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

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A few dramatic changes...

The last two days have seen some dramatic changes to a few trees in Derbyshire, including a couple of trees that several years ago I suggested were a little lacking in drama have finally got to the stage where they reached the limit of their styling and something new was needed.

I do not think that everytime a tree gets worked on it needs to be restyled. I am quite the opposite really...figure out a plan and work towards a definite goal rather than geting impatient and slowly reducing the number of branches each time you flip the front around. One of the problems with bonsai however is that trees grow and you can't stop them. They get out of shape so much that a restyling is necessary...or they fall off the bench and a branch or two dies.

This is an example of one such tree. A root over rock Itoigawa juniper imported from Japan belonging to a client. I have been doing just basic maintenance work on it for the last five years, very little apart from a minor restyle in the autumn of 2012. This is the tree back when it was imported in 2008

Its the one on the right in case you were wondering. The next photo shows it a couple of years later, recovering from an initial styling by another artist...

After it recovered, my first major work was to thin it out and just tweak the branches around a little as you can see below. The owner was thinking at the time that something just was not right. I suggested a lack of drama and a touch too much green for such a heavy and jagged rock. "There is a better tree hiding inside". Making big decisions however can be difficult and I am always in favour of the owner coming to their own conclusions. I opened up the front a little and tried to achieve a better balance with the rock.

Soon after it became more and more bushy, swallowing up the rock, in need of a new approach. When I arrived this morning, I was told that some drastic changes had been made and could I finish it off? It certainly was a dramatic change.

Bish, bash, bosh... it now has more jins than I did before the auction at the last BSA show.

The balance between the rock is now much better and it feels as though the tree and it have more than just a man made relationship which is how the first couple of pictures felt. After looking at the tree and rock from 360 degrees, considering the branches and their live veins as well as the newly created jins, a new front was decided upon and a few more branches would be destined for the scrap heap.

This front makes the tree even more compact and the rock even more dramatic. Note the increased interest, movement and negative space in the lower right err...quadrant. If only we could see the trunk and the rock a bit more...so a bit more bish, bash, bosh and two and a half hours later...

Not quite finished, there are some pads that need to fill out and the back of the apex is a bit sketchy, but the main branching structure is set. As per usual we didnt want to spaghettify the branches too much to create an instant image and so there is some growing to be done. I am particular pleased with the tiny little foliage pad that has made it round the back on the right hand side. The presence of this creates much more of a three dimensional image which of course you can see throught the screen, as well as bringing more attention towards the rock. Always remember that the eye tends towards the green..the green...the brilliant green.

Can you figure out the tenuous link?

Moving back to the tree...Neither of us are overly happy with the central dead wood section and the heavy lump of live vein underneath it. The time period while the freshly created shari dries out will give some time to reflect on what will be the next step on the project. A few suggestions have been made and we shall see where the next evolutionary step takes us.

Working with clients to create the tree they want is a fundamental concept of what I try to achieve. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to just do what I want to do and get to a result that I want sooner or just see where the tree evolves. One thing I learnt from experience in Japan is that if the enthusiast doesnt enjoy or understand the process, then you can end up with some unhappy people. Some clients very begrudgingly accepted the Chief's rash and bold moves, even though they were the correct thing to do and ultimately would have made a much better tree. As obliging apprentices who couldn't argue, we had to listen to them bitch about it and try to promote the Chief's ideas and techniques as correct (which they were) whilst simultaneuously trying to see their point of view. Perhaps this has made me much less of a daring risk taker? Sometimes a slow evolution is a good thing, other times it can be very disturbing. (Skip to 3.20 for evidence)

Apologies for the random J pop tangents. It just gets stuck in your head...


Monday, 24 March 2014

The unloved...

I have just finished another great weekend of workshops up at Willowbog. I'm sure Mr. Snart will oblige with lots of pictures. Despite purchasing a new camera and smart phone, I still didnt take many pics, although I did take some of a new addition to the Saruyama stable.

I am a regular visitor to Willowbog and have come across a number of very good pieces of material up there. One big japanese larch in particular took my eye and I suggested to a number of clients that they should purchase it because with just a few hours work, it could be transformed into something with a good future. A tree with great ramification, mochi-komi a plenty and has been established in a pot for a long time. I thought it relatively cheap and after considering it at the BSA show, I acquired the tree in a very convoluted deal. As it is too big for me, it will reside up in the wilderness where it seems to be happy.

This is the tree before...

And after three hours of work in the morning before the traditional lovely fried breakfast. All that was done was pull the apex up, branch removal, pull some branches around and around five wires on the entire tree. It is just budding out so it is possible the most inappropriate time to work on it.

Belt and braces...

Rotted stump, just cleaned out at the moment, yet to be worked.

The bark just begiing to tear on the apex bend. Scar tissue will help it to stay in place.

