Saturday, 26 January 2013

Emails a plenty! And answering some of your questions Part 1.

First of all a big thank you to all the crazies who despite the weather, made the effort to come and see the new material. 4 X 4 vehicles or not, some people will pull out all the stops to cherry pick from the new trees. You nearly cleared me out of tea and coffee and and the odd packet or two of chocolate HOBNOBS but it was great to see you all and I don't think anyone noticed the foul weather. Thank goodness the bad weather that was forecast did not arrive, as I did not fancy having to put you all up for the night!

My recent posts on my blog have triggered a lot of private emails on several topics. If nothing else, it shows that the blog is getting people thinking. It may simply be coincidence, but there have been a lot of conversations back and forth on similar topics on FACEBOOK too, so to all those who emailed me, you are not alone with your thoughts or questions.
Obviously it is difficult to air many of the subjects in depth due to not wishing to embarrass certain people. So I have been thinking about how to write about some of the issues that people have raised in emails to me, without getting personnel. And it's not easy. But I would like to discuss things a little here if only to impart my thoughts and what bit of knowledge I have on a few subjects.

One of the subjects that gets raised a lot is that of showing/displaying trees in an exhibition. What do you do, how must the tree look. How do you prepare it, is it OK to have wire on a tree, must it be mossed etc etc. So here goes.

One of the objectives when showing/exhibiting a tree or trees, is to present and/or be able to appreciate a mature tree in all it's glory. The word to pick up on here is mature as that is the image and feel we want to convey. Now by that, do I mean a mature tree or a tree that is mature as a bonsai?
If you are thinking " It is the same thing" then you are wrong.
As an example, I can collect a Hawthorn of a hill which is let's say 100 years old. I grow new whip branches on it and after 4 years I think I have a bonsai. Wrong again, I have a bonsai in training! It is now 104 years old and 4 years old as a bonsai!  It has REAL age but not age as a bonsai. The relevance of this is that the calliper and therefore proportions of the branches in relationship to the trunk are wrong. They are too thin, and this combined with a lack of ramification (because believe me you don't have ramification after 4 years) exposes the tree for what it is, a bonsai in the making. I have deliberately chosen the Hawthorn for this example as it is one of the trees I have seen the most exhibited prematurely in exhibitions certainly in the UK but also in Europe. But of course this practise is not limited to the Hawthorn alone. Blackthorn, Privet, Elm and others get given the 'fast track to the show' treatment and unfortunately it is most seen in trees from the UK.
So if I play 'Devils Advocate', does this happen because people are in too much of a hurry to exhibit their tree, and because it now has a nice shape they feel they must show it off. Could it be that people do not understand what a mature bonsai should be and therefore ignorance of what is required is to blame for the premature displaying of the tree. And of course there is the need to display a tree at every given opportunity that is driven by ego. It's almost as if people will forget you if you don't have a tree on display. We must not forget the ego as it has a lot to answer for. However ponder this. If you enter 99 excellent trees into 100 shows, people will always remember the 100th tree which was poor. I can hear them now "Did you see that crap tree Fred Blogs put in that show". They forget the 99 excellent trees!
I personally think that ego, ignorance of what a truly mature tree is and haste are all to blame for having an affect on the quality of the trees exhibited from the UK. (Before someone shoots me down in flames this is not just a UK thing, but it is common here).

Then of course we have what I call the "Benjamin Button" syndrome. For those of you who have not seen the film; Brad Pitt aka Benjamin Button is born an old man and then gets younger and younger. i.e. ageing backwards.
This title I give to peoples trees when they have superb mature bonsai in every sense, but who insist on thinning them out so much that they look like they were styled the day before. There were several trees like this at the Noelanders Trophy again this year. Very beautiful superficially but close up they left me feeling indifferent because they were worth so much more. But many many people did not pick up on this and in many cases they were in raptures over these trees. What was interesting was that in several cases these trees have been exhibited around Europe before by previous owners looking mature and established bonsai and the new owners have given them the old Harley Street nip and tuck and the trees have joined the 18/65 club. An 18 year old face on a 65 year old body. Am I painting a picture here? What makes people regress a tree so much so much I do not know. Again could it be a lack of understanding of what a mature tree should be. Maybe they think it is too overgrown or full. Or could it be a desire to put that personal stamp on the tree to say look I have improved it. (But they haven't).
But a mature tree with mature branches and the foliage thinned out and miles of wire visible is also not a good combo as you get this feeling it has just been styled.

