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Jellyfish, art and ancient warfare

"Jellyfish" sculpture by Kendy Bellony SM504

“Jellyfish” sculpture by Kendy Bellony SM504

Earlier this week, we posted 39 new catalogue pieces on our website.  Designs that we have worked long and hard to bring about, we are now excited and proud to present.   Though it is hard to pick a favorite, I’m going to.  Hands down, and for the next three or four days at least, it is Kendy Bellony’s jellyfish.

Isn’t it elegant?  That’s what I think of when I think of jellyfish. Elegance.  I saw them in an aquarium one time and in that particular exhibit, each of the tanks was surrounded by a heavy, highly ornate, gilt frame and in the background, classical music was playing – Bach or Handel, I’m sure. It seemed entirely appropriate as I marveled at the jellies gliding with refined grace through the water on the other side of glass.   Watching this video by David Regner for the National Aquarium in Baltimore took me right back to that experience. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJUuotjE3u8  They are works of art, pure and simple.

Kendy’s sculpture looks to me like a sea nettle, which is a type of jellyfish found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  They are characterized by their long tentacles and frilly mouth-arms (I did not make that up.  That’s what they are called, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium website.) and by the star-like pattern on the top of their bell. They eat zooplankton, small crustaceans, and other jellies, while they are preyed upon by tuna, dogfish, butterfish, sunfish, and sea turtles.  Jellyfish as a species have no blood, brains, teeth, or fins and are 95% water, which sort of makes you wonder about nutritional value and why ANYTHING bothers to eat them at all. Balance of nature and circle of life considerations, I presume, or maybe just roughage…

Sea Nettle - serene and elegant.

Sea Nettle – serene and elegant.

The splendid, flowing tentacles and mouth-arms of the jellies are, of course, where the “sting” is carried.  This insidious business is conducted by a multitude of stinging cells called nematocysts, which vary in toxicity from mildly irritating to deadly. Though my research resources are replete with gee-whiz facts with regard to “the sting,” this one, in my opinion takes the cake:  The National Aquarium website reports that the ancient ninja warriors of Japan used to scatter dried venom from the Northern Sea Nettle into the wind to irritate the nose and eyes of their enemies during battle.

Sayonara, Baby!


Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus

Starting the day with coffee from Haiti


Taking care of the coffee crop. Haitian Farmer One-of-a-Kind Sculpture ID# HT1516

Taking care of the coffee crop. Haitian Farmer One-of-a-Kind Sculpture ID# HT1516

As my family will attest, coffee starts my day.  I need it – they need me to have it.  The day just goes better if I’ve paddled out to the kitchen in my jammies and headed straightaway to the stove to make and subsequently drink a cuppa Joe.  Yes, I still do this the old-fashioned way.  No high-tech Keurig for me, though I do admit it has its appeal and my eye has strayed from time to time. I make my coffee in a French press.  No muss, no fuss, I can do it in my sleep and in fact, that’s probably the way it happens most of the time.  So the last time I was in Haiti, I left with a few vacuum-sealed packages of local Rebo  Deluxe Coffee in my carry-on bag.  Good souvenir, I thought with a fair amount of satisfaction.  No chance of languishing in obscurity on some dark shelf.  I would drink and enjoy it to the last drop.

And now, I am out, which of course made me think about getting some more.  So where does one buy Haitian coffee in the US?

Once upon a time, Haitian coffee was plentiful worldwide.  During the French Colonial period, Haiti was the second largest coffee producing country on the planet and it was in the top three until as late as 1949. Dictators and trade embargoes did the coffee planters no favors and in fact, coffee production nearly died out entirely by the late 1980’s. Verdant acres of coffee trees were abandoned on the mountainsides, left to grow wild or die trying.

Fast-forward to post-quake Haiti and there has been renewed interest in reviving coffee production as a means of re-building the agricultural sector.  The Rebo company is in the process of expanding its export market, primarily to Haitians of the Diaspora, while at least a handful of importers are buying coffee from  Haitian farmers and co-ops under Fair Trade/Direct Trade agreements for roasting and selling in the US and Canada.  Haitian coffee is thus available to me, right here, right now – I can buy it online!

Ready to brew!

Ready to brew!

Thus, I shall order up.  From www.kafepanou.com I will get a bag of Rebo “Gourmet,” which is an arabica typica varietal.  From www.lacolombe.com I will get “Mare Blanche,” also arabica typica.  And from  www.williams-sonoma.com I COULD order “Lyon,” but it is cheaper to order it from La Colombe, since THEY sell it to Williams-Sonoma, OR just run up the street to W-S and pick it up myself, which I will do and at least save the shipping. “Lyon” is a blend of Peruvian, Brazilian, and Ethiopian, coffee beans along with Haitian blue forest semi-wild, heirloom beans.  And a portion of my purchase of “Lyon” goes to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which is an environmental preservation organization, so isn’t that nice? I’m gonna stop writing now and go buy some coffee.  Shall we have a tasting?  Oh, I think so!


To be continued…

Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus



Casey 5 (640x480)About twice a year, we get very excited to introduce new designs for our catalogue and website.  It is part of a long process; taking the spark of an idea all the way to hanging up a freshly unwrapped sculpture for display at our shop in Salinas.  Much of what takes place along the way is design collaboration.Caleb Belony with Casey and clan (480x640)

Often, an idea starts with the customer, who says, “Do you have any…..?” And sometimes we realize we probably should! From there, we take the idea to our artists, accompanied by pictures, line drawings or even quick sketches to clarify and bridge the gaps we encounter in cross-cultural communication.  At that point, the artist sets to work with his hammer and chisel.  A few days later, we have three or four different versions to consider, much like artist proofs.  We might love one of the proofs immediately, or we might use the proofs as  stepping stones to make good ideas even better.  Maybe we’ll suggest a 3-D element for a bird’s wing, or finer features on a face, or more bead detailing in a flower.  Sometimes a design is terrific on its own, but for greater visual impact on a wall or in a grouping, we might want to offer it in a couple of different sizes.

sm407[1]Always, always we do our best to insure that the ideas flow equally in both directions.  Respecting the artists as ARTISTS, we strive to maintain the integrity of their work, so that the brilliance of their talent and purity of their expression shines through. Responding to both the demands of the market and the tradition of the art form, a balance needs to be struck.  It is found in collaboration.


Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus

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