Workshop in december

This last december I had the opportunity to have tree workshop by my teacher. The first one was on a pinus sylvestis (scots pine), the second on a juniperus chinensis (juniper) and the third was on a picea abies (spruce) owned by Nicola himself.

Normaly I have an idea about the first styling on my trees, but in this case it was a little weared because he purchased 2 trees at a local nursery on my request. Off course he send me some pictures to be sure I will be happy with the material, but I had no idea about the real potential and let’s face it, his the teacher, I had to be happy. Would you contradict your teacher?

First: pinus sylvestris.
For me pines are the top of bonsai art and I consider them way to advanced for my knowledge at this moment, but I wanted a pinus sylvestris in order to study the growth of this species and observe the developpment through the seasons and years. It came out that another Nicola’s student trade this pine with better material not so long ago. He collected this pine 2 years ago in the Ticino mountans and it was really easy to collect it since it was on a rock. I was glad to hear his story.
pinus sylvestris before pinus sylvestris after

Second: juniperus chinensis
The juniper was a bit trickier. First it had been styled already by somone else, and second it has a really facinating deadwood that had to been worked on. I never worked deadwood before! Well, yes some jin here and there but nothing really big, and although it is not so big surface, for me was ideed a big deal: dealing with a drill, fireing with a burner, protecting the livewood, etc…. learned a lot and become confidend with new tools. And off course wireing, wireing, and wireing. But I am really pleased with the result.

juniper before juniper after

Third: picea abies
The big december finale was wireing a spruce that Nicola had to prepare for an upcoming show. It was challenging, also because my teacher did not accept mistakes on his tree! And because it was really lot to wire, we worked all day and managed to finish at 5 PM. My fingers were acking, my back was killing me and I was tired but I was really really happy to archive (together with Nicola) this huge task. First time ever that I wired for a hole day such a big tree.

abetebefore img_8119

This december was intense but really instructive and I feel more confident with each new material I came across. The next workshop will be in the end of january and till then I have to practice on other sort of material such as, 10€ material from the supermarket, or wireing thiker trunk on a larix and other sort of low-quality material, this is the best way to learn: practice, practice, practice.

…love, Melanie

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Summer Bonsai Festival: part 2

Summer Bonsai Festival

 

In my previous post I wrote about the Summer Bonsai Festival organized by the Nippon Bonsai Sakka Kyookai Europe (NBSKE) of which I have been a member for a couple of months and am so excited to be part of. Here part 1
Part two is about other japanese art forms like: Ikebana, tea ceremony, and bonsai pots as well as a trip to Othmar Auer who has his nursery and school about one hour from Fai della Paganella. In the photo gallery more about his garden.
On Monday we had a guided tour in the woods of Fai della Paganella. If anybody reading this comes to the north of Italy, I really raccomend going to Trentino. This area really touched my heart.
We also participated in a workshop by Adriano Nalon about cultivating a tree from seed. Adriano brought a couple of plants as examples and explained why he feels it is one of the most rewarding forms of cultivation. He’s now retired and doesn’t cultivate trees from seeds any more but he collects seeds from herbs and weeds for kusamonos and shitakusas. At the workshop he had a gingko to show something he cultivated from seeds in the late ’70 early ’80. Anyway, he told the audience “I will throw away this tree, I don’t like it”! Well, the gingko has find a new owner: me!
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After dinner Diego Rigotti held a conference on Suiseki. Diego is also a member of the NBSKE and one of the organizers of this wonderful week-long event. Again it’s a really interesting art-form although I still have to find out where to find Suiseki stones.
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On Tuesday we had a guided tour of Fai della Paganella and a brief yet illuminating journey thought the history of this amazing tiny village inhabited by about 900 people.
In the evening Mistress Sachiko Yamaguchi held a conference on Ikebana. Of course somebody had to try this new technique and who is more prone to try new things than me?!
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On Wednesday came the highlight, a visit to Othmar Auer’s garden! Otti, as he’s called, does have a big beautiful garden, but it’s not as open as a normal nursery. You have to announce yourself a couple of days ahead. The garden is a real gem: finished bonsais are exposed in a light way, the Japanese feeling is obiquitous, the whole garden is clean and neat, the nursery plants are healthy, big and make a powerful presence. He has a huge greenhouse with herbs, flowers and weeds for kusamonos. In the house bonsai pots are exposed in a neat logical way. Well what else…. the price! Nothing is cheap at his place, but for real bonsai enthusiasts it’s a place to visit and to buy from because it’s by far the best place for quality plants, in my opinion.
In the afternoon Xavier Redon held a Workshop on olive shohin. Xavier is Spanish, has his own Bonsai School and nursery, and is of course a full member of the NBSKE and also president of the NBSKE Spain. He has extensive knowledge of the olive tree in nature. I didn’t participate at the workshop because I don’t like this essence and in my latitude it doesn’t grow as in south Italy or Spain. Still for me and lots of others, this workshop was packed with useful information, advice and recommendations.
On Thursday morning we went up to the Paganella. Too bad the weather wasn’t cooperating much that day, it was cloudy but we still had a really good time.
In the afternoon there was a workshop with Igor Carino on bonsai pots. We created our own, for me it was my real first bonsai pot!
And at last but not least the authentic Japanese tea ceremony: the jewel that crowned this week. Mistress Senyo Machida, formal name Yoko, demostrated the aspect and aesthetic of this very ancient Japanese art.
I am excited about the end of the week, so stay tuned! I will post more this week so follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

