A few months ago, I got an email from Oscar Jonker, from Bonsai Empire , asking me to give an honest review of his newest online class. I’ve collaborated with Oscar in the past, providing some media, hosting livestreams, etc, so I said “sure”. Little did I know that the class was so in-depth and full of information that it would take me days to finish!

So, my friends, here is The Review…..well, after the mandatory legal statement: according to the US FTC, I have to disclose whether I’ve received any compensation from Oscar or Bonsai Empire. I have not. This is not a paid review, simply a service provided to my friend and to let the Bonsai World know about a valuable resource. I was provided access to the class though, which you see by the above pic, costs a mere $59.99.

Some of you might wonder why I, as a possible competitor, might want to promote Bonsai empire (always ask why!). Easy answer, I don’t see myself as a competitor nor do I think any Art is a competition. Down that road is where we find division and strife. My business model has me providing in-person bonsai instruction. I have done online classes and courses, and you can find those easily, but my blog (Da’ Blog) is free to anyone. Besides, the business of bonsai is not a zero-sum game. It’s not a pie to be cut up and the only way your piece gets bigger is to take from someone else’s piece. By supporting and promoting bonsai, the pie gets bigger.

Ok, with all that said, THE REVIEW!

The course is laid out with 21 video lectures, starring Bjorn Bjorholm and Michael Hagedorn, two of my favorite bonsai artists from the USA. Both trained in Japan, both with amazing content (I subscribe to Michael’s blog). And both very knowledgable.

The video quality is top notch, as expected from a Bonsai Empire production. The knowledge imparted is in plain English, and presented in a humble way. You don’t need to know what a “moyogi momji with a melting nebari in a nanban pot with an understated namako glaze” is. Very accessible. By the way, who would put a moyogi in a nanban?

One refreshing thing, Bjorn isn’t averse to trunk chopping:

The information: both artists describe what they are doing and, most importantly, why. The chop above is for taper and movement. And after care is discussed, the how and why and when. There’s one spot where Michael explains that if you do this, at this time, you’ll see this result. But if it’s at another time of the year, you’ll see this.

It’s also set out in terms of the trees various stages of development.

I followed the courses on my iPhone, and the video transitions from the different views was flawless.

You can watch like this:

With the video in the text.

Or with just the video (here in portrait mode).

Or in landscape, full screen mode (turning your phone horizontally).

There is also a closed captioned mode, for when you’re with company and don’t want the sound to bug those near you.

Above, Michael is tackling a huge beech.

The course covers both deciduous and coniferous trees. And styles.

The pruning strategies between the two are covered, and contrasted.

If there are any drawbacks, I might have added some still photos that one could zoom in upon. You can zoom in on the video, but you have to pause it, and it’s not a full zoom (where you can see the dirt under the fingernails). I’m not sure how you could structure the addition of still shots, that’s above my skill level, but it would be cool.

You can also ask questions and comment, and they are answered pretty well.

At the end, you get a certificate of completion, which you can print out for framing

All in all, I’d say this course (after taking the previous courses, of course) would be a good addition to your digital library (did I mention you have lifetime access to the courses you’ve taken? Meaning you can go back and review what you’ve watched any time).

Well done Bjorn, Michael, and Oscar, and all the people at Bonsai Empire.

If you’re inclined to increase your bonsai knowledge (and I recommend you learn from as many artists as you can) take a look at Bonsai Empire’s courses (the full curriculum can be found here )

Now, I just might take this course:

Love me some Kimura!

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