Here is a nice example of a mature tree presented for display.

This tree has most the secondary and tertiary branches wired. However the foliage pads are full and mature. The tree had a little cosmetic work done to clean up it's lines for display so that the image is crisp. However it has not been manicured to the point of not looking 'alive'. You often see very pristine trees that are manicured to the hilt. Manicuring a tree to look nice is one thing. After all we don't want it looking a mess. However people will often manicure a tree so much it looks plastic and without any life. It is important to know when enough is enough and technique for techniques sake is pointless. You have to find the balance so that the tree is manicured but is still allowed to express itself rather than look stifled and without soul. The difference is in those people who only have technique and those people who have technique but who understand and 'feel' a tree.

This brings me nicely on to the next item, should trees have wire on for exhibition ?
The answer is simple. Yes if they need it. Unfortunately in the UK there is this myth that trees cannot have wire on them if they are exhibited. This is something that seems to be perpetuated in the club scene even today. I remember being told that a tree I had styled and prepared for exhibition in the Noelanders Trophy was not 'good just yet' because it had wire on. And that comment came from a UK bonsai trader. As you can imagine I was shocked when it won!!
So in some ways I can understand the confusion surrounding the wiring of trees for exhibition when professionals are giving out misinformation. Oh misinformation, don't get me started.
And yet trees in the Kokufu - Ten and Sakafu - Ten exhibitions in Japan have wire on them.
And just to emphasise my point, at the 2008 Kokufu - Ten exhibition there were two talking points on the lips of everyone on the opening morning. The first thing was that Saburo Kato who for many many years was the President of the Nippon Bonsai Association, had passed away. The second thing was that there were two pines in the exhibition without wire! Wow! Yes even the Japanese were surprised.

Wiring is permitted and is in fact necessary to some degree if you want to present a tree, I am talking conifer here, in pristine shape. But of course the quality of the wiring plays a part and bad wiring should be avoided. What is the point of wiring the tree to make it look good if the wiring is ugly. We are applying the wire to make the tree look beautiful and if the wiring is poor we are not achieving that. It's a bit like the wife applying make up and she has got lipstick in her ears. It was pointless putting it on.
However we don't want to be seeing guy wires and scaffolding on a tree that is presented for an exhibition. And yes I have seen this in an exhibition several times.
Presenting and preparing a tree for exhibition is a bit like getting dressed up to go out. It is no good wearing your best suit if your shoes are dirty or your hair is a mess. So when you have worked on the tree, removing needles that break up the trees profile, cleaning live veins, lime sulphuring deadwood etc. We still have to pay attention to the pot and the surface of the potting medium. One of my students and two of my clients remarked on some pots in an exhibition in 2011 being dirty and how I would not have let them get away with it, if it were their trees. Too right! There is no excuse for a dirty pot. Only laziness!
Try to dress the surface of the potting medium with a small size particles, especially on the smaller trees like shohin and kifu. Nothing looks worse than builders rubble on the top of a pot especially if there is no moss. And speaking of moss, try to use no more than one or two different colours of moss.
In nature you will not find the 'Joseph's Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat'  effect that you see adorning many pots. Not only is it unnatural, but it detracts from the tree in many cases.
More to follow.

Just as an aside, I appreciate peoples comments on my blog but please leave your name. I can't see the point of anonymous posting.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

And the snow keeps coming.

Well the snow has not let up since I got back from Belgium, and the temperature is low.
 -13C was forecast for rural areas last night, but thank goodness it only went down to -4C.
Last time, I posted some images of some of the new bronzes I will soon have in stock.
Today I thought I would share with you a couple of display stands that I bought just before going away last week.
I have to admit I was not sure whether or not to buy them because I had the idea in the back of my mind that I would treat myself to a stand or maybe two from my friend Christophe Roggeman from Lebbeke, Belgium while at the Noelanders Trophy. But these stands were a good price, especially for Japanese imports and they were in front of me ready to go. On the other hand I did not know what Christophe would have for sale in Belgium. As it turned out I made the right move because this year Christophe did not have a stand at the Noelanders Trophy, for the first time in ten years. How does that saying go; "A bird in the hand ..........."
For those of you not familiar with Christophe, he is CHR Furniture. A very talented and easy going  guy who has turned the skills he employs at work in his daily job, into producing something for his hobby of bonsai, which is fantastic as we all benefit.
Anyway, back to the Japanese tables.

