Useless tool, useful tool…

Useless tool, useful tool…

Following on from the last post talking about the importance of the client – professional relationship, one of the comments from Marcus made me realise that words, in the wrong hands are useless tools.  Perhaps I should have kept the extra pages I wrote as it explained my sentiments slightly better.  Some clarity is required here…

For those who have never had the chance of speaking with me in person may think of me as being very pro Japanese Bonsai, I studied there, I return there, I am a fan of certain Japanese aesthetics, some Eastern philosophical and cultural ideas…so this is a conclusion that may be easy to come to.  The truth is a much more convoluted situation and not quite so black and white.

One of the benefits of spending a full apprenticeship at a top garden where nothing is hidden, is that nothing is hidden.  Good, bad and ugly.  I have seen all sides of Japanese Bonsai, the way in which shows, judging and business operate and how the National Association has gone from a group that at it’s peak had a membership of around 80,000 and was aiming for 100,000, to a membership of less than 10,000.  I have seen the quality of exhibitions drop and the attitudes towards business amongst the rank and file as well as the elite. In no way do I see this as a good model for western bonsai and am doing all I can to not replicate all that I have seen. There are good aspects to the Japanese model which is based on a professional – client basis and there are some bad aspects.  To deny that would be ridiculous, as it would be to focus on the bad aspects.  This is counter productive and it destroys peoples dreams and confidence in bonsai and Japan, but to live in denial is equally as counter productive. Finding the middle ground is difficult and as I mentioned in the last post, double edged swords a-plenty.  All we can do is individually strive for what we think is correct.

Translating the good aspects and ignoring the bad is one of the hardest parts of the transition between Japanese trained apprentice and Western professional, something which people like Ryan, Mike Hagedorn and myself are facing.  One of the things that helped me through the dark times was Ryan’s unwavering belief that he had the ability and opportunity to create a Bonsai community that was pure, based on merit, ability and effort, along with co-operation rather than competition between professionals for profit and personal gain…exactly the same sentiments with which the Japanese Bonsai community started to grow in the post war period. As things stand, those two are doing a very good job of it…my progress is questionable.

In order to make a square peg fit into a round hole, the best thing to do is to try and make the hole a little squarer and the peg a little rounder, that way we get something which has the best qualities of both worlds.  This is why I felt a little dismayed by some of the negativity shown towards what in my mind was superb evidence of the progress which has been made towards excellence and what I considered to be a morally correct decision on the part of all parties involved.

Well…enough of the ramblings of a useless tool, here is a very useful tool which I finally managed to pick up yesterday.

A member of the Maidstone Club, Adrian Long, has designed a Shohin work stand which enables the user to change angle and orientation easily. The table top is sturdy and has a non slip surface and is big enough for your average shohin.  Adrian assures me that it is secure up to 6kg, but if you have a shohin that weighs more than 6 kg, then please change your soil mix to something less dense.

I used mine in conjunction with a large sized turntable which enabled me to spin it round as the top is fixed.  Adrian is working on a large floor standing turntable that will rise and fall.  I look forward to that as that is one aspect of Japanese Bonsai that I think should be adopted by many.  For the eagle eyed amongst you, yes that is Lady Saruyama’s Juniper styled at the 2010 BSA show and displayed earlier this year as a work in progress.  The unusual tokoname pot, with carved design was a late Christmas present.

 Bolts and wing nuts as fixing points for the strong and unbreakable rubber bands.  Bungees are also available. The rubber bands are very tight and just one is necessary to hold the tree in place.

Aint nuthin’ but a G-clamp baby…secure and stable.

Maximum angle.  The ball joint is tightened by the little handle at the front and is very tight, does not move at all.  Now that I look at it like that…maybe a windswept…no no no…hands off.

Useful with pines as well…this is the little shohin pine from earlier in the year.  Still only one piece of wire on it.  Need to get a smaller pot though….

I found it to be a great little table, much better than the one I had previously which had a similar design but the ball joint and the clamp was too slack so I never used it.  This one has a very secure and stable feel to it, and especially combined with the turntable it makes for easy work and easy work makes for good work.

Adrian is making them himself but has asked me to promote them which I am happy to do.  They are available for the tidy sum of £68 plus p+p.  Email me for more details and I will put you in contact with him.  they will be for sale at the Shohin UK show next year no doubt, but for any shohin enthusiast, I would recommend it.  I look forward to the big turntable.

And on that bombshell…to the bat cave.

1 Comment

  1. marcus watts 3 years ago

    Very nicely put…(the extra 'page' was the important one). I spent ages writing / deleating bits of my simple comment too as I wanted it to be thought provoking and to draw out a little more of your personal feelings.

    I think UK bonsai is at an exciting stage – there is a strong foundation, a new crop of keen people wanting to raise the bar where ever they can, and a greater level of proffessionalism is creeping in. Personally I think we (the community) are lucky to have well trained and experienced teachers on home soil and should be trying to encourage them where possible. I think you will soon build a mental picture of the wants and needs of your students and more importantly you will hear of what they dont like or want too.

    The brief history of the Japanese show scene is interesting and I think at any given opportunity we should cherry pick the better ideas and drop the questionable ones – moulding in a new shape that fits properly is better than just copying another design exactly.

    Finally I would not take to heart any of the disdain or bad feeling regarding the American tree at the show – in this country there are basically no trees to go out and buy off the shelf from a nursery that are good enough to go straight in a show unworked and actually win. The only time such a tree shows up for sale is when an enthusiast sells it really. I think the American scene is slightly trickier though as a few places have very good material that seems well styled but not really refined (like here) but there isnt a majority of enthusiasts with similar material that has had 5-10 years more work yet, when there is the shows will be more even.

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