I have also picked up a superb beech tree that will give a great tree in a couple of years. Both trees were kicking around unloved and unwanted for far too long. Will get the tree finished up in the autumn and maybe a new pt in the new year.

Anyway, an erly start tomorrow..


Monday, 17 March 2014

Back to the day job...

After all the bluff and bluster of the sale, it has been back to the day job of working on trees. Yesterday and today saw a lot of repotting and also some creative stuff from both Akiyama and Suthin who were also doing their stuff. Suthinf is renowned for his creative skills and impressive bonsai growing and he made a number of rock plantings, one after the other. All very good. I failed to take pictures of them all but here are a couple he did today.

Akiyama got bitten by the bug and after wiring out and tidying up a clump white pine, he put it on a rock...

Some nice sunlight just casting shadows on the surface. Not satisified with that he went one step further with a clump juniper...

I spent a third of the day working on this tree which was a truly international collaboration and proof that bonsai is not just the work of one person. A styled Japanese tree, imported into America, restyled and wired by an Italian (Marco Invernizzi), then potted in to a Czech container (Erik Krizovensky) by an Englishman who was more than assisted by a Japanese and a Thai/American. Can it get any more international than that?

Not exactly the best picture, but it works.

Suthin leaves tomorrow which is a shame as we have been sharing secrets as well as a few laughs. Maybe tomorrow I will take a few more pictures.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

A hammerfist in a velvet glove

I was recently described as a young Josef Stalin leading his troops into battle. I wonder how that impression could have come about?

Thanks to Franky C for the propaganda.

Onwards and upwards comrades :)

Saturday, 15 March 2014

An experience like no other...

Today was an interesting and unrepeatable experience. As I am sure you are all aware, there was something going down near Kennett Square. Around 400 trees from the collection were up for sale, some perfect Kokufu class specimens, others trees that were injured in the rather severe importation process. All were for sale at wholesale or less prices...and that is in Japan prices. There were trees for sale up at $150 that were in $300 pots. It was a strange experience watching such things pass before my eyes, but congratulations and thank you to all the participants who turned up in the freezing cold and behaved themselves perfectly.

My job was to be the out of town bully and keep everyone in line. If such an event was held in Europe, there would have been chaos, so I was going through all the possible weaknesses of the incredibly fair system the night before with Mr. Paul, the absurdly generous owner of the collection and some of the guys, including Akiyama-san who was here helping as well. He said something along the lines of "I have faith in human nature so I don't think people will cheat". I think it must say something about me that I could come up with a hundred and one ways to cheat. I wasn't the only one because I had several emails asking me how much it would cost to pull tags in advance. Words fails me at times.

Many weeks of discussion went into the organisation and the system trying to make it fair and even, so that it was not a first come first served system of whoever has the most money wins. Even so people were complaining. Before , during and after the event a few people complained. To anyone who thought it was unfair, go get another hobby or go yourself to Japan and try and get trees back. See how you like them apples. What I will say however is that for every one complaint there was, we had over a hundred compliments so clearly the majority rules. Democracy baby, ain't it a bitch.

One thing that struck me about the system and the way in which it was very honourably adhered to by everyone, was how American it was. No English person would come up with such an egalitarian way of doing things. We would have been too caught up in personal politics and not wanting to upset the status quo and some big pockets would just in and buy their way to the top.

Not wishing to stray too far into politics here but it made me realise how skewed the meaning of the word liberal has become in the modern world. I often teased Ryan about this calling his ideas for creating a bonsai community and society dangerously close to the theory, but not the practice of communism, which in many ways they were; to which he got all upset. It was to me, an outstanding piece of letting everyone have their roll of the dice. For any fans of "The Wire", it was the embodiment of the opening scene of the first season

McNulty: I got to ask you. If every time Snotboogie would grab the money and run away, why'd you even let him in the game?

Snot Boogie's Friend: What?

McNulty: If Snotboogie always stole the money, why'd you let him play?

Snot Boogie's Friend: Got to. It's America, man.

Anyways I digress. Some pictures from the event taken by Akiyama, it was said that I had a bit of an Eminem vibe going on and that i should have busted out a few rhymes...dont know where they got that idea from...

Trying to make a few last minute long distance sales. My ipad is my life I am sad to say.

Suthin and I are debating whether or not to buy this tree for $3200. We both see a much better tree in there, in fact there is an easy option and a longer term risky option. However spending that money on a tree I can't take home and was over looked at a bargain sale means that as much as I would like to make the tree, i may have to wait. Unless my heart rules my head when I wake up,

Even Akiyama agrees there is a great tree hiding in there. But me having great trees in America does not equal saving for a deposit on a house. Anyone fancy a literati juniper?

One image that I will leave you with is a throw back to the 1960's...

Power to the people...

Sleep is calling me...until next time.