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

Sunday 25 November 2012

A successful trip...

After ten days of descending in the circles of hell, I am finally on my way back home. Every time I come I feel older and less wise...but at least I bought some new concave cutters.

Driving here, there and back again has been tiring but fun and hopefully a little profitable. I picked up a few items that will hopefully be gracing the stage at Noelanders, a couple of things for myself and sadly nothing yet for Lady Saruyama...they were sold out! Honest!

However the most important thing abut coming back is to meet people and to learn or see something new...which I did. Relationships are very important in Japan, as anywhere in the world, so keeping peole happy and cementing relationships pays off dividends in the future. I am starting to see those come to fruition and sometimes it feels as though the hard work and the non-bonsai teachings of the Chief have paid off.

One of the most exciting new people I met was David Martinez Moreno, a student at Fujikawa's place in Osaka. He is an art historian and had some incredible ideas about Bonsai and the future, how it can be incorporated into the western art world and appreciation. It was a chance meeting which confirmed a few things that I have been thinking about and have planned. We shared ideas and agreed on many things, it seemed as though it gave validation to my recent train of thought. There seems to be movement amongst many of the younger bonsai artists to change and experiment. The blue touch paper is going to be lit in October...hopefully it will go crazy after that. Or I will. Or possibly bankrupt...

I have a million and one pictures of trees taken but the most impressive thing that I saw was on the way back to the hotel, walkng through the back streets of the anitque district of Kyoto...

It was in a ceramics shop window, the shop specialises in tea bowls and had this piece on display. A piece of very old, hard pine wood. I had to go into the shop and ask about it. The assistant just said, "oh this is something we just threw together...". I have thrown stuff together before, but never like that.

I have been reading a few old books of late, stuff from my previous life...the depth of influence it had on me was incredible in hindsight, one line stuck out in particular...

"What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning"

I hope I get upgraded on my flight.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

There are times...

When you wonder what the hell you are doing. It is 4.30 am and I am sat in a service station outside of Kyoto waiting for the sun to rise. We have just driven from Tokyo, stopping half way to try and squeeze ten trees in to a space that can only take eight. An hour of rearranging and shifting valuable trees around, including a recent prime minister's award winner and there was no solution to the puzzle...other than to take two cars.

I often wonder how there are not more accidents involving bonsai, but it all seems to work.

Tomorrow sees the setting up of the Taikanten and for the first time ever, I am helping to take trees along. It will be an interesting experience I'm sure. Pictures available somewhere on line if someone sneaks a camera in.

I've been in Japan less than a week but it feels like a lifetime ago that I was at home. A fairly packed schedule was made even more hectic with an unxpected trip to Osaka for a large shohin auction...as in the auction was large, not the shohin.

It was an interesting experience, the price of trees fluctuates from year to year and I was suprised at how cheap some things were, and the price of things I thought would be cheap. No doubt next year the autumn winds will blow and it will be reversed.

I managed to pick up a few things including one for myself, but as always with auctions its the ones that got away which I remember...as Jim Bowen used to say, look at what you could have won...

A genuine yamadori shohin juniper....which sadly went just a little bit more than I was prepared to pay. My left kidney has already been mortgaged, so...I had to say goodbye.

If the gods had smiled on me, I could have made this little bad boy from both sides as they were equally as beautiful. I love the idea of trees without fronts, or rather the viewer and creator not being fixated by one singular front. There are a good number of trees out there that look good in pictures taken from a specific height and directly from the front...but when you see them in real life, it looks somewhat different. Masterpiece trees should look good from any viewing angle, not just where the three bits of wire line up. Often when I am doing a demo, I will talk about design options, good points, bad points etc, then start working on the tree...invariable the first question will be, where is the front?

Creating a tree is an organic and fluid process and over time, especially with raw stylings, the front may change slightly, 5 degrees here, 10 degrees there. If we start to become fixated on a front because we stuck a marker in there then the process becomes less fluid and more static. If the tree decides to grow in a different way than we would hope, or our technique causes terminal branch faliure, then we need to change direction slightly. As long as we are there or thereabouts on the first styling and repotting, then no major root work needs to be done to change the front by 10 degrees in any direction or orientation.

Dont take what I have said as meaning you shouldn't have a front to a tree, there is always a viewing angle which is better to look at and that is the one which should be presented to the viewer. What I mean is don't forget the other sides, look to create branching structure that looks good alround.

Anyway...it's all change at the Chief's again, Yannick Kiggen is back for more, he will hopefully be starting a proper apprenticeship if he can get a visa. Hopefully it will be longer than two years because lets face it, in two years you only scratch the surface and the scars begin to heal over, it isnt until the scars are so deep that they last forever and you never forget...(stares off into the distance)

I wish Yannick all the luck in the world, he has already made a good impression, except fr the other day when he forgot to water a maple...so in honour of this new beginning...let's play....

"It's a lot / it's a lot like life...forget all about equality"

I should sleep more really shouldn't I...

Saturday 10 November 2012

Rock the Casbah...

Been busy making winter preparations, insulating, heating, ventilating the polytunnel and getting everything under cover. A lot is staying out, but I'm keeping the rain off the pines, sabinas and spruce...most other things are staying in the tunnel and this year if it blows away, I will be amazed.

I did take some pictures this week...I finally found a use for Suiseki...you know them fancy Japanese rocks that sit around just looking nice and pretty...

Perfectly compacted. If only I could get my bonsai to be as useful.

Out to see the big show in Alcobendas tomorrow, Spain is undoubtedly one of the most active countries in the western bonsai world and it will be interesting to see some of the best trees around...sadly no camera but I'm sure someone will post something somewhere.