A studygroup? Isn’t that one of those late night college thingies that begin with good intentions about collectively cramming on some difficult subject but usually devolve into binge watching Netflix and over indulging in pizza and beer (and other mind altering herbage)?
It is that.
But, considering I write a niche bonsai blog, we are going to explore the phenomenon called the “bonsaibp studygroup” (which my editing software insists that studygroup is two words, but I shall micontinue, in the spirit of my generation, turning ctygit into one word, oh well, whatever, nevermind). I’m curious why they started calling the bonsai workshop with exclusive members of “at least six but no more than ten people” a “studygroup” ? It could be because they do devolve into beer drinking and pizza scarfing events when all of the work is done? At least mine tend to do that, at times.
A bonsai studygroup can take many forms. The first ones were just a bunch of people getting together to work on trees; it’s less than a club, which clubs tend to have presidents and bylaws and get caught up in business meetings and bonsai politics, but more than a drinking session while chopping trees.
Sometimes these types of study groups will bring in a professional to teach, but they don’t need to.
I had a group we called The NoNaMé Bonsai Studygroup.
We had a monthly (or yearly, if you wanted to) membership fee that was used to bring in various artists from around Florida and even the country (there was one year we had Suthin Sukosolvisit, Guy Guidry, and various Florida artists like Erik Wigert). We kept our studygroup informal, no bylaws or officers except for a treasurer, who was me.
In Florida and with the Bonsai Societies of Florida we could have made our group official and had the benefits of belonging to a state organization, like access to the Visiting Artist program or website help, and there are several in the state that are. But I wanted to stay out of the politics. I should have listened to my past self, huh?
There are also many studygroups in the state which are made up a group that just like to do bonsai together without any outside artists coming in, like the Brevard group that meets at Dr. Reggie Purdue’s house.
Now, let’s get to a new phenomenon that has been building in popularity of late, the Professional guided studygroup.
Disclosure time, I lead four such groups in Florida. Here are some pics from them (I realize you are all suffering from text fatigue, and need something to look at).
Above that’s Pete, Tom and Marty, below is Bob and a bougie.
A redesign of Steven’s willow leaf ficus. More on that at the end.
The idea of a professionally steered studygroup is to, well, utilize a particular artists strengths in a group setting. My strengths tend towards finding and developing trees that may not have had a bonsai persons hand in the life of the plant yet, refining those trees that have had an initial styling, and bringing near finished trees to a level where they are ready for exhibit. I’m also good at The Chop. This is a willow leaf chop we did in the Ft Myers group.
Here is some work turning a Brazilian Raintree into a flattop. Just the beginning, getting the first branches in place. Someone told my student that the tree wasn’t a good candidate for a flattop style.
An initial Penjing or sakei planting.
Trying out different pots for a divi divi tree.
We chose this one.
That’s Kathrin. But it’s not her tree.
Some studygroups meet once every 6 months, once every 4 months, or even every month. They are not a substitute for clubs. Clubs are important for the culture, cross pollination of ideas and techniques, and for the history.
My studygroups meet monthly.
It is ambitious on my part but it’s also selfish. I love working on trees. These two Raintrees are from Kathrin
As well as this ficus.
We made a shorty out of it.
Whether you choose a casual studygroup where it’s just a bunch of pizza eating and beer drinking bonsai enthusiasts or a professionally driven one, what a group setting does is two things.
It gives you fresh eyeballs on a tree you’ve had for a while, with the advantage of learning from different experiences.
And it gives you courage to make the big changes that are sometimes needed.
And you get to show off more too. Look at that deadwood on this buttonwood, it’s sublime.
Here’s the divi divi, it actually belongs to Marty. He’s the main guy who organized my Florida studygroups
At your next club meeting, start talking to your friends about a studygroup. They’re fun, educational, and productive.