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Bend It???

IMG_8047Whenever I sell a Haitian metal sculpture, whether at a show or a street fair or holiday bazaar, I am always pleased when our customers walk away happy and confident with their purchase. But sometimes I have to chuckle at the process. When something is brand new and shiny and wonderful, the ready instinct is to be careful with it. And it’s a good instinct to follow, usually. On the continuum of action between cautious and bold there are times when one should be exercised over the other. Sometimes being cautious is the right choice. And sometimes you have to be bold and bend your sculpture.

“Bend it?” you say. Yes, bend it. Many of our sculptures have a three dimensional element and sometimes you have to bend that element out to make it “pop” to give it the depth that it deserves. For instance, in the photos at the left, you will see a great little daisy sculpture by Caleb Belony. In the first photo, the petals are all flush with each other. Completely flat. That’s how we pack them to be shipped, whether to The Flower Show in Philadelphia or to your Great Aunt Tilly in Tuscaloosa. It’s more IMG_8046compact, takes up less bulk and all of that good stuff.

However, when you go to hang that sculpture, you need to bend those petals out a little bit. Go ahead. Do it boldly, with grit and determination. You’ll see the difference immediately. It’s got more pizzazz, more life. It looks more like a daisy. The same is true of most of our winged sculptures, such as our birds, dragonflies, butterflies, and angels. A big clue on wings is if they are attached with a rivet. If so, go ahead and bend it out.

Of course I will tell you that bending is not limited to elements that are riveted. Case in point, the flower at the left. Some dragonflies don’t have rivets, but the wings look better bent out a little bit anyway. Same with some of our curly haired girls and masks. If you think your sculpture might look more lively that way, give it a try. (You can always bend it boldly back!)

IMG_8049IMG_8053  Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

Of course I would buy Haitian Chocolate – but how??

Girl with Bent Hair by Louis Eric LE 2422

Me without chocolate.

Chocolate is life – isn’t that how the saying goes? Well, it might as well be. It is a certainly a truism in my case. I love chocolate. Mostly dark, but really, in a pinch anything will do. Even leftover Christmas chocolate in February before the Valentine’s Day haul is bestowed. In desperate moments, I am unashamedly unfussy.

Imagine my delight then, when I read that Haiti, ever near and dear to my heart, is one of the leading cocoa bean producers in the Caribbean and that the cocoa beans are really GOOD cocoa beans. According to a blog post on the Agrinomes Y Veteriniers Sans Frontiers website (Translated from the French: Agronomists and Veterinarians Without Borders) Haitian cocoa trees are old varieties, primarily Criollo and Trinitario, and that these varieties are highly sought after by producers of fine chocolates due to their robust aromatic qualities. Fermented beans of these types fetch huge prices on the world market and could be a real boon to Haiti’s agricultural economy. (Do you sense a “but” here?) But, Haiti by and large, does not have the equipment or know-how to ferment their beans to international standards. For the most part, then, Haiti’s unfermented beans are being sold for bargain basement prices to mediocre chocolate producers, who blend them with beans from other sources and crank out ho-hum chocolates. My delight turned to despair on a dime.

Happily, there is a movement afoot to band the Haitian cocoa farmers together into cooperatives and teach them fermentation and organic farming farming techniques as well as giving them access to fair trade markets. Slowly but surely, Haitian cocoa is making its way to the finest European chocolatiers while small

Jump for Joy SM524 by Julio Balan

Me with chocolate. What a happy difference!

farmers back in Haiti are reaping their rightful rewards. Promising, certainly, and all of this got me to wondering if Haitian chocolate was available in the U.S. market as well.

I began my quest online and after a fairly exhaustive Google search, I found two sources for 75% Dark Haitian Chocolate bars called “Bonnat” which are products of the AVSF co-ops. Unfortunately in both cases, the bars were not currently available for purchase. A bit of a set-back, to be sure. Quickly though, I had an “ah-ha!” moment as I remembered that I had bought some Haitian chocolate bars from my favorite chocolatier in the universe: “Todos Santos Chocolates” in Santa Fe, NM last fall. I called them up and asked if they still had the Haitian chocolate bars and if so could they send me a few? Sadly, the answer was no. Their supplier went out of business and they needed to find another source before they could re-order. They would, however, be happy to call me when they get them in again.

Wow. I’d love to feed my chocolate habit with Haitian chocolate – but how? I wonder if it’s inaccessibility is due to still relatively small production and those danged Europeans gobbling it all up, or if it’s an infrastructure problem, or if The Big Boys that hold a monopoly 95% of all Haitian cocoa exports didn’t like the Small Fries banding together and challenging their control of the market. The mind boggles. If I get any answers, I’ll be sure to let you know…

                                               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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