Welcome to the Saruyama Blog, intermittent and generally off topic. Occasionally you might see some trees...and weird ones at that.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

On the road again...

Seems I am having some technical difficulties...so there are no pictures...damn iPad is playing up. Been trying to post this for ages...will add pictures later...hopefully works now.

It wasn't long back at Saruyama Towers before the powers that be dictated that I leave my lovely warm duvet behind for a succession of various hotels, beds and other sleeping places. I did manage to spend twenty minutes with my trees and ensure that they were continuing to progress through the cold, dark winter as planned, but now I am somewhere on the Belgian/Dutch border, rallying the troops for yet another assault on the bonsai community. Tomorrow I will begin a three day stint at the new studios of Bonsai Focus in The Hague. I will be doing a number of photo shoots including more of the step by step beginner series and continuing a few trees that are already in progress.

Unlike Kinbon or Gekkan Satsuki, I have to go to the camera rather than they coming to me and that involves a jolly jaunt across to the continent. Thankfully this time I have broken it up by visiting one of my European little brothers, the male model masquerading as an up and coming bonsai super star also known as Yannick Kiggen. Yannick came to study at Shunkaen a couple of times last year and after making a lasting impression is a defacto apprentice. He has an open invitation to study for as long as he likes, however his circumstances are keeping him from his desired return to Japan at the moment.

Being the all round good guy that he is, Yannick has offered some material for the photo shoot should it be required and after successfully acquiring some superb collected pieces from him over the last two years, I jumped at he opportunity to look at the trees. Sadly I got here at 10pm, and so I took some pics this morning.
A pine he has been working on. A few little issues with it, which we discussed and he already realised, but by and large a good first styling.
I have been working closely with Bonsai Focus for a good number of years now and every now and again I look at my work and think that perhaps I should rethink my approach if I want wider recognition. Last year a translated piece from Kinbon was published where I styled a massive bushy juniper and I had a great number of positive comments from people, despite the fact that I have been doing similar work, albeit on a smaller and less impressive scale on a regular basis. It is a truth that in order to be recognised, a big and important tree is necessary, even if the techniques used are exactly the same as in the step by step beginners series. Truth be told, I was happier with the air layered maple from a few years back than I was with that big juniper...but hey, who cares about air layering?
My thoughts, be they right or wrong, towards the dissemination of information is that the goal is for the average enthusiast to be able to reproduce that which is shown, thus raising the level of the average. Not many people have access to costly, high quality material and the average enthusiast needs to know how best to approach design and tree creation from a fundamental perspective first before moving on to such pieces. I still see a lack of fundamental knowledge, even amongst many top names who cannot structure a tree properly or create foliage pads that will be easy to maintain over time.
The problem with creating a magazine is how can it attract a wide audience and appeal to both beginner and advanced enthusiasts. Without beginner articles, there is a lack of applicable teaching points, equally without impressive trees, the magazine becomes boring for the advanced reader.
I wrote that all yesterday when I was a little tired and a little drunk. I maybe should have gotten some more sleep because I did a massive injustice to this tree today...

A tree belonging to Patrick, Yannicks friend, and a few years out of collection and ready to style. With their help, we managed to bend seven shades out of the tree and under pressure from myself and the demons on my shoulder, perhaps a little too much. Some solid aftercare is required for this tree and athought the final image was something reasonable, (get the magazine to find out), I was very displeased with my work. Sometimes reeling in the desire to get something done is necessary, other times not. This was one of those times where caution was advisable, otherwise I run the risk of falling into the trap of thinking I am the king of the monkey mountain.

Still tomorrow brings a fresh challenge...Hopefully I'm up to it.


  1. stick to your morals and your instincts when it comes to styling for recognition (it sounds like you did in this instance too) - we've both seen the (basically dead) aftermath of macho demo trees where the hairy chest beating stylist goes for wow factor without a care for the material........this is the greatest crime in bonsai in my mind - to lose respect for the material is to lose the path that brought a person to their present place - be it hobby level or professional.

    what sets guys like yourself apart from the ego trip stylists is that you really care about the trees - follow up phone calls checking on the patient etc are both unique and show a deeper thought process at work.....this builds reputation, (admittedly slowly).

    Finding the commercial balance is harder, and i can totally see and agree that the big wow factor trees get the crowd cheering for more....that is the aspirational part of our hobby even though the actual techniques and methods used are often the same. I think if a magazine writer could teach the aftercare needed that goes hand in hand with styling or even exhibiting a tree that would be a great article.

    thanks again for some thought provoking paragraphs

    regards Marcus

    1. I just realised that I can reply to comments. Thanks for the kind words. It is a very difficult balance to strike and whereas I respect Mario Komsta for opting out of the do it in a day approach to photo shoots and demo's, I also realise that there are certain people in the bonsai community who look down upon me for what I do and totally disregard the text written.
      I made the point today to the editor that nobody reads anymore, nor can anybody write properly. Sad really.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with Marcus!
    Your ethos & reputation lend a following - true, it might not be the thronging, whooping crowds of some, but rather a respectful, loyal collection of thinking enthusiasts, who apreciate you. The noisy, blundering mass want blood anyway, & will follow its scent without consideration for the name drawing it.
    There are those that are wanting to learn how to 'demo' style a tree; & those that would rather it lived, & wasn't scarred by their intervention.

    Please say "Hello, & thank you" to Yannick from Will & myself, looking forward to meeting you both one day (I met the afore commenting Marcus a few days ago, & feel richer for the privilege. Hi Marcus!)
    Keep up the excellent work, & please throw us a couple of well constructed sentences every now and again.

    Very Sincere Regards,