Here is the first Japanese table that I bought. It is a cascade stand, nicely made with simple lines and it will be a welcome addition to my inventory of stands or as someone once called my 'table library'??
I think I know what he meant!

This is the second stand that I bought. Again of simple lines but with nice dowel work to the face of the table on all four sides.

The top of the table has exquisite grain and this photo below does not do it justice. Please click the image for a close up.

I am very pleased with this new table and as a professional, I can never have enough display stands. And I must admit it is an area where I am not rich. I only have (I think ) 21 or 22 stands and this is no where near enough in number. But I am working on it and slowly building up a nice collection both for my own use in the first instance. But also for students or clients to use if they need, it's just my way of trying to give a complete service.

I have taken a picture today of the Scots Pine that I did a first styling on before going to Belgium. It is far from finished and a long way from the finished image I have in my head. But this is only the first styling and I am in no rush. With future re wiring, I can fine tune the design and bring the outline of the tree in closer to the centre line on both sides, but especially on the left side. But for now I am happy with how the tree is going. I will be making a box to support it in the Spring.

This is the tree before I started.

And after the first styling.

If you compare this styling to the two pine stylings on my blog entry "An easy post", you will see that the tree does not look as finished as those two pines. I think this is a good thing to show people because all trees are different and it is not always possible to get a good level of 'finish' on a tree the first time. And if you follow my work, you will know that if it is possible I will always get a high level of 'finish' on my trees even with the first styling. So the lesson here is 'everything at the right time, and work with the tree'.

And to finish, here is one of the new trees not yet on my site, a nice Mugo Pine which should give someone a really nice bonsai in the future.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

New Bronze Ten Kei for 2013

As I have been sat here twiddling my thumbs looking out at the snow and wishing that the two Polar Bears playing on the lawn would clear off. It dawned on me that because of the Noelanders Trophy, my thoughts for the last few days had been occupied by the trip and I had not updated you on some of the new arrivals and some new items I will have for sale.

For Spring 2013 I will have some new solid bronze Ten Kei (Ten Pei) for sale on my website. Some of the new designs I am really excited about as there is currently nothing like them.
Three in particular will be wonderful to display with bonsai or suiseki and I present them here for you first. They are all limited to an edition of 150 pieces. As usual click on any image to enlarge.

This first one is a Pine branch with cones. It is 11 cms. Price £80. 

The second is an Oak branch with acorns. 6.5 cms. £80.

The third is a Horse Chestnut branch with a conker just split open. 9.0 cms £80.

I think you will agree that these bronzes are a really wonderful addition and I am sure they will sell out very quickly. If anyone would like to reserve one, please email me and I will add you to my list.

Although I have three bronze Kingfishers available already on my site, I have decided to add these two new editions as well. The quality speaks for themselves and they are by the magician Michael Simpson.

Here is the first one. A simple sculpture, an edition of 150. 7.4 cms  £110. Obviously this one used for bonsai display gives direction to the right, so a tree or suiseki would be on the left of the bronze.

The second Kingfisher bronze could only be displayed with a large tree or very large stone. I ordered one for myself immediately.
An edition of  only 50 pieces. 23 cms and weighing 750 gms. £495.

This sculpture is obviously directional when used for display. But also it is a seasonal bronze, by that I mean the sculpture is suggesting the season or time of the year. From the image depicted of the pair of Kingfishers 'food passing' we know that they are courting. So we are looking at January February time. Ideal for the Noelanders Trophy or Swindon Winter Image shows which occur in Jan and Feb.
Imagine a nice Weeping Willow out of leaf and the Kingfishers, suggesting a nice quiet stream or river setting.
For me this is such a beautiful sculpture on it's own that I have bought it as a stand alone piece, which I can use for display should I wish in the future.

I will also be adding two new bronze miniatures to the lineup. Although not limited editions, the miniatures are very popular for displaying with shohin or mame bonsai and with shohin suiseki. From my sales, the Wren has been without  doubt the best sellar. I am sure you all know it.
Here it is.

The first new miniature is a Blue Tit. Price £48.

And the second miniature is a Red Squirrel. Price £35.

I think you will agree that these wonderful miniatures would enhance any display.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Noelanders Trophy XIV. The Good the Bad and the Ugly Part 3.

