Creating a forest out of almost nothing

Last week I went to Nicola’s for another workshop. We worked on an abies picea or spruce, I created a Kusanomo, some Shitakusa, we did some autumn work on two shohin, a zelkova and an acer burgeniamum.

It takes me up to 2.30 hours to travel to Nicola’s place and during the long way by car I always review, or try to review, what happened to the plant since the last time I went, and I try to figure what will happen to the new plant I am bringing for the first time. But at the end of the day I am always amazed about the results and my first ideas are a far cry from the end result..
This workshop was focused on “Allegra” a 3-tree forest, well of course it’s no forest yet, but one day it will be one. You may wonder about the name; well all my trees have a name! Lastly they may stay with me for a long time, so might as well give them names like pets. Funny? Weird? As Oscar Wilde said There is method to my madness! I bread cats for many years and the association with which I was affiliated gives a “letter” to the member to name they kittens for each year, so 2012 was V and W, 2013 are X, Y, Z and 2014 will be A. With this in mind, you can always come back and review the cat by the name given. They do this also in pedigree dogs in some countries. With bonsai, I am doing the same with my trees!  I started in 2010 with bonsai, for me the “A year” unfortunately t’is not the year of birth of the tree, but the year of purchase. Long story short, Allegra is with me since 2010.
Ok, back to the topic. This abies picea is vigorous, but the first style she had was at the very beginning of my bonsai life, so nothing special, difficult to find a real style with a 3-tree composition. The nice thing about Nicola is that he can “see something” in everything, even in such a difficult raw material as this one, for me it’s still very hard to foresee anything no matter how the tree looks at the beginning.
I believe we did a good job indeed and she is on her way to becoming an outstanding bonsai.

Next step will be to get 2 other spruce in the same diameter and height to give the composition more depth and dimension. I visualize her in the future on a stone plate. After all I am travelling so far to learn and understand how a composition has to look in the end and alas, I did learn something!

…love, Melanie!

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Learn Japanese with bonsai

I am learning japanse, yes it’s crazy, yes it’s difficult, yes it’s time consuming, but if I want to understand something on my tripp to Japan, there’s no way out…. I have to learn.

The best way to learn a language in my opinion is by having fun. You have to understand your grammar and also vocabolary, and of course the writing: hiragana, katakana and kanji. Yes my friends! 3 different calligraphy! Crazy eh?

Here some example:
したくさ shitakusa
ぶんじんぎ bunjingi
けんがい kengai
じた jita

If someone can give me the correct kanji for those one’s,

…love, Melanie!


It was very very interesting! I am looking forward for his book about tea ceremony


venerdì 6 settembre

Conferenza “Le arti e le Vie nella cultura giapponese”


friday september 6

Conference “Arts and “DO” in japanese culture”


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Bonsai Summer Festival: Part 3

Summer Bonsai Festival 

In my previous post I wrote about the Summer bonsai Festival organized by the Nippon Bonsai Sakka Kyookai Europe (NBSKE) of wich I have been a member for a couple of months and am so excited to be part of. If you missed my previous post go to Part 1 and Part 2 to see more.

The last part of the week was dedicated to the National Congress of the NBSKE. Again the trees and compositions were rearranged, and the focus of this last part of the week went to the real art of Bonsai: Improve your bonsai with Sensei Isao Fukita; how to set up the Tokonoma; demonstration of bonsai technique with the contribution of the expert members of NBSKE and Sensei Fukita; for those interested teacher Fabio Smolari did some Taiji in the morning and prof. Aldo Tollini gave a very interesting conference on the Arts and ways of Japanese culture.
Well, since Sensei Fukita was there, I tried to apply my very sparse Japanese to impress, but I grandly failed with pleasant appreciation from his side: I told him “kombawa” instead of “domo arigato”. For the record: good night instead of thank you! He laughed with affection!

Of course the new shimpaku bought at Otti’s nursery had to be restyled, and Sensei Fukita did a great job, well… what else could one expect! Sensei Isao Fukita  was born in 1966 in Hirosaki in the province of Aomori. In 1983 he became a pupil of Sensei Kunio Kobayashi at Shunkaen. In 1990, after the loss of his father, he had to leave Shunkaen and returned home to carry on the family tradition as bonsai Master in Kashoen. At the Nihon Bonsai Sakufu-Ten he received, for three consecutive years (1994-1996) the Association Hana Ippai first prize, Satsuki section. In 1998  he received the award from the Mainichi Shinbun for first style Bunjin at the Sakufu-Ten. In the same year he travels to San Francisco to give Bonsai conferences. In 1999, at the Sakufu-Ten he archives the award from the Japanese Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

