As I might have mentioned several times now, I was a recent attendee (and Bsf officer and vendor) at the Bsf convention. This is a blog answering why. Why go, why participate, why volunteer, etc.
Let’s start at the beginning. The convention took place on May 22-25 at The Florida Hotel inside the Florida Mall, Orlando. It was held there last year and will be there next year as well.
This year, the club spearheading the convention was the Bonsai Society of Brevard, one of the biggest in the state, and the convention was chaired by my friend, Ronn Miller. My position as the 2nd vp of Bsf officially makes me the liaison with the host club (in those years when the convention isn’t hosted by Bsf, that is) but my recent illness left me out of the loop (and loopy, at times) for most of the planning. My tender condition also made everyone treat me like I couldn’t do anything. I have a suspicion that my wife sent out emails to everyone involved warning them that they would have to deal with her undying wrath, if any calamity befell me. Anyway, don’t tell her I said that.
I didn’t really have to do much anyway, the Brevard club had everything handled. They are pros.
I was a vendor in the sales are (or the bazaar, as they still call it. Remember, Florida is populated by many Northern immigrants, and that’s what they called a sales room, in my youth, in Massachusetts. I always found it bizarre….). But I won’t show you any pics because I didn’t take any. I will say that, as a dealer for American Bonsai Tools, we had a good showing again. I sold some good trees too. Or I should say that my ever suffering wife sold a lot of trees and tools. I played.
I had a tree in the exhibit, unfortunately, I can only show my display. This year they had a restriction on photos of other than your own tree in exhibit.
I finally got my ficus sap stained hands on some decent moss. There was a back corridor exchange from a source (who will remain anonymous) of the best moss in the world. It’s not a specific variety, in case you were wondering. It’s the unique and, let’s say unusual cultural conditions that makes it so great.
Do you wanna know what those conditions are? Ok……the moss must be CULTIVATED UPON THE BODIES OF THE DEAD…..yeah, that’s right, this person or persons who supplied the moss, stole it from a graveyard. I can only imagine the scene……
“It was a foggy night, the full moon peeking in and out from behind the wispy clouds, the wind blowing the squealing graveyard gate open and closed. That cold wind meanders through the ancient live oak trees, their twisted branches almost touching the faded gravestones. The wind caresses the grey, wispy Spanish moss, giving an artificial life to the gnarled branches. Two genteel and respected bonsai practitioners, fit and fashionable in branded polos, short pants, mid-ankle tube socks and New Balance tennis shoes (the snazzy ones, not just the grey ones) creeped soundlessly into the murky barrows. Armed with their trusty Joshua Roth ™ combo spatula/tweezer set, they brazenly robbed the tombs…..of their moss.”
Now, I’m not sayin’ that’s how the heist went down. It coulda happened in broad daylight. But I’m a romantic. Anyway, my display. An ilex vomitoria “schillings” on a stand I made. The accent is a tilandsia recurvata that we call “ball moss”.
On Friday I was asked to perform a duelling demo with Stacy Allen Muse, last year’s winner of the Bsf Scholarship styling contest. If you notice, he’s all over his tree and I’m just sitting and staring at mine. His was a procumbens nana juniper, mine was a retusa ficus. It was interesting sharing the stage with him, he would be talking to himself and the volume of his voice would slowly rise and then he’d be talking to the audience. It was exciting. I couldn’t take my ears off it. Here’s his tree: He did an outstanding job with difficult material.
On Saturday I participated in that same styling contest that Stacy won last year. Here’re some pics. Take note of the Jin above. You’re seeing the back of the tree. Here’s my finished entry. Here’s a good example of how important seeing a tree in person is when learning how to style trees. The movement just doesn’t translate. And you’ll notice the burn marks; I used a torch and brute force to bend that branch.
I would show the other contestants trees but there is one who, I am sure, wouldn’t give approval to do so. And I didn’t want to manufacture a scandal by not showing this person’s tree so I’m afraid that, in this case, I am bowing to the “Less Drama is Best” camp (and taking the advice of a few friends) and, therefore, you can’t see my competitor’s trees and truly compare them to be able to judge if I won on merit or just on my name alone.
I should point out that the judging was anonymous.
I think I’ve said enough.
A random pic of, ahhhhhh, people.
Here’s a shot of all the exhibitors, I’m almost hidden.
I must say that it was an interesting convention without the haze of the alcohol induced insight I usually have (I was trying to not dehydrate myself, I don’t want another hospital visit before my surgery on July 15th, wish me luck). I might just give up the sauce for good (naaaaaaaaah, prolly not).
Needless to say, with my sales, my triumphant win in the styling contest, and the overall relaxed atmosphere, I’d say that this was my best Bsf convention yet. I purchased some pottery from my favorite Florida pot dealers.
And introducing Martha Goff (author of Tropical Green Sheets 1&2):
It was an awesome convention, sorry I didn’t (or couldn’t) get more pics for you but I was busy, man, playing, while my wife worked (she loves me. I love her).
The one disappointment was not seeing more Floridians, who are serious in the art, show up. Here’s the “Philisophical Rant” part of the article. You may skip it if you wish. I wouldn’t.
I am a traveling bonsai artist and teacher. Wherever I go, I look at trees in nature. Believe it or not, they grow differently in different parts of the country (and the State of Florida, I should add). If you believe me or not, the natural shape of a tree in nature affects how the shape of your bonsai turns out (it doesn’t matter if you don’t, because it’s true). Here’s an example, those beginners in suburban areas tend to make their trees look like landscape trees. You know, the lollipop look. What I’m saying is that the “ideal” tree image in the mind changes from place to place and person to person. And that image, in the bonsai artists mind, matures the more they learn bonsai. In some people it tends to stagnate at the “bonsai” tree look, unfortunately.
In the great artist, that image has matured to include all looks, be it “bonsai”, “natural”, “western”, “Penjing” etc. and he/she can adapt according to what the tree is telling them. There aren’t many of those kind of artists. And, no, peanut gallery, I don’t claim to be one. My trees look like my trees. There are some looks and shapes that my brain can’t be forced to make.
What all this is leading to, readers, to make that long story short: you need to visit local shows to see how other artists solve problems, bend a branch, wire, prune. You need to see the trees in person; a picture, even the best, is flat. And you need the influence of others to improve your art. All art is theft, sorry, but it’s true. Every artist I’ve read about and studied has said so.
If you skipped to the end of the rant, take note of my parting words: go to a close (or not so close) convention to see and be seen, participate in a planned activity, volunteer, and, look at the trees!