I had arrived at the venue on the Friday lunchtime while everyone was in the throes of setting up their sales tables, displays and getting their trees photographed.
As I walked in Peter Warren was there prepping some trees ready to be photographed and then displaying them for the owners. He and Peter Snart from Willowbog have provided this deliver and set up service for people who could not attend the event for whatever reason but who want to have their tree displayed. One guy in particular, Marcus Watts was completely cut off from the rest of the world down in Cornwall and his tree was only present at the show due to the two Peters. This is to be commended and if you are ever in a similar situation I would recommend that you try their service. This is something I started providing at the Gingko Awards # 2 and carried on until it's demise and then continued providing for the Noelanders Trophy. So I know it is a beneficial service to the bonsai community. Well done the Peters!

I spent an entertaining evening on Friday in a little pub eating steak and pepper sauce followed by apple tart and slagroom (warm cream) with John Trott and his buddy whose name I have forgotten, (sorry). Peter Ford my student, Martin Shepherd from South Wales who I have known for years but rarely get to see and the enigma that is Mo Fagan. We had a great evening even though I could not get Mo to do either his Jethro impression or his Stephen Hawkins impression. But then Mo is entertaining just being Mo! Unfortunately I left the party early as I had not been to bed since Wednesday and now I am an old codger I need my bed. So I left the others having the odd pint or three and Peter and I went back to the hotel at around 10.30 pm. for what I thought was going to be an early night. However Peter insisted I do my Beyonce "All the single ladies" Chinese style impression until way after 12 midnight. No respect these kids!

I have already mentioned the British contingent of potters at the Noelanders Trophy.
The quality of their work spoke volumes and even though there were many potters at the event, the Brits shone brightly. What never ceases to amaze me about potters, and here I mean all potters not just the Brits, is that the medium of ceramics allows them to be so creative and expressive and that you can see quite unmistakeably each potters individualistic style. Even more so I think than in bonsai. This I feel is what makes clay such a wonderful medium for art. Not only is it very tactile but it allows for great freedom to be creative, that is if you have the talent.

Usually I go mad at the Noelanders and regularly spend 500-1,000 on pots. But this year I was more reserved and only bought 4 pots. They were all by Andy 'Stone Monkey' Pearson, and I have to admit that I had to walk away from his stand for fear of over spending, despite Les Storey (obviously on commission) egging me on to buy more. But I am very pleased with the 4 pots I bought. Why did I buy them? Because I like them and because they say 'Stone Monkey' when you see them. His stamp is on them both spiritually and physically, (on the bottom see image below).
If you don't know of Andy or you are not familiar with his work check out his website here;

Here are three of his pots that I bought.
This cascade or semi cascade pot below measures 11 cms high X 18 cms diameter at the top X 12 cms diameter at the bottom.

This was the largest pot that I bought and I had reserved this pot after seeing it on Andy's FACEBOOK page. It measures 10.5 cms high X 28.5 cms diameter.

And this one, which could be for a shohin tree or accent.

And here is Andy's mark, 'Stone Monkey' !

Thank you Andy, you are a credit and welcome addition to the British potters.

On Saturday even though it was cold outside, everyone seemed to have a smile on their face inside the event. Unless of course they had been caught out by rogue traders! But seriously, it was like a beehive inside the venue and many people complained that it was too cramped to be enjoyable. But that's what happens when the event is a success. People do not stop to think of the logistics of trying to find a venue that gives good light, is accessible, has good parking, has enough space for an exhibition, traders and demonstrators and is affordable.

This year there were not so many 'sooty trees' present. By that I don't mean sooty aphid but sooty deadwood! I have spent a fortune and wasted a lot of time trying to find these 'sooty trees' in nature, both in the Alps and Pyrenees and also in the Rockies. I have asked my daughter to photograph any that she sees in the Himalayas while she is in Nepal. They must be out there somewhere otherwise why would people create these sooty pines and junipers?
However there were some 'painted' trees this year and some with deadwood stuck on. Reasons on a postcard please. But the most blatant use of paint I have seen was at a Gingko Awards one year where the whole live vein on the front of the tree was painted on. The actual live vein feeding the tree was at the back out of sight. But that's another story.

It was good to see Henk Fresen again this year with his amazing bronze sculptures. Henks work is now very much sought after in Japan which is a great honour for him. I would urge anyone interested in bronze sculptures to look at his site.