It was nice to see a Japanese sensei at work, he sweated a lot bending two pinus silvestris!
After dinner Prof. Aldo Tollini, a great expert of Japanese culture and our translator, held a really interesting conference about the arts and ways of Japanese culture. “le arti e le vie nella cultura giapponese” the Arts and Ways in japanese culture. Basically; the perfecting of the imperfect, the path of the art brings illumination, the heart searches for perfection in exterior forms, the correct exterior form corrects the heart. The concept of wabi, the Kibishiza drama. Really interesting.
Saturday, a very interesting conference/exchange of opinions about the preparation of the Tokonoma. I am sure everybody knows what a Tokonoma is. In English, Tokonoma is usually called alcove (quelle: Wikipedia). For bonsai enthusiasts a display in the Tokonoma should be the ultimate goal while planning the plant. When a composition is finished/styled/restyled or even just preparing for the next show, it should be displayed in the Tokonoma to see the flaws and qualities of the plant, for the choice of the right shitakusa (accent plant) and the kakejiku (Japanese scroll painting or calligraphy), in order to choose the right table or jiita (a wooden or bamboo flowerpot saucer). 11 exhibitors and master members presented their own interpretations in the Tokonoma.  Once more, a very interesting exchange of opinions, and the President of NBSKE Lorenzo Agnoletti recited a poem? Very touching.
I travelled home on Sunday and missed the demo of my Sensei Nicola Crivelli and a Yamadori workshop with Lorenzo Agnoletti but my new friends told me it was really special.
This was my 3 part series on the Bonsai Summer Festival. Hope you all enjoyed it and hope I brought you some japanese bonsai culture in your heart and in your soul.
I had a wonderfull week, I meet lots of lovely people, I learnes su much about bonsai art, I really had a great time and wanted to thank all the members of NBSKE for organizing such an amazing event. I really hope to repeat this experiance also next week.
….love, Melanie!

First styling!! A step in the right direction: chronicles of a bonsai show

I don’t know if any of you have ever organized a show: cat show, book show, bonsai show, or whatever else. Well, I have: a cat show a couple of years back and believe me, it’s not an easy task! Without getting into details about my experience as President of our cat club (Abyssinians Breed Club Europe), I would like to report my view of the Swiss Bonsai Show held in Lugano on 8-9 June, 2013.
As a visitor of the show, I must first and foremost say “hats off”! When someone like the Bonsai Club Ticino (a local bonsai club in Switzerland) puts up a show about bonsai, suiseki, kusamono and much more, as someone who’s been through this before, it is immediately clear to me the effort that every single person invested, the energy and nerves, the struggle to organize vendors, the eternal search for sponsors, the hours spent on the phone discussing this and that. It’s a perpetual battle until it’s done. And even on opening day, other problems are bound to pop up. The microphone doesn’t work, the exhibitor has a question, the vendors argue about something. And at the end of the show the work is still not finished! You need to take apart the show hall, update the homepage, write an article about it for the bonsai magazine, and so on. It’s not easy but it’s fun and the Bonsai Club Ticino did  a great job indeed.
The club offered to hold the Swiss Bonsai Show, the most important show in Switzerland, by the VSB, Vereinigung Schweizer Bonsaifreunde. It was the first time that the Swiss Bonsai Show was held in Ticino (the southern part of Switzerland, near the Italian border). Taking advantage of the importance of the show, the BCT decided to add more Japanese and bonsai related topics. For instance they held the 2nd contest of the BCT which presented several trees from Ticino, Italy and the Principality of Monaco. The show hall was big enough to accommodate more than just bonsais, and the club has gone above and beyond!!! It featured a show of Shitakusa and Kusamono, a demonstration and show of shodo (Japanese calligraphy), Japanese music with koto (Japanese stringed instrument) and harp, Japanese dolls, a demonstration of bonsai potting, dressing a kimono, sward show and of course a live demonstration of bonsai styling by Sandro Segneri and Mario Pavone (I reported on Mario in a past post) and a demonstration about Kusamono, which was a revelation for me! The new Swiss Talent contest was also held on Saturday under the supervision of the VSB which, by the way, expressed great praise for the success of the show.
Here a couple of numbers to give you a clearer idea:
+ 1500 visitors
+ 150 show plants
300 m of pannels
15 vendors of Japanese items of various nature
9 presentations by other Bonsai Clubs in Switzerland

And the winners are :

Swiss Bonsai Awards

Dedicious native Dedicious Import Conifer native Conifer Import
1° Mario Pavone 1° Luca Brignoli 1°Hugo Berther 1° Carmine Samà
2° Nicola Crivelli 2° Nadir Marcon 2°Madlaine Campo 2° Walter Schmutz
3° Mina Boscacci 3° Mario Pavone 3° Enzo Ferrari 3° Nicola Crivelli

Bonsai Club Ticino Awards

Swiss Suiseki Award Winners of the 2° Award Bonsai Club Ticino: Award Bonsai Club Ticino Suiseki Winner of the audience favorite: 
1° – Sonzini 1° Juniperus Chinensis-Nicola Crivelli Igor Carino Lebanon Cedar forest, by Enzo Ferrari
2° – Enzo Ferrari 2° Ezo Pine –Paolo Dassetto
3° – Amadeo Ducoli 3° Pseudocidonia –Mario Pedrazzetti

Here photos of almost all the trees

Facebook of Nicola “Kitora” Crivelli

Does any of you remember the Bonsai Autumn in Switzerland? Can you recall the quality of the trees, the perfection in its organization (like a Swiss clock!)? Well, I do, and I certainly hope that some day the BCT will be able to put up such a show, because, let’s face it, the Italians have been a force to contend with the last few years, and Noelander should not be the only big bonsai attraction in Europe!

…love, Melanie!!

Lone Wolf with Cub. How a Samurai became Bonsai (Transfer to Bonsai Empire’s blog)

Lone Wolf with cub

Lone Wolf with cub

Blog post is moved to Bonsai Empire’s blog:  How a Samurai became Bonsai, Literati style.

Thank you for following.

…love, Melanie!!