Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ski Dombrowski's Salem, NJ Visit

Wednesday, 6/16, Karen Harkaway, Mac McMullen, Charles Larke and I drove down and visited "Ski" Dombrowski at his bonsai center in Salem, NJ. Some might remember "Ski" visiting us this past winter. He is a member of the Chadds Ford Bonsai Club, is retired and sells his bonsai, teaches people personally and provides presentations and demonstrations. We will have him give a demonstration at a future Saturday morning workshop.
The costs for his trees are very reasonable. He has been involved in bonsai for more than 35 years and really knows his stuff. We bought a couple of trees and will be going down to purchase a couple of more. It takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get there but the directions are simple.
I'll let the membership know when we are going back if you would like to join us. He has both developed bonsai and pre-bonsai material. This is a very unique place and a very unique bonsai artist.
Tom De Simone

Tuesday: Kunio Kobayashi: Proper Formal Bonsai Displays

Today was much more relaxing than the last 4! Spent the day going over the finest details of setting up a formal Japanese Bonsai display.
Mr. Kobayashi went over the history of the Keido School of Display, so we had a proper understanding of how these things evolved. Mr. Katayama, who started the school, had Mr. Kobayashi and Mr. Sudo as his final best students, and wrote a set of 3 books on proper displays just before he died.
Mr. Kobayashi has continued advanced studies on this fine art, and is now still just starting to understand some of the finer details his teacher gave to him.
We covered scrolls, their making and composition, and what the differences between 'formal', 'semi-formal', and 'informal'. These classifications apply to virtually everything in the display, so control how things are combined and presented.
We learned about accents, and how they can act as a 'stop' to the flow of energy presented by the bonsai being displayed.
Mr. Kobayashi covered display stands, and how they can add to, or detract from a nice tree-pot combo. Size, height, color, etc. all play their parts.
We discussed seasons and geography, which must be considered when putting the display together.

The objective of the display is to make the viewer 'see' what the artist sees, so the viewer can envision streams in lowlands, or high mountains, with birds soaring, winds blowing, and powerful aged pines clinging to life on a narrow rock outcropping.
Mr. Kobayashi put together a wonderful winter display...when he was finished, I actually felt a bit of a shiver go up my spine!

We had lunch, and in the afternoon formed groups to apply the rules Mr. Kobayashi had given us. We used Bill Valavanis' personal bonsai, stands, scrolls, and accents to set up displays for our groups. These were in turn judged by Mr. Kobayashi, and so we received good feedback on what we had done.
Of course, Bill got his trees cleaned up by each group, as one of the 1st things to do before a display.

Finished up around 4:30 PM, and each person received a Certificate from Mr. Kobayashi.

This wonderful bonsai master is a kind gentle spirit who exemplifies the spirit of Bonsai, and I personally have been changed for the better by having met and studied under him.


...and Bill DID allow me to take "a few" personal shots of the show. In particular I was interested in the accents, which I mentioned were spectacular.
The photo album he publishes will be available in the November timeframe.

Tree Quality:
I had the pleasure of visiting the Ginkgo Festival in Belgium in 2005, which was the 5th of the series. In looking at "The Best of Bonsai in Europe", starting from 1 and going forward, the trees got much better each successive show. By the 5th they were, in some cases, real mind-blowers!

Looked over the 1st album from the 1st US Exhibition 2 years ago, and the trees this year are following the same trend as Ginkgo did, so perhaps the US bonsai community is starting to realize that we too can build some impressive trees!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday: Kunio Kobayashi: Special Techniques

Today out to Bill Valavanis' place for a demo of special techniques by Kunio K. About 25 folks here, some of whom are Bill's employees.
1st subject is a Maple with a straight boring center section of trunk. Technique shown where Maple whips are affixed to lowest branches, and allowed to graft to them. These then take over task of supplying water and nutrition to the rest of the tree.
When these have taken, the boring section is cut out and re-grafted to the main roots, while the whips are fully supporting the top of the tree. This lower trunk graft will take 3 years to complete, but in the process a lower tree has been created, and movement can be added at the main graft point, adding even more interest.
Same technique is used to "move" a branch to a better spot on the tree.

Next technique shown is how to bend a thick trunk easily, without resorting to dangerous cuts or heavy bending. Performed on a pine with straight trunk, and when done, major movement introduced to the pine trunk.

Bill is taking $$ offers....

Last tree worked on is old Rocky Mountain Juniper, which will have major branch bent, as well as major restyling...all in preparation for next National Exhibition in 2 years.

Tired...long day...

