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.
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.
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.