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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.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Fort Wayne Bonsai Club Spring 2016 Workshop

   I suspect spring would not be spring for the the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club without a workshop with a visiting artist at some point! Two weeks ago, on April 16, true to form, we got together for a Styling and Refinement workshop with Vance Hanna of Birmingham, MI, a member and past president of the Four Season Bonsai Club. Darlene and Jerry Kittle kindly hosted us in their garage.

I'm not sure if Vance holds a PhD, so if I should refer to him as "Doctor Hanna," someone please let me know. (He doesn't appear to be the kind to flaunt an advanced degree.) Vance has been involved in bonsai since the early 1970's, has won many awards throughout the years, and was one of the founders of the Mid-America Bonsai Alliance (MABA.) He's a natural teacher: approachable, a good listener, good at explaining, and quick to affirm and encourage. And something else hit me during the workshop: here's a man who teaches architectural design at the university level: one could hardly have a better background when it comes to addressing three-dimensional design, as we do in bonsai!

(It could be argued that bonsai involves four-dimensional design, since the tree changes over time. But that's another topic.)

Here are some pictures from the workshop.

Vance Hanna and Bruce Kennedy discuss Bruce's Norway spruce (Picea abies) with Ed (far right) and
Cindy (behind the tree) nearby. After lunch we moved Vance out of direct sun!
Watching and listening.
Al McMillan gets his Korean boxwood ready for Vance's attention.
(The tree, a Buxus microphylla var. koreana, is one he salvaged when taking out a hedge 4 years ago.)
The chosen design was more dramatic than I foresaw. I look forward to seeing this tree develop.
Vance offers Larry Benjamin some thoughts on Larry's Korean hornbeam forest (Carpinus coreana.)

The tree I took was the shohin-sized yew I mentioned in my last post; for a "before" view, you can click here. (A separate window will open.) Vance listened to my ideas about the tree and seemed to like them. He offered a few thoughts and refinements, which sounded good to me, and made a quick sketch of the overall look he suggests. 

Vance Hanna's suggested concept for my shohin yew (Taxus x media 'Densiformis.')
(Please ignore the dark gray areas; they're artifacts from my scanner.)
I liked the idea of "drum" pot idea right off the bat! And after a moment's thought I decided that the smaller jin he sketched seems to fit the tree's image better than the larger one I had envisioned.

Almost a week after the workshop. The white arrow points to the old leader that will be reduced and jinned;
the blue one indicates the new leader.
On the other hand, I'm still not sure what I think of making the tree as tall as Vance suggests. I originally intended to have the apex just above the jin. But I've got time to think about it. And I'm certainly not going to dismiss Vance's idea out of hand. He has a lot more experience with bonsai design than I do, and besides - I paid to get his ideas about the tree!

:-)  :-)  :-)


  1. I enjoyed this -- helped me feel like I was there! Whenever I'm around you bonsai artists, I am reminded how very little I know about the art. But I enjoy listening :)

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Susan! I hoped that you and Nate, and Sophie and Lisa, would be able to come, but maybe next time.

      And remember - every one of "us bonsai artists" started out a raw beginner! Keep learning! :)

  2. I like that there are still artists that like the tall elegant forms. They were more common a decade or two ago.

    1. Vance is definitely capable of thinking outside the conventional box. And I've developed some interest in the bunjin look myself in the last several months.