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The Menu: Reserved Collection

ht1396[2]Though we firmly feel that each and every piece of Haitian metal sculpture we carry at Beyond Borders is a wonderful piece of folk art, we have to admit a solid truth:  Some pieces are wonderful, and some are remarkable. Those listed in our “Reserved Collection” section are those we consider to be the latter.  Many of our sculptures are purchased as decorative pieces; that is they are works of handmade folk art that are destined to be used to embellish a space. They are fun, attractive, and have popular appeal – all well and good.  Those sculptures in our “Reserved Collection” are works of higher ambition.  They represent what we believe to be the finest of the art form.  These are the pieces that serious collectors seek.

So what makes them special?  True folk art, according to the venerable Art Institute of Chicago, “is that which represents a unique mixture of vernacular aesthetics, personal expression, popular demand, historical fascination, memory, sentiment and patriotism.” The pieces in the “Reserved Collection” meet those criteria quite succinctly.  They capture in metal sculpture the spirit of Haiti; its voodoo, its slave heritage, its island geography, its freedom, raw edges, weirdness, elegance and pride. The conveyance of these characteristics is what anchors Haitian metal folk art to value and staying power, long after the currents of decorative fashion have shifted their course.

Take for example this sculpture by Michee Ramil Remy.  (HT1396) Its rough-cut execution mirrors the farmer and his rough-cut life.  Scratching a living out of the soil, wresting his subsistence from the land as do nearly half of his countrymen today. The scene also harkens back to the history of Haiti as French colony, the sugar plantations being hewn under the tropical sun by the backbreaking labors of its slave population. The faces of the farmer and his daughter are enigmatic.  Perhaps in them is the reflected the values of a working family and the satisfaction of a verdant, bountiful harvest, along with the sad acknowledgement that life is still very physical, and very hard. In his distinctive primitive style, Michee hammers out the essence of that existence.

You will very quickly notice, when viewing the Reserved Collection, that none of the pieces are priced.   In fact, items within that category are not currently available for sale.  Of course, you can always inquire as to whether the status of a particular piece could change, and perhaps you should, if you really, REALLY love it and want to know.  If nobody asks the question, there isn’t anybody to say yes to….

The Menu: Limited Editions

Art pieces in many forms are sold as limited editions, and in the art world, that refers to identical pieces that are produced in small quantities.  They represent an opportunity for collectors to purchase a piece that has the dual attractions of being well-executed and accessible, yet in small enough numbers that it’s value (current and future) gets an up-tick. This is true of Beyond Borders Limited Edition section, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

While we have a fair number of customers that are serious collectors of Haitian metal art, the majority of those that shop with us take a more casual approach.  They make a purchase because they like a piece; they enjoy the aesthetics and appreciate the craftsmanship, but not so much with the intention of the piece becoming an investment. With aesthetics and craftsmanship being greater priorities for most of our customers then, we use Limited Editions as a means of making certain designs available that we anticipate will appeal to specific customer groups, smaller than our customer base as a whole.

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Voo Doo Mask Drum 1321 LE by Joseph Libernier

Take for example our masks:  We have several mask designs that are wonderful in concept and execution.  The people that love them – though they are proportionately few in number – LOVE THEM!  We have several of those designs created as Limited Edition pieces so that they are readily available to those that want them. From a perspective of supply and demand, it allows us to meet demand for masks without infringing on our ability to keep designs that are more widely popular in good supply.

Ronald Brutus with 3 of his sons. Ronald has two pieces in the Limited Edition category; 2626LE and 2718LE

Another function of our Limited Editions section is to serve as a sort of test market for pieces that we think will be well-received.  Case in point: “Meda’s Heart,” which is in the catalogue currently as SM460.  We introduced it as a Limited Edition piece (LE2723 Meda Heart Large) but learned that it would have greater salability if it were available in a smaller size. Good to know!  Also good to know that those that want to make a bigger decorative statement with his larger piece can do so.

Perhaps the most important role of our Limited Editions section is to give more artists a chance to sell their work.  With each sale of every piece impacting the lives of our artists in Haiti, it is critical to make the most of every selling opportunity.  A small run of production can make a huge difference in the life of a family.  And that positive difference is what Beyond Borders is really all about.


Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus

Second in a series of three

Coming next:  Reserved Collection

The Menu: One-of-a-Kinds

One-of-a-Kind Angel by Michee Remy HT01393

One-of-a-Kind Angel by Michee Remy HT01393

Three menu items on our web catalogue – One-of-a-Kinds, Limited Editions, and Reserved Collection – represent some of the best Haitian metal art that Beyond Borders has to offer.  Yet we find that these sections are not well understood! This leads me to believe that a little explanation is in order so that the wonders therein might be exposed and customer curiosity might be aroused to the point of greater exploration.

Let’s start with the One-of-a-Kinds.  In one sense, every single sculpture on our website could be thought of as a One-of-a-Kind.  That is the nature of handmade art.  Even though the design may be re-created over and over again – as our very popular birds and sunface pieces are, for instance – there will always be subtle differences between them.  An eye might be positioned slightly forward in profile; the rays of the sun may curl a little further in, etc.  However, for the purposes of our website, the distinction for this particular category means that the item is unique within our inventory; the design concepts and execution are quite obviously different from anything else that we have.

Michee Remy and Casey outside his workshop in Croix-des-Bouquets

Michee Remy and Casey outside his workshop in Croix-des-Bouquets

Some of our One-of-a-Kinds we find and fall in love with on visits to Haiti.  We know right away that certain pieces should remain singular works that should not be put into production. In fact, some artists don’t even want to do production work.  A perfect example is Michee Remy.  He was a very talented and prolific artist, but he only did two production pieces for us in 15 years of working with him.  It just wasn’t his thing and we knew it.  All agreed that it was better that way. Michee died 2 years ago and his work has become highly collectible because of his signature primitive style. We are fortunate to have many of his remaining works available in our One-of-a Kind section.

Max-Elie Brutus with his floral wreath samples.  It was so hard to choose!

Max-Elie Brutus with his floral wreath samples. It was so hard to choose!

Other sculptures within this catagory are sent to us when we request design samples.  Any number of variations within a basic theme will arrive in the weeks following in response to that request. For example, Max-Elie Brutus came up with the idea to make floral wreaths a few months ago.  We asked him to send us several examples of what he had in mind and WOW did he deliver!

They were fantastic, but we had decided to limit ourselves

Max-Elie's catalogue piece  RND475

Max-Elie’s catalogue piece RND475

to selecting one design for the catalogue.  Though we agonized over the decision, one wreath was chosen and that one became RND475.  The rest?  You could think of them as artist’s proofs.  We call them One-of-a-Kinds!


Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus

First in a series of three articles  Next:  Limited Editions

The Tree of Life

RND489 by LaGuerre Dieufaite

RND489 by LaGuerre Dieufaite

In the Beyond Borders inventory, we have always had a wide and wonderful selection of Trees of Life.  In its many renditions, it has been steadfastly popular with our customers.  It has a timeless elegance, fits into many decorative schemes, and is naturally appealing.  It’s easy to love.

What’s interesting about it is how Man has understood it through time.  As a symbol, its roots (pardon the pun!) go back to ancient cultures as diverse as the Egyptians, Sumerians and Mayans. All three believed it to be, in some variation, the source of creation. The Tree of Life, with its branches reaching skyward and its roots plunging deep into the ground was viewed as the link between Heaven and Earth; uniting the realm above with that below.

Exulien Exuma sketching out a template of a Tree of Life

Exulien Exuma sketching out a template of a Tree of Life

Fast-forward a few millennia to the formation of Judeo-Christian tradition, where in the Book of Genesis, it was growing in the Garden of Eden, guarded by two cherubim and a flaming sword. It bore the Fruit of Immortality, but God insured its inaccessibility to Man. In the Book of Revelations, the Tree of Life is described as, “growing on each side of the river bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

The Tree of Life as the Ancients saw it, linking Heaven and Earth.

The Tree of Life as the Ancients saw it, linking Heaven and Earth.


In more modern times, science has adopted the Tree of Life as a visual metaphor for genetic relationships and the interconnectedness of all living things. One 19th century theorist described it poetically, writing, “As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous branch out and overtop many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the Great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the Earth and covers the surface with its ever-branching and beautiful ramifications.”

In all visions; mythological, philosophical, religious, or scientific, the symbol strikes at the soul and its expression is glorious.

Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus

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