…,love, Melanie!

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Summer Bonsai Festival: part 1

Summer Bonsai Festival

 

In my previous post I wrote about the Summer Bonsai Festival organized by the Nippon Bonsai Sakka Kyookai Europe (NBSKE) of which I have been a member for a couple of months and am so excited to be part of.
This time I’d like to show you more about it. First: The exposition is free for everyone, all the activities are free and headed by senior members of the NBSKE, the location is a bonsai lover’s dream and the rest is just to enjoy.
Ok, this may not be for everyone, because it is really far out of the away, well, for me at least it is! I drove for about 8 hours and was really exhausted at the end of the day, yet is was packed with emotion and new discoveries. Not everybody is as crazy as me to travel so far, most of the visitors are from the region or surrounding areas.
On Saturday we had a workshop with Paolo Giai on a pinus silverstris. Paolo was, as usual, very kind and explained everything in the most elementary way, in order to give a chance to the novice that was handling a tree for the first time.
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After that we had a dinner with the senior members. Again, an experience to meet new people, to discuss plants, cultivation, and so on.
On Sunday, we had a workshop with Nicola Crivelli on a shimpaku juniper form cuttings. Nicola is not the most engaging speaker, but his workshop was packed with people, probably hoping to get some insight into his almost encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. I believe he’s also well known for his love of the “real Japanese bonsai”.
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shimpaku after

After supper we had a presentation on the importance of the table in the presentation at the show. Unfortunately the host of this lecture was indisposed but his replacement was in my opinion just as good. They did a wonderful job explaining the difference of the size, color, high, heaviness of the table in the show presentation.After that there was a lecture and tea degustation. Again the speaker was very kind to answer every single question as silly as it could sound and the degustation was something special.

I also found out that this week the plants presented will be changed 3 times: SAT-SUN-MON presentation of the member’s tree, TUE-WED-THU presentation of other trees by the members, FRY-SAT-SUN, presentation of tree chosen from the master members with interpretation by the guest judge.
Here all the plants of part 1

I will post more this week so follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

…,love, Melanie!

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Bonsai holidays in Italy

Summer Bonsai Festival

Tomorow I will be at the NBSKE Summer Bonsai Festival at Fai della Paganella (Italy, Trentino) for a hole week. An entire week only of bonsai: bonsai style, bonsai care, pot for bonsai, bonsai presentation, bonsai in the wild. Lucky me, eh!

First a couple of information about the NBSKE, the International Nippon Bonsai Sakka Kyookai Europe (NBSKE) was created in the year 2000 as a result of the will of Nippon Bonsai Sakka Kyookai Japan, which identified some European partners as suitable to spread the traditional Japanese bonsai tree and its ancient arts to Europe.
To accomplish this goal, the Association organizes activities which concern the study of aesthetics and cultivation techniques of the bonsai tree as well as its exhibition in a Tokonoma, and the traditional related arts.
The Japanese Headquarters support the Association during the main events and contributes to its cultural growth by sending its eminent masters.
As the Association has educational and cultural goals, competition in any form is not included in the activities.
(source: NBSKE Homepage)

During this week I will participate at different workshops, witch by the way are free, and I am really excited about the upcoming week.

On Saturday there will be a Workshop on a Scott Pine (pinus silvestris) with Paolo Giai. I met Paolo at the Swiss Bonsai Show this spring when he made a demo about Kusamono, I already wrote about it in a previous post. I am really happy to meet Paolo again.
On Sunday another WorkShop on shimpaku juniper this time with Nicola “Kitora” Crivelli, my Master and a really talented artist. I wrote about him also in previous posts.
On Monday a Workshop on cultivating a bonsai from a seed with Adriano Nolan. Curious about this one.
Tuesday and Wednesday I didn’t book any workshop but, me and Nicola will make visit at Othmar Auer, another great artist and also one of the founder of the NBSKE.
On Thursday a Workshop on bonsai pots with Ivan Carino. I am really interested in this one because is absolutely the first time ever that I will create a bonsai pot!
On Friday the “piece de resistence”! A Workshop with Japanese guest Mr. Isao Fukita. In this workshop the Master will give advice about cultivation and the artistical choices of the participant’s plants.

ulmus parvifolia

ulmus parvifolia

european beech

european beech

callicarpa japonica

callicarpa japonica

I choosen to bring only deciduous with me: a beautyberry (callicarpa japonica), a european beech (fagus sylvatica) and an chinese eml (ulmus parvifolia). I did’nt understand if I can do all of them or only one. With help of other members and also of my Master I will choose one of the three if necessary.
On Saturday there will be a demonstration about assembly of a Tokonoma with the senior members and the Japanese guest Mr. Isao Fukita. And later on the Assembly of the Association with concluding dinner.