US National Bonsai Exhibition: Closing Day

...So it was a very full day today. Up again at dawn for an hour walk, then a shower, breakfast and a Starbucks. Gather everything up and off to the Exhibition. Wanted to get in early to mist the moss, and go back over the accents again, to see things I had surely missed.
Bill V. was also in early, and gave me permission to gather some shots of accents for study.

Bill had many books for sale, and of a sudden marked them down 50%...STAMPEDE! But I managed to climb out from under the clamor with several clean new books to add to the library for under $6 each! Deal!

Kunio is scheduled for a demo at 1 PM. Prior to him Dr. Alice Chen is doing bonsai scene painting. Turns out she made water-color paintings for the awards Sat. nite..very wonderful. She should be very easy to get good quality display shikishi from for our display scrolls.

Kunio worked on a large Juniper, and turned it into a cascade with some large jins and shari on 1/3 of the trunk. He is quite the showman, constantly joking during his work. Peter Warren flew up from Texas convention just to interpret for him...and had not had any sleep for about 20 hours...he was glad to finish up and get back to the hotel last night.

5 PM...Exhibition closes!
Of a sudden the scramble of carts and people tugging at everything at once, to pack, roll out to the van, and off to wherever!
Packed up scroll, stand, tree and accent, then off to help Jim Doyle and family pack their stand.
This time we got it done in about 1 hour 40 minutes! Good thing, 'cause I was starved!

Jim and I had previously agreed on Indian food for tonite, and I visited the website of India House (in Rochester) to get a web coupon for $10.
Back to the hotel for a quick shower...Jim picked me up at 8, and off we went to India House.
Both had different menu items, so we could share. Mild curry and that wonderful Indian flat bread, and a cold beer...whew! Great dinner...and it didn't break the bank!

So...tomorrow...demo out at Bill V's with Kunio doing special advanced techniques...should be interesting! Camera still has room for about 300 more shots, and battery is holding!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

US National Bonsai Exhibition: Opening Day!

Up at 5:30..gotta get walk in, shower, have breakfast, and get over to the floor to mist the moss before the show opens.
Found the local Starbucks, and another bonsai enthusiast and I discussed......the awful state of health care here in the US! And trees for a few seconds..... to the Exhibition!
Well..everyone is here...judges, artists, vendors, and of course, the trees.
Walking the display area is a treat for the senses. The accents are out of this world. The materials chosen, the method of organizing, and the display of each with it's tree...such a shame we cannot photograph...guess we will have to wait for the commorative album!
The trees have been peaked for display, and many magnificent Azaleas are in bloom. Pins are showing candles and backbudding. Larch are wonderful in their fresh spring needles.

Some of the trees moved during the night...I think Bill put his cot away just before we arrived....but all is ready.
The local politicians got into the opening ceremony, and with several scissor cuts on the ribbon, the Exhibition opened.
The judges have gathered in teams, and are studying each artists' attempt at perfection. Many folks off the street are wowed by the wonderful presentations of shape, color, age and grace seen in the trees on display.
Many shohin here...virtually all sections of the country are represented. Interestingly, there are more than a few recognized masters here. The mood is calm, serene, but it is clear this Exhibition bears no resemblance to the first, back in 2008. There has been some serious work put into the trees on display here, and it shows major betterment from 2008. It certainly follows how Ginkgo Festival got progressively better at each successive event.

Each tree in turn is taken to a special area set up for a formal photograph, for inclusion in the Commorative Album, which will be published later this year...I strongly suggest getting a copy thru Bill, and comparing the trees to 2008...a great viewing experience showing how we are progressing in the Art.

Of course, Marco put on a demo this afternoon on a large Juniper..everyone was enthralled.

Kunio K. is headlining tomorrow.

Tonite is the Banquet, where awards will be given. It will be interesting to see what the judges have decided, particularly after watching them and listening to their critiques...each from a different viewpoint, and different continent!

Had many wonderful comments on the Alpine Fir and pot..and some in-depth discussions. Many folks asked how I had found and fitted the rock slabs together so perfectly...chuckle...bonsai magic!

Had some interesting conversations with many other artists represented here. And...they are "just plain folks" like me...imagine!

OK..get critical...apply what my teacher has told me over and over...have these trees been groomed, and cleaned? Is the moss on properly? Is there any debris laying about? Is the scroll tie dressed to the side that the scroll seal is on? Is the scroll at the right height, relative to the tree? Such simple questions...such detail, but walking behind the judges and listening to their comments gives the final answers...yup, I can learn from that, so next time will be better!

Time for a break...Karen, Michael, Colin, Bob (from Natures Way), Paul, Jim, Chase, Soli and I have a cold one out in the breezy parking lot...and some sorely needed laughs!

