In praise of British Craftsmanship….

In praise of British Craftsmanship….

and also a British inability to update the blog. I can assure you that it is not because I have been sat around doing nothing, but rather having my hands full with a lot of non bonsai related things and also doing a lot of translating and typing. Regular readers may be looking forward to an update on the proposed e-book…they will also be very aware of the fact that I am all talk and no trousers and it is very slowly forthcoming. I get side tracked to easily and have been doing too much research on various different potters, kilns and ceramic techniques from the Edo period.

I have been trying not to work on trees too much of late, concentrating on the books is my biggest priority, I have people counting on me which is always a bad thing, but the pressure does produce results. The trees I have been working on lately, I always forgot to take before and after shots, plus a lot of the work wasn’t that impressive anyway. A few new customers and new workshop converts to the Saruyama way. I was in Poland recently doing a workshop and apparently it went down very well. Hopefully they will come to the next workshop scheduled in October….hopefully the Mugo I bent seven shades out of will still be alive…if it is, I will post a picture. We did discuss the fact that the tree had no future otherwise…but still, I absolutely hate to kill trees…especially ones that are not mine.
I do have a few new things to talk about though, namely some stands which have found their way back into my possession. One of the important aspects of the development of Japanese Bonsai was the relationships between craftsmen and the objects that was commissioned specifically for a purpose. Take the development of display stands for example. Before the Meiji period, they simply did not exist in the way we know today. Bonsai was an outdoor pursuit and stands were not necessary. As the development of Bonsai took things to a level where they were being displayed in exhibitions or in the home, there was a need for display stands. Master craftsmen, I guess we would call them cabinet makers, were commissioned to create stands that would suit the purpose of display. It would appear that the first attempts were so sturdy that they would withstand the weight of a garden tree. After a consultation process, a happy medium was reached between utility and beauty. The process continued and soon several master craftsmen were producing some superbly crafted pieces which are still used today.
In order for western Bonsai to reach the highest possible level, the same kind of consultation and patronage must occur between craftsmen here. Thankfully, we have some very skilled table makers and potters in the UK and some very beautiful pieces are created. I am lucky enough to know Doug Mudd very well. he is a table maker based in the North West and has been steadily improving with every table he makes and is now responsible for about half the tables on display in most UK shows. I have asked him to create several tables for me, each one a specific commission but with a little room for his own personal touch. One table was for a display that I had hoped to put on at a Suiseki exhibition in Madrid a few years ago.
Sadly, my request was a little on the impossible side; I had asked for the top to be made from a single piece of wood and to be as thin as possible. At the time, Doug had discussed his concerns and they were duly proved to be correct as the table warped and cracked within an hour due to the humidity and warmth of Madrid. I returned it to Doug for repairs and just the other day it made it’s way back here…looking better than it did originally. It now has a brass rail to keep the legs from warping, and a couple of pieces of wood in the surface to stop it from cracking and warping any more. It is not quite flat but there is the beauty of it. The damage and the repairs have made it better. My hat is off to the man.

Hopefully I will get a chance to use it. I have one thing in mind but it is a few years off completion and it may be a little weak…oh well, another table will be necessary then.
Another two stands which have pride of place in my collection are by a long time friend and student of mine, John Brocklehurst, who turned his hand to making some root stands in his spare time. You will see more of his trees coming up in the future after already having won a few merits and commendations. You will also see some of his stands no doubt…after asking for advice on the designs and finishes, the results were pretty spectacular for a first few attempts. I was impressed at any rate.
If anyone is interested in commissioning any works, or indeed there is anyone who is looking for advice on designs or anything then get in touch. The only way forward is through working together.
I will be sat in front of the PC for the most of this coming week, although I will be going to work on a tree of mine (kind of) on Thursday. A garden Juniper rescued from the Wirral and has been awaiting my attentions for some time. I will give you an update afterwards, but here is the before shot…
Don’t expect any miracles…

1 Comment

  1. Trev, I love Doug's (your)tidal wave table, I was coveting it at the Best of British show. I purchased a beautiful little round shohin table from him. I've reserved a manufacturing slot in Dougs book so we need to discuss a table design for my big maple next time you come to an Ashfield Massive gathering. Have fun with the juniper (should have gone to specsavers), hopefully see you at the Bonsai World gig.
    Cheers
    Trev

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