Well, as you can tell there is a lot to work but also lot to learn and honestly, I am really out of my sucks!

I will post after this week some more information but I will be posting on Facebook and Instagram so follow me!

…,love, Melanie!

 

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The Art of Kusamono

Ever since I started out with Bonsai I wondered what those grasses and weeds were doing near the bonsai? In fact for a neophyte it’s not immediately clear and if you don’t ask, nobody will give you an answer. To find out you could take a workshop or a private course or a University course as I am doing.
A couple of elements in the Tokonome: the main tree, the scroll and the shitakusa

A couple of elements in the Tokonoma: the main tree, the scroll and the shitakusa

Why should a small little pot with some green inside be a companion to the tree? This companion plant is not really a Kusamono but it’s called Shitakusa (“shita” meaning under, below and “kusa” meaning grass, weed) and it evokes the season in which the tree is exposed. A flowery Shitakusa evokes spring, an airy grass evokes the summer, and a rusty, brown grass evokes the fall, just as grass with fruits will. I am still very new to the Bonsai world but this can be a big help when you visit the next Bonsai show. Also; sorry, but no Bonsais in this post folks!
This is one of Nicola Crivelle juniper's. It shows it in the Tokonoma at every season of the year. Guess which season?

This is one of Nicola “Kitora” Crivelli juniper. He shows it in the Tokonoma at every season of the year. Guess which season?

Back to Kusamono which, by the way, is displayed alone in the Tokonoma with a Tenpai (small little figure) and/or a Kakejiku (Japanese scroll). It’s very important in Japanese Bonsai art to display the tree when it’s finished and has matured to its best. So, for instance, if you have to show a juniper, which is always green, in winter it’s a good idea to have a nice Shitakusa that gives a wintery feeling and maybe a Kakejiku picturing a snowed mountain. The same applies to Kusamonos. Again, it’s displayed alone as the main item with a Tenpai and/or a Kakejiku only when it’s mature; at least 3-5 years old.
This Kusamono is showed alone. The scroll evokes the melting snow and the cute tenpai (the litte badger figure) evokes the end of lethargy

Kusamono are showed alone. The scroll evokes that is still cold and the cute tenpai (the litte badger figure) evokes the end of lethargy. Spring!!

At the Swiss Bonsai Show I went to last May, Paolo Giai gave a demonstration of Kusamono and I was thrilled to try this at home myself. Kusamono (“mono” meaning object, thing) is a composition of different grasses, so at first you have to be sure that the grasses come from the same area: swamp, alps, lakes, dry areas and so on. Basically it’s a hint of a piece of nature that you could find in the wild! Ideally, it would be displayed in a round, shallow pot because in the course of the years the front may change, but there are other typologies of Kusamono; on a plate, exposed roots or as mentioned before, in a round pot.
Paolo Giai with his finished Kusamono

Paolo Giai with his finished Kusamono

the same Kusamono a couple of months later

the same Kusamono a couple of months later

The soil is a mixture (in ratio 50/50) of waste of sieved Akadama and universal soil, also sieved. A small amount of 3-5 mm Akadama soil will be placed at the bottom of the pot for drainage purposes. Kusamono are not fixed with wire and will be placed in a shadowy area of the garden, not in full sun. Fertilization is done in moderation with a liquid fertilizer on a ratio of 3/9/9 plus microelements 2 times a year to avoid a speedy growth and not to lose the smallness of the leafs. A re-pot is made every 2-3 years depending on the composition.
Make sure to choose grasses that aren’t too flashy, with small flowers and small fruits. Lastly: the compositions are endless!! So go out in the wild and collect or take some inspirations or you can do as I did and go buy the plants at your next door gardening shop.
This is very little, very rudimental information about how to create and cultivate Kusamono and here is my first composition:
Fragaria vesca (wild strawberry, Paolo gave it to me as a gift, thank you pal), a Calamagrostis acutiflora (Reed Grass) and Epimedium x versic (Bicolor barrenwort).
My very first Kusamono

My very first Kusamono

What do you think of my very first Kusamono composition?
…love, Melanie!!
PS: I will like to thank Nicola for giving me permision to use his pictures as an example.

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!!