Gathered the sketchbook, and back inside to document my favorite accents...these will not be many wonderful ideas which can be used later.
I recognize a wonderful grass, which puts out long thin blades ending in tiny blue blooms...wonderfully intermixed with miniature Hosta and Sedum. Here is another with rabbits foot many wonderful tiny accents!
Several folks have amazingly creative items like miniature picnic boxes, with knives, forks, and napkins..for a picnic in the forest (the tree was a forest composition!). Another had an old rotting log (perhaps 1 inch in diameter) with many grasses, ferns, and sedums affixed...just as on the forest floor!
One accent was a composition of slate bits laid together like a small rising anthill, and Japanese Bloodgrass rising from the middle...wonderful texture and color!
A shohin display had a small snail (0.5 inches long) on an irregular slab...another (by Nick Lenz) was a group of small snake-like creatures wound around the central sedum plants...under his displayed tree.
Tired..been walking, talking, and viewing for many hours now...I hear my bed calling for a quick nap before dinner...more tomorrow!

US National Bonsai Exhibition: Friday

So...on the road to Rochester.
All is ready. The tree has been groomed down to the last dead needle. The moss has been on for a month, and is perfect and green. The pot has taken on that wonderful patina it needed for a show. Picked up the new formal Japanese display table from Sean Smith last Saturday...hand-rubbed Carnuba was generously applied. Waxed the small bit of wood the accent sits on. The accent is putting out 2 flower stalks, and both will bloom at the show. The scroll is ready, and new shikishi inserts are packed. The tool roll, wire, water sprayer, foam tape for the bottom of the pot, a black permanent marker for the foam tape edges, and small tweezers are packed.
The directions are printed out, along with maps of critical turns, and locations of good restaurants and Starbucks (of course!)
OK...time to's 5:30AM...the local Starbucks is just open, and so is the Farmers Market, so a stop for some wonderful Amish pastries is in order...gotta have some tasty road food!
5:45 we go! N.E. Extension up to NY, then west on 17, and up thru NY to Rochester.
The bloody construction adds another 30 minutes to drive time...seems like every little hamlet is having a 200M$ facelift! But no's the US National!
OK...we're here at Monroe Community's 11:30AM, and the place is like a beehive. Rental trucks everywhere, with all sorts of trees being escorted by human slaves into the building.
One group from way cross country arrived with a beautiful old mountain Pine, which is probably four hundred years old, in a totally cracked pot. The tree was quickly misted and transplanted to the shade, while an expert CA'ed the pot back together. Later after it had set, the tree was repotted back into its' home.
Bill V is going crazy, He broke his foot a 4th time, so is "scootering around" the display floor like a crippled General trying to guide each troop...what a sight!
Trees were registered, and Bill immediately assigned a spot for each...which might change again in the course of the evening, perhaps 2-3 more times! Got to get it just right...
As later trees arrived the display floor filled in, and trees around ours quickly cemented our position on the floor...whew! to help Jim Doyle and Max unload and set up. Lots of eye candy in the vending area...Suthin with his marvelous shohin, Ron Lang's pots, Jim Gremel and Julian Adams...the list went on and on..
We took a dinner break around 7PM and had a marvelous Italian dinner, with a coupla cold brews..and finished off with a great latte!
Back to the show...still trees to bring into the vending area. Security was watching to be sure we didn't walk out with Doug Pauls' massive Azaleas...finally finished around 10:30PM.
Back to the hotel for a shower, and a call home..and a soft bed and wonderful sleep...zzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rob's Scotch Pine

One of our members, Rob Byrnes, sent these three photos of the progress on one of his trees in which he was assisted by flex hoevig.
The bottom photo is one, the upper right is two and the upper left is three. (Appearantly, you load photos on the blog from last to first.)
We'd like another photo from Rob of the whole tree to see what it looks like in total or maybe he could bring it to June's meeting.
This is from flex:
Pine looks great! Nice job with finishing the wiring.
Have you kept it in semi-shade for the last two weeks? If so, the tree is probably ready again for some real sun, so it is safe to move it to full sun.
Normal watering (every 3 or 4 days) as pines should stay a bit dryer until needles completely harden off which should be in several weeks. Then resume full watering and start fertilizing every two weeks. Use 20-20-20 one week, fish emulision next time around, and kelp the next time around. Trees like a variety of fertilizer. Add some Biogold or Green Dream pellets also...slow release stuff is good.
Also watch that the very tips of the tree stay slightly pointed upward, so as to give the buds the best chance of growing. Take a few photos over the growing season and start a folder for the tree. You will be surprised how it fills in from year to year.