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"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Styling Demonstration at FWBC Fall Show 2012

     The Black Hills spruce (Picea glauca densata) that I styled at the Ft. Wayne Bonsai Club's Fall Show has been in my possession for somewhere between 15 and 20 years; longer than any other tree I now have. One of its distinctions is that it survived some of my serious early mistakes. Fortunately, I eventually learned, and for the last couple of years the tree has been doing well. (See my previous post.) Last weekend it was ready for creation styling.

Before demonstration began. "Bigfoot," blue arrow; also in next picture.
As I said in my last post, this tree would not work for anything except a bunjin (without another 20 years of growing out, anyway.) For any who don't know, making a bunjin can be an easy, even a lazy, way out of a dilemma. (Which is not to say that it is always a cop-out; don't hear me say that.) Artistically, a bunjin is (almost) all line, with form very much secondary; it is therefore simpler to execute, since you don't have as many factors to keep in mind. But because it is simpler, careful design is all the more important: any defects, any mediocrity, will show up all the more. An observation by bonsai master Susumu Nakamura has stuck in my mind: "To make a bunjin is easy. To make a bunjin masterpiece is difficult."

And while I wasn't concerned about creating a masterpiece, I did want to style a decent bunjin. To some degree, I felt that I owed the tree that after my earlier mistakes!

At MABA 2008 I heard Danny Use, of Ginkgo Bonsai, say that once you style the first major branch, the rest of the design will follow from that. In this case, it was the "Bigfoot" root that set the basic design. I could have removed it (in stages, over five years or so, because so much of the root system springs from it.) I decided instead to try to use it in my design. Picture a man standing with one foot well in front of the other, leaning forward with his weight on the foot in front. That was the image that sprang into my mind as I considered how to make that root a feature. (Visualizing it as a foot also gave me "Bigfoot.")

Styling finished. Final front and planting angle.
Beyond that mental image, I did not have a detailed plan in mind this time when I started work. I half expected to make some drastic bends in the trunk, so I wrapped it in raffia before applying wire. But as things worked out, I could have left the raffia off. The design almost seemed to develop as I worked, each step becoming clear as I completed the one before it. The final result is not as dramatic as I once expected, but I think it looks natural and does this spruce justice. I am happy with it, and thankful for how it turned out.

The tree is due for repotting next spring (almost overdue, in fact.) I have a shallow, unglazed round pot that will probably suit it well. Whether I put the spruce directly into that, or into a larger interim container, will depend on its overall health in six months.

The wire will stay on the trunk for at least two years. I expect two or three years of refinement after that, before this tree is ready for  public display. I will probably add a thin shari to the lower trunk and the top of "Bigfoot" at some point.

A fellow club member took a couple of pictures as I worked, at my request. This one caught me with my mouth open -- I do that sometimes when I'm concentrating -- but is the better picture of the tree!

I later found a spruce needle in my cup of coffee! The tree's revenge?

:-)  :-)  :-)

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