I clearly remember the day that Danny User asked me to demonstrate at his 2007 “Ginkgo award”, he called me at work and asked if I had something to do in September next year? And if not, would I like to demonstrate at his awards? He knocked me right off my feed and I accepted full hearted! The “Ginkgo award” holds a special place in my heard and to demonstrate there is and was a dream come true for me, so I good not be happier!
Two days before the event I drove to Belgium to bring in my 4 bonsai that were selected for the show, and to find a suitable tree there for me to demonstrate on. After I brought my Bonsai to where they where photographed for the commemorative “best Bonsai in Europe” book, I headed outside to look among the many hundreds of trees. But even with this many choices, finding a tree among the many that Danny has in his enormous place is not as easy as it might seam! I searched for the right tree, as if I was buying it for my own collection. The tree had to appeal to my own taste of bonsai and tickle my imagination at the same time. My demonstration trees always reflect were I’m at that moment in bonsai and it must always end up looking the same as when I had styled it in my own garden for my own collection! A big part of my bonsai collection now, still consist of my former demo trees. After a long search, I ended up with two posible candidates! Both Yamadori “Yews” from Japan. One with a lot of fantastic deadwood to work on with heavy machines, but almost now foliage to work with. And one with a lot off problems to solve, but enough foliage to work with. The both had good possibility to demonstrate on and become a good pre bonsai that reflecting my own approach and style. Because working on the first tree mend, I had to be wood carving for most off the two day demonstration, making a lot of noise with my power tools, bothering the other demonstrators and the stand worker that were all in the same big green house with me! So I chose the second tree, it was more challenging for me any way, with a lot more nice yamadori problems to solve or incorporate into the design I in visioned when I first looked at this lovely tree. The tree gave me lots off good bonsai vibes!
Picture 1: shows the chosen front of the tree.
Picture 2: shows me when I just discovered my demo tree.
Picture 3: shows the very hot demonstration airier. On the fare right U can see William “Bill” Valavanis from the USA, next to him Udu Fisher from Germany, next to him Sandro Signeri from Italy and I’m the one on the left and I’m from Holland..
Picture 4,5,6: The start of my demo, Here I am cleaning and plucking the branches to prepare them for wiring.
Picture 7: here you can see me removing the to long and to highly placed top branches. Leaving some stumps that might be useful later, when I start working on the deadwood design!
Picture 8: Here I am looking were the all important live lines of the tree are running. I do this with a small sharp chisel, pealing away the bark until i reach the live parts. In this case that was quit difficult to determent, because of the little difference in color between the life and the dead part. So needles to say: I had to be very careful.
Picture 9: After I was really sure were it was safe to work, I could start working freely, with out any fear for the trees health in the back off my mind. All I just had to do, was stay in between the lines! I worked with both power tools and hand tools to first remove all the rotted wood and other unwanted part. Then I just started to free flow, taking bits away, discovering point off interest or beauty, a Little creating or revealing. But always working very carefully, following the grain of the wood. Gradually I worked towards the point were smaller bits were necessary on my power tool, to create, or reveal more detail in the deadwood. It is advisable to always wear Eye protection and always use a mask! The dust from working on a Yew with power tools is irritating to your eyes and can give you a bad chest pain and cough for days! BELIEVE ME!!! I know what I’m talking about! (ugh kugg) LOL.
Picture 10, 11,12: My good friend William van Vlaandre (inventor of the “SAMURAI” power tool bit), gave me one of his specially made power tools, loaded with his biggest “Samurai”, to use on the bigger parts of deadwood in the top of the tree. Like a warm knife to butter! Amazing you could make a small canoe out of a big tree in half a hour with this monster! Even the other wise almost unworkable fresh and therefore wet wood, were no problem! It left a smooth surface! And with some care it was even posible to create more subtle details as well, it worked great! Only both my arms would disagree with this statements, they looked like I had been carrying 3 hedgehogs on fire! LOL!
Picture 13: More detailed carving on the top “JIN”.
Picture 14: View on the demonstrating area.
Picture 15: The tree top branches that would make up the whole top part off the tree, were to thick to be bended with just wire! So they first had to be protected with tight layers of in water soaked raffia. Than 4 strings off copper wire was placed lengthwise along the part of the branch that needed to be bend. Than a other layer of raffia was applied and than some more normal wiring with thick copper wire on top of that layer. Now I was sure that I could bend the branches with minimal risk of harming the tree.
Picture 16, 17, 18: Now I could start safely, to gradually bend the tough branches into their desired positions. Taking my time, piece by piece, until I could secure them with the help off some thin copper wire attached to a couple of Jins and one small screw.
Picture 19: After a wild night playing snooker (pool) with my friends and 4 hours sleep, I started with the detail wiring of the tree. Trying to keep in pace with the marching band in my head!
Picture 20: Finlay the real fun part of styling a tree was there. When I am bringing all the branches into position, I am totally in the zone, I love it, it is magical to almost paint with foliage, until I feel it looks good. Trying to create something I like and find beautiful in Bonsai, with in the boundaries of what each tree has to offer to me, is always a wonderful experience. To do it on this stage with this valuable material Danny entrusted me with, made it even more elevating and meaningful to me!
Picture 21: Close up of the deadwood on the back part of the tree and the branches.
Picture 19, 20: Some last detail work on the deadwood using a very hard plastic brush, that left a grain like texture on the still soft fresh part on the top.
Picture 21: YES! Finished and drained, but happy with the result and the beer that was waiting on the other side off the camera!
Picture 22: The final result. I hope you liked this little demo story and the final image of this pre bonsai? It was, as I sad before, a honor to do! Especially because this was the last “Ginkgo award”!
My “Ginkgo Award 2007” demonstration tree.
A “Taxus cuspidata“ Yamadori from Japan.