

Sometimes, I suppose I resemble a "Dancing Goat Mama" I think my kids would agree....

Sometimes, I suppose I resemble a “Dancing Goat Mama” like this one by Tunis Dixon.I think my kids would agree….

Tall Skinny (dancing) Girls by Julio Balan

Tiny Skinny (Dancing) Girls – who look alot like us! By Julio Balan 

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