Looking back….we can tell a tree’s story…..admire an image…..capture a moment…..remember a special event…..be inspired – to create a memory for tomorrow.
I hope you enjoy this regular peep into some of John’s bonsai history.
Memory Lane – Does size matter!!!
In my very early bonsai years one of the first things I did was join the Yorkshire Bonsai Association. The club meetings were monthly, held in Leeds, and at that time we had in the region of 150 members.
I served on the committee and became really good friends with talented bonsai potter Derek Aspinall who sadly is no longer with us. We both subscribed to the american magazine “Bonsai Today” and Derek advocated that this should be compulsory reading for all bonsai enthusiasts.( I have lots of back issues for sale at £3 each)
With it’s translated Japanese articles it was truly inspirational. I remember reading the articles with avid interest and turning to the final page to see a picture of the artist almost dwarfed by a tree which I had wrongly assumed was only about a foot high……..these pictures just blew me away. These huge bonsai were just so magnificent.
I became more bonsai streetwise as my hobby developed and every workshop I attended the raw material became bigger, the rooms seemed to get smaller and my back got weaker! BIG was definitely in!
Workshop trees filtered through to the show benches and larger trees appeared at bonsai nurseries for sale. Quality took a back seat, a cheap price was good and big size was simply impressive. Maybe we were easily impressed.
My good friend Danny Use decided to stage the Gingko Bonsai Exhibitions in Belgium and bonsai in Europe would never be the same again. Prior to this nobody had really been able to attract the best bonsai, artists, collectors and visitors from all over Europe together under one roof on a regular basis.
Each event became more prestigious than the one before, everyone wanted to have a nominated tree. You returned home determined to come back stronger next time with a WOW tree…..unfortunately everyone else was doing the same and someone kept “moving the goalposts”!!!
A BIG tree was no longer impressive…….unless of course it also happened to be a good tree…….GOOD was definitely a must! The standard of bonsai across Europe literally went through the roof and even the Japanese were impressed.
The artist, the professional had to have a very good tree to show….and so the students, the customers also wanted good trees. Quality had become very important to everyone.
Sadly Danny decided to stop staging his shows but the baton was taken up almost immediately by Marc Noelanders and the Belgium Bonsai Association. This is now the premiere show in Europe, held annually and once again succeeding in bringing the bonsai community from all countries together under one roof.
Trees are displayed in all sizes from shohin, chuhin and kifu to the large and truly impressive bonsai. Having a big tree…..having a good tree…….may no longer guarantee you a place on the show bench because now your quality has to be exceptional, approaching the standards set as the norm in Japan. QUALITY is simply essential!
Does size matter?…..not any more. It does not matter how big or small your tree is if he has the quality…….if he has that top level of refinement. This is what my bonsai school is all about…..taking you and your trees to that next level. The fact that students come from all over the country, the fact that some of them have been coming for more than 20 years is refreshing…..their trees are improving they are enjoying the journey of knowledge.
The size of your tree may alter very little but his quality can change beyond recognition. Just remember……..it does not matter how good your tree is…..he may be the best in the country……..but trust me……there will always be another level he can go to!