Because of the impending weather and also the weather conditions in the UK I kept in touch with home for updates on the weather.
I left the Noelanders prematurely on the Saturday just as I had left the UK prematurely on Thursday night to beat the snow. My aim Thursday was to keep ahead of the snow as it came in and let it chase me down to Dover. On Saturday I did not want to get caught out being stuck unable to get home by the heavy snow that was forecast for the Sunday for Belgium and France. Plus the big extra long wheel base van I had hired was horrendous in the snow, it just did not have traction at all even though I was carrying a lot of weight. I would have felt more confident in my own car.
As it was I missed the results of who won what in the exhibition and only found out on FACEBOOK on my return home. A big congratulations to Mark and Ritta Cooper who got both first prize and second prize in the SHOHIN category. It was an easy choice to make as their compositions were excellent.
It was interesting that when I got home and downloaded the 6 images from my iPhone I had the Noelanders winner and best deciduous tree among them! Maybe I am getting the hang of this bonsai game.
After battling the elements to get home I had the problem of emptying the trees off  the van in the first instance and then getting the van back to Halesowen to the hire place in the second instance. This is when you know who your true friends are. Peter Ford was at my place at 9.00 am on Sunday morning to give me a hand to unload the van. Thanks #2!
Then I left home Monday morning at 7.00am to get to the hire centre to drop the van back. Unfortunately I could not raise any taxi service to get home from Halesowen. So thinking on my feet I called Rod White to see if he could give me the phone number of a taxi company in Halesowen where he lived as nothing was running from Kidderminster. He recommended 'Rods Prompt Taxi Rank' and came out to pick me up and take me home. How about that. If you look in the dictionary under the word "helpful" it say's 'See Rod White'.
So a big thank you to Peter and Rod for getting the Tollster out of the S..t.

After Rod dropped me off home I breathed a half sigh of relief. It had been a mixed weekend with highs and lows, but at least now I could relax. I was home and job done. Or was it.
My Mother had let 'Charlie' her cockatiel out for some exercise while she cleaned out his cage and he had crash landed and broke both of his legs poor thing. Thinking on my feet I grabbed a box of matches and then used two matches on each side of each of his little legs to splint them. Wrapping the matches with selotape to keep them in position.
When he walked for the first time you should have seen his little face light up..........then his wings then his tail...........

Noelanders Trophy XIV. The Good the Bad and the Ugly Part 2

For many, the highlight of any big event like the Noelanders Trophy, is the vendors area. For others it is the chance to see demonstrations. For me it is and always will be the exhibition of trees. Bonsai for me is first and foremost about trees and I get great pleasure from looking at the trees in any exhibition and at a prestigious event like the Noelanders it also gives you a chance to showcase your own work. Whether that may be your own tree or a tree of a client or student it does not matter, it is better than any business card. Also you get to see the work of others and from that you can see an individuals style, their understanding of bonsai, aesthetics and presentation and much more. I did not exhibit this year as my trees were not ready, however next year I will be exhibiting.

One thing that continues to amaze me is how many trees get exhibited before they are ready. This is usually due to two reasons. Firstly a lack of understanding of what a mature bonsai is, by that I mean a tree that does not look like it has just been styled. It should have a maturity about it.
Secondly the 'I must have a tree in the exhibition' mind set. Which translated can also read 'I need to be seen'. (Just in case people forget their name).
Some trees are a long way off from being ready for exhibition. They may have a nice shape but often the branches are out of proportion to the trunk. So you have a mature deciduous tree with a great trunk and thin young branches recently grown over a few years. And people say 'Yes but it's lovely' but they can't see it's an old trunk with young branches. Or in some cases an old tree with mature branches but with no ramification!
Here is an example of a tree ready for exhibition.


The overall level of this years exhibition was up another notch and there were more trees too! So really a double achievement. It can be hard to put on an exhibition of this size and maintain a high level of excellence. So to raise the level and take on more trees is amazing. But a lot of that is to do with the participants. People are recognising the importance of the Noelanders Trophy and want to be a part of it, therefore more trees are being put forward for selection. They do not seem to be hindered by the back biting, politics, ego's and general apathy that infects the British Bonsai scene!

This year there was no KIFU prize, but instead a BEST DECIDUOUS BONSAI award. It is a shame because the KIFU category has produced some very nice trees including this winner from 2008.

