Archived goals and new issues

Just do it!

Just do it!

Well well! Another year went by and so much has happened. New families were made, some families fell apart; some new friends have earned the title of “friend”, some not; some bonsai were styled for good and some need time to mature.

I did have 4 goasl for 2013 and I achieved at least 3 of them, well it would be all four if I included doing more bonsai in my goals instead of restyling my garden which was a complete failure.

Starting in January with the first session at the Università del bonsai, then finding Nicola online and immediately booking  a workshop for the end of March. In May my first article was published on Bonsai Empire and in June I visited the Swiss bonsai show in Lugano. Summer passed up to the first week of September which was the highlight of my year:  Bonsai Summer Festival in Fai della Paganella. Only one week, but boy did we ever have fun! Not only did I learn a lot about complementary tags all around bonsai art, like presentation, accent plants, bonsai pots, and much more, but also, and most importantly I made a whole new group of friends that like me appreciate bonsai as they are and not for their monetary value or winning potential. I am so grateful to Paolo who managed to introduce me to this new world of bonsai without prizes, seems weird but in my opinion it’s more peaceful and in tune with the whole idea of bonsai itself.
After this wonderful event the wheel started to turn. Articles were published, trees were styled, new enthusiasts were known, well… I had to work more on PR rather than concentrating on my goals, but I did find the time to achieve some other goals.

Another goal reached is to lose weight, and although I gained some kilos this holiday season I am still very motivated to do more for my figure. And last but absolutely not least: learning Japanese. This is one of the main goals for next year as well. I am going to Japan in May 2014 and it’s very important to be able to understand the basics of conversation, or, if at all possible, to understand what Fujikawa San will say.

postit

Talking about new goals, since not all goals have been achieved in 2013, I will not be setting my goals too high for this coming year, although they are indeed demanding: 1) Learn more Japanese;2) Lose more weight and 3) Write more on my blogs and for other bonsai magazines. The highlight in 2014 would be the trip to Japan. I am so excited about it, as are all my bonsai friends who are already asking me to bring home this and that!! I am hoping for the best and I am absolutely positive that no matter what Fujikawa San and Björn will teach me, it will be an amazing experience.
For the rest, I will follow my new styled tree and care for some new species, visit the Roku Shun-Ten, participate at the Swiss New Talent, and maybe visit more shows in Europe as I did in 2013. Of course, there will be more workshops with Nicola and I hope to be able to visit Paolo in Turin.

Hope to be able to achieve all of my goals and more importantly learn more about bonsai and related arts!

…love, Melanie!

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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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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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Shin gyo so

The first time I heard this term I was fascinated by the sound of it: “shin gyo so”…it sounds so poetic, so mysterious. And then someone tried to explain its meaning to me, and I didn’t understand a thing! Having a western mindset we are prone to learn from textbooks, from theoretical rules which make it difficult to find the “right” meaning for this term. I will try to explain it in my own way. Let me tell you that it comes from old China and has been adapted in Japan for the traditional Arts as tea ceremony, ikebana, shodo, but also in architecture for the structure of houses as well as in gardening layouts. This term can be found also in Karate, Kyudo, Bushido and much more. I think “shin gyo so” is omnipresent in almost every Japanese form of art.

But what is “shin gyo so” really? Well, I am unable to explain it in a philosophical or intellectual sort of way, but from my observations and search, I have come to this interpretation:
Shin = formal, knowledge, elaborate, regular.
Gyo = informal, technique, partly simplified, semi-cursive.
So = free, sensitivity, greatly simplified, cursive.

I found lots of examplesthat can help understand this not so easy concept and although I would like to have more sensitivity in order to learn more, I have to start from the regular basic. My idea of “shin gyo so” is pretty much what Sensei Fukita explained at his Demo/Workshop: “Knowledge, technique and sensibility are the three ingredients for an excellent bonsai artist.” Therefore I see knowledge as shin, technique as gyo and sensibility as so!
pots_shingyoso</a

On the other hand my Sensei Nicola Crivelli explained it to me in relation to the bonsai pot: Shin –formal – for all conifer mostly pine, styles like Chokkan and Moyogi and unglazed pots with rigid lines as rectangular and squared ones can be. Gyo – informal – for deciduous but also some slender, feminine shimpaku junipers; for Kengai and han-kengai style and sometimes also Moyogi; for glazed, oval, soft and sinous pots. So – free – refers for shitakusas and kusamonos but also to bunjin pine, for round and irregular pots.

shin gyo so

As you can see this chart is not complete (some styles are missing, the pots feet are missing, and some other pot forms are also missing), but as a beginner it seems promising and helps me to choose the right pot for my plants.

Shin gyo so can also refer to Shodo (calligraphy) as Shin for regular, gyo for semi-cursive and so for cursive

shingyoso_shodo

In Kyudo (the art of archery) Shin Gyo So can be defined as follows:
Shin means following the truth. It means that the fundamentals of shooting should be diligently and scrupulously followed.
Gyo means carrying out the truth. It means that the shooting should obey true principles.
So means form as nature. It means that the shooting should be natural and in harmony with all things.
(Source: Kyudo Genève)

This is a very rudimental way to explain the principal of shin gyo so (doesn’t is sound great?).

…love, Melanie!

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.

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

plakat
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.
kusamono
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!!