Last weekend I attended the rather special EUK Bonsai Ten in Diepenbeek, Belgium. I attended with a friend from Italy. I was a trader and a demonstrator and this being my first time at this club I did not know what to expect. What very quickly became apparent was the incredible organisation and planning that had gone into the staging of this ‘club’ bonsai show. It was Friday evening, the whole show was staged and ready for business, a few traders had set up their shops and the excitement was palpable. I finally met up with Tom Benda an amazing potter from Czech Republic, we are working together…watch this space!
The exhibition featured an excellent club show with many superb trees worthy of a national exhibition and a show from Mario Komsta that was literally breathtaking in presentation and quality of trees, each being in a black Tokonoma individually lit. This was a benchmark for bonsai in Europe.
The demonstrators Viriato Oliveira and Márcio Meruje from Portugal, François Jeker from France, Enrico Savini from Italy, Mark and Ritta Cooper and ME! Most of the guys worked on trees however Mark, Ritta and I gave digital presentations that were very well received with many people standing and crowding the doorway.
A Huge thanks for inviting me to this amazing show to the guys and girls of Bonsai Club Eda Uchi Kai, in particular Hans Vleugels, Inge and JP Polmans for their generosity and opening their house to a bunch of renegade bonsai artists.
All photos supplied by Roland Petek, take a look at his extensive blog and lots more photos of the Bonsai Club Eda Uchi Kai show http://roland-bonsai-eng.blogspot.co.uk/
The styled tree laid over the raw material (Photoshop)
I traded a small Yew for this Mugo Pine at The Burrs workshop 2012, it was planted in a large flat plastic seed tray in a soil mixture not suitable for the rather damp conditions where I live. Whilst re-potting I saw that all the roots were on one side so decided to change the angle and make a cascading tree. The tree responded well and has thrived all year. Today I styled the tree, I have not wired to the tips of the needles because at this stage refinement is NOT my objective. Branch placement and the establishment of the design. The next few years will be bud development and refining the design.
update image due to a discussion on EBF
In the dark depths of my memory I remember a phrase spoken by another artist during a lecture/demo… “Create the smallest Bonsai possible with the material you have” … and lets face it BONSAI are supposed to be small trees. Despite the plethora of large trees being shown in major exhibitions I have noticed an upsurge in ‘small’ bonsai… Note the recent major Shohin exhibition here in the UK and the growth of the British Shohin Association over the last few years. Certainly many artists of my generation (and older) suffer from ‘Bad backs’ due to carrying over large bonsai.
Many large bonsai do possess drama and ‘presence’ but so do small trees… AND I believe that small trees are more challenging, far more attention to detail and a delicate touch is required.
I have just styled this ‘Kifu’ Taxus. When the tree was collected from the cliff face it was over 1.5 metres in height and a double trunk. The original idea was a Chuhin size but the fascinating area around the nebari and a twisting live vein leading to a strong branch enabled this tree to become a Kifu size bonsai. It is planted in a lovey circular pot by Milan Klika.
the Kifu taxus styled today
Not quite as collected, the top of the tree has been reduced
This was how the tree was originally styled but it simply did not look OK
Today we visited the Studios of Bonsai Focus to make a photos shoot for articles in future magazines. I worked on a lovely larch and Mikey worked a Scots Pine that was collected over 10 years ago and gifted to Mikey to work on from Terry Foster.
For my personal collection I have always worked on native European trees, this is for three key reasons. First: I live in the cold wet north of England and working on local material should give me the best chance to create bonsai that will thrive and survive in my climate. Second availability of good ‘imported’ material, for sure GOOD raw material worth buying was in short supply when I started in bonsai 30 years ago, simply put the trees coming out of the far east were the runts of the litter, we got the crap that that they did not want. Thankfully that appears to have changed over the last few years as the art is in decline in Japan more material is becoming available and at the right price. Third: Most material coming from the Far East is either ‘finished’ or ‘semi-finished’ I am an artist who prefers to work with totally raw material even though it takes longer, the satisfaction is greater.
This year however a Chuhin White Pine caught my eye… It displayed all the attributes and potential to create a great tree… Almost 100% of imported White Pines (WP) are grafted on Black Pine (BP) stock, this is done because BP is stronger and the bark quality is great, the problem is the graft is usually so prominent to render the tree quite ugly because the transition from Black to White is pronounced. On my tree it is almost invisible.
The tree was very healthy, had an abundance of foliage, good nebari, movement and taper… all things that you should look for when purchasing a bonsai, I was smitten… I bought my first ‘import’. Immediately after purchase it needed repotting as it was pot bound (this was why the price was favourable) I slip potted the tree into a lovely Dan Barton Pot.
That was six months ago, this week with the help of Mikey I completed the styling started by Hans van Meers and a few of the guys at the Burrs Event… THEY were supposed to complete the tree but never got past needle plucking and wiring a few branches… I believe beers and chatting got in the way! So it was down to me and Mikey to do the work.
The tree had an abundance of needles that needed to be removed. After selecting those branches I no longer required we set about wiring the remainder. This took over seven hour’s work fine wiring and bud selection. WP only has one growth per year and back budding has to be carefully managed, this first styling involved branch placement and random bud removal with a view to the final image being a refined fuller canopy in a couple of years.
The tree finally wired for its ‘first’ styling
I received this tree from Matija Triglav my Slovenian friend a mountain dweller! Matija had the tree for a year and I kept it a further year before repotting and styling.
Some may say the trunk is ugly and had too many thin and fat parts. This larch has endured the worst of weather and environments; I am sure it has been hit by the odd avalanche and crushed under many meters of snow.
The bulbous growth is a result of callusing and ‘recallusing’ caused as the tree was under constant attack from the elements.
I wanted to create a compact tree that reflected that struggle for survival, so the canopy cradled in the bosom of the trunk.
I look forward to the canopy developing and the ramification improving, I prefer Larch as a winter image so the styling must be perfect.
I have been refining the deadwood on my very large Yew. Good preparation, cleaning, removing remnants of old bark, clearing out the deep holes and hiding any work done by man will ensure that this tree will present well. Three years since the tree was collected it has thrived, it will be styled in my garden the day before the Burrs event, Burrs participants who will visit the garden will be the first to see this great Yew.
One room, 15 demonstrators and I imagine quite a few egos! working on amazing yamadori trees… it was quite a feast for the eyes. It was actually more the 15 because some artists had UP TO 5 assistants all working frantically to complete their projects in the allotted time. Here was an opportunity to showcase your talent/bonsai school to a very large audience.