However the winning Deciduous tree was stunning, a Fagus crenata originally from Saburo Kato, exhibited by Louis Vallejo. The Noelanders Trophy winner was also from Louis Vallejo, this time a Spruce originally from Masahiko Kimura.

The winning deciduous tree!

And the Noelanders Trophy winner.

Spain were the dominating force this year and not Italy and it was not just the quality of the trees, but the number of quality trees. It was interesting that an Italian artist posted on Facebook that the Italians should be ashamed and that they have been sitting on their laurels too long. Phew they certainly get worked up. And this morning the Spanish have posted on FACEBOOK that they are the super champions of Europe. For a moment it almost felt like Inter Milan vs Barcelona all over again! But joking aside, it is this competitive edge that is pushing up the level of bonsai in Europe. And this is exactly what the Gingko Awards did too. It made people raise their game.
I personally don't feel that the chest beating and Tarzan calls are necessary. But that's just me. I prefer the way of the samurai.

Here is an Olive from one of the Spanish guys.

These three trees I have posted here from the exhibition were all big trees and very impressive and imposing. One tree that caught my eye was a literati pine. It was understated with great character, lovely mature bark and it sat quietly between some very loud trees drawing very little attention. But it was exquisite.

This photo does not do it justice. First of all it was taken on my iPhone but being two dimensional you cannot see the delicacy of the branches. A tree does not have to be tied in knots and have acres of deadwood to make a statement, you just need to listen to what it is saying. 
Unfortunately many people including a lot of the 'super stars' are seduced by extremes. The huge behemoth's too big to carry or the contorted writhing masses of trunk and branches are the 'only way'. They do not appreciate the grace of the ballerina or the slim character of the old man of the mountain like this literati.

One of the exhibitors had certainly been thinking outside of the box and had brought this juniper arrangement.

The black back drop is a wall on which the presentation is mounted. On the right we have a Sabina Juniper in a cascade style and to the left are three artificial rocks which are a waterfall complete with running water, the small aquarium pump creating the waterfall was housed behind the exhibit. This was quite innovative. It is not my cup of tea, but it's nice to see someone pushing the boundaries a little and it did get people talking and possibly made a few people rethink their next exhibit.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Noelanders Trophy XIV - The Good the Bad and the Ugly Part 1

Well the Noelanders Trophy XIV has been and gone. No doubt many of you will have seen some reports and images from the show already on the many internet bonsai forums and sites so I won't post loads of images of the show.
For me personally, the event was a mixed bag, hence the subtitle 'The Good the Bad and the Ugly'.
But where to start. I suppose with the Bad and the Ugly side and keep the good until last, and always finish on a positive!
But before that let me say a little about the event.

Marc Noelanders and his team of dedicated helpers from the BELGIUM BONSAI ASSOCIATION, once again put on a great event for European bonsai enthusiasts, and again the overall standard of the trees in the exhibition was higher than the year before. People travelled from all over Europe to the event and around 2,000 people attended over the weekend. Marc and his team are to be applauded yet again for their efforts.

As we have come to expect with the Noelanders Trophy, there was a lineup of international demonstrators working on trees over the two days.
Suthin Sokosolvisit USA, Robert Steven Indonesia, Luis Vallejo Spain, Enrico Savini Italy, Werner Busch Germany and Carlos Van der Vaart Netherlands.
For those who braved the freezing cold conditions and the threat of more snow, there were vendors galore selling everything the enthusiast could wish for from a roll of wire to a tree for 34,000 euros! The British contingent as usual had good representation and the potters in particular (Ceramic potters not Harry Potters) did very well.
We had Andy 'Stone Monkey' Pearson, Mark and Dave from Walsall Studio Ceramics, John Pitt, Bryan Albright and Gordon ' The Guvner' Duffet all putting on impressive display/sales tables which to me emphasised the depth of talent of UK potters. It is great to see their talents appreciated by our European neighbours and we are so very lucky to have these talented guys here in this country, it is one area where British Bonsai is rich.

There seemed to be more trees for sale this year with some very high quality material trees both Japanese and European yamadori and some good bonsai for sale. However I am sorry to say that yet again this year there were trees for sale at top prices that had just been collected. Their lack lustre foliage and warm hanging fronds, a dead giveaway to anyone who took the time to look closely rather than be seduced by contorted lines and areas of deadwood. There have already been complaints in the past of people selling recently collected material that is not established. Just because a tree has been tightly fixed into a pot so that it does not move, does not mean it has a good root system. And some trees are collected only a few months before the show. This has got to be stopped and these rogue traders stamped out.
The selling of such freshly collected material is not something only done to cheat the public. Professionals are quite happy to blatantly rip off fellow professionals without a second thought. And this year yet again people have tried to rip me off. When I pointed out to one guy that he was well on the way to ruin his reputation he replied "Yes I know but the moneys good". It seems only drastic measures will stop people like this. For me the whole episode leaves a very bad taste in the mouth and it really rubs salt in the wound to hear people speak of the passion that these people have. If they have no respect for the trees or for their fellow enthusiasts, then I am sorry but they have no passion for bonsai. Only a pseudo passion they masquerade behind! Thank God these people are in the minority, but even so they tarnish bonsai with their selfish and short sighted behaviour.
To think you hire vehicles at great cost, travel hundreds of miles at great cost. Travel by ferry and then drive hundreds of miles. Book hotel accomadation for several days at more cost only to have people insult your intelligence! This is both the Bad and Ugly side of bonsai.

Monday, 14 January 2013

What a start to 2013

For all of you who have been complaining about there being no recent posts, it's because in truth there has not been a lot to report. I don't want to bore you with the mundane ramblings of my daily life, well not just yet anyway. There will be plenty of time for that in the future.

As you know my daughter Amy was airlifted to hospital by helicopter in Kathmandu and after speaking to her on Christmas day, she promptly disappeared so to speak for 8 worrying days. So I have been a little preoccupied as you can imagine and not really in the mood to do much, although you have too do something if only to occupy the mind.

2012 has been and gone and 2013 has started as 2012 ended with rain and more rain.
So imagine my surprise last night when we got some of the white stuff.
I came out of the cinema just after 10.00 pm after seeing 'Les Miserables' to see the car park covered in the fluffy white stuff and it was hammering down. It looked like it was going to be 'Miserable' all the way home too as the roads, as you can imagine, were dire. Oh and I recommend the film, but take plenty of tissues!

Freezing cold here this morning and still snowing as I look out of the kitchen window. As the kettle was boiling a pair of Buzzards were circling overhead on a thermal from my hot porridge.

I have to stock up on calor gas today for the fire in the studio, as I have emptied two 15kg bottles in the last two weeks. I am not a great fan of dewiring trees but it's all part of the game and I have been quite busy in the studio on that front despite the cold and wet. I have quite a bit of sand blasting and carving in the pipeline, but as all my equipment is in the old barn. The damp air conditions make it a stop and start affair.
I also managed to get time to do a little bit more on the Scots Pine I started. Remember this one?

Now your probably wondering why I did not finish the Scots before doing the dewiring. Well it's quite simple. If a tree needs the wire removed it should be done and not left. However the styling can be finished anytime. So it's down to priority!
Also I can dewire with my eyes shut and without too much thought and as my head has been some place else recently (Kathmandu), the dewiring option was the easiest. Also I prefer not to style trees if I am not focused. And if I am honest, my heart has not been in it recently.

I have a lot of re potting to do this year and I am looking forward to that. I find re potting and also wiring very relaxing and it gives me time to re acquaint myself with the trees and give them a look over. I just need to stock up on pumice first as stocks are a little low and I will need some for clients and students who are also re potting. Luckily I have two pallets of pumice coming just after the Noelanders Trophy which you should all know by now is this weekend.
I have to pick up my hire van on Thursday ready for the off early Friday morning. This time I will be going by ferry as the people who run Eurotunnel have whacked up the prices for big vans for 2013. There is no way I am paying over £400 for a crossing.
On the bright side I will be coming back with nearly 50 new yamadori trees and there are a couple I might be tempted to keep. I will also have myself a good stock of copper wire so I will be able to do some work on the new projects I am working on for myself. I have hated using aluminium wire on the trees I have styled recently.
I hope to get some photo's of the exhibition which I will post probably on Monday next week and of course I will post a few images of some of the new trees. Like this Mugo Pine..............

I am really looking forward to catching up with old friends and making some new ones. I have two super Japanese trees to deliver as well so I will have some money burning a hole in my pocket. Who knows what I will return with.
For any of you out and about travelling over the next few days, remember if you get stuck in bad weather conditions. Don't eat the yellow snow!