Tuesday, April 22, 2008

the week-end seminar 'finding the potential in bonsai material' #1

After many years of watching and doing workshops and demos I found some striking deficits in the bonsai education system. In demos and workshops and books by and large the development of a given piece of material is taught. But way too often the piece of material is just not good and has almost no or very little potential. I found that way too many demos, even with big name artists, were poor because the material offered was lousy. I found that way too many folks come to workshops with high hopes and then it is just a matter of not destroying their expectations because the material they bring is not really worth the while. In tree critiques I found that way to many folks have spent many years only to present a pathetic little tree in the pot after all these years. The reason why it is pathetic is not so much their lack of skill but rather the lack of potential right on the outset. I was always aware that the most important skill was simply not taught. This is the skill to spot the right material, material with potential, to see what can be done with a given piece and what cannot be done.
Why is it that there are some folks who can walk through a nursery and spot the 'right' trees within a few minutes And the rest of the crowd has a hard time to find anything. Why is it that the same crowd walks through the forest and invariably the same guy finds more good trees than the rest together. Why is it that some folks have put together enormous collections of outstanding bonsai with very little money and the rest of the crowd has not accomplished much in thee same time frame even with spending more money. Is this all just a matter of luck? Not at all. A certain skill is required: to be able to see what can be done and then do it.
So the week-end seminar 'finding potential in bonsai material' was born after a couple of discussions with Peter Schmidt and Wolfgang Kaeflein. Peter Schmidt is an upcoming bonsaiist who has a strong organization and marketing background. Wolfgang Kaeflein is the man who has collected the most trees in the world. He must have collected between 50,000 and 100,000 in the past thirty years. We decided to place the seminar right in the bonsai paradise of Wolfgang Kaeflein in Neidelsbach, in the middle of Germany.
The seminar started out with more than an hour of theory.


Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with your basic premise that many hobbyists spend too much effort on bad trees. However, do try not to be elitist with that premise. Here in the US, the best stock trees at a bonsai nursery can be prohibitively expensive to a bonsaist of average means, and not all of us have access to collectable matterial. Perhaps a corollary to your premise should be: buy (or collect) quality over quantity - get the best stock you can afford even if it means just working on one tree for a few years. I have only six trees in my current collection, but all have good potential. I run into many hobbyists at workshops with lousy trees who tell me that they have 20 more trees at home. Perhaps they would have been better off buying just 3 exceptional stock plants.

Anyway, keep up the good work,

Walter Pall said...


this seminar was exactly about some of the notions you mention. It has almost nothing to do with money. Send me to ANY nursry with a 50 $ bill and I bring back some very good material. Send a whole bonsai club to the same nursery and they will come back with lousy trees. This seminat was teaching how to find the good one.
Folks only paid 30 euro (next time it will be clearly more) and got it back tenfold in their purchase right at the spot.


Anonymous said...

Certainly some people just don't know the difference between good and bad stock - so for them it is not about the money. However, I think it is entirely about the money for many people, including the bonsai nurseries that offer lousy stock plants for workshops. It is easier for a nursery to fill a workshop if they can lower the price, which they do by providing lousy material. And I think that many of the beginner-intermediate students are happy to not spend too much on one tree (or on one workshop), because they want to have lots of different species and styles of trees and attend lots of workshops. I understand this mindset from other hobbies (i.e. rare coins or stamps) where condition of the collectible is paramount, but the young collectors would rather buy lots of junk than a single, high quality specimen - they know the difference, but their mindset is quantity, not quality (perhaps, in part, because beginners often set a mental limit of how much they should spend on one item).

So, I think part of your outline for your seminar should include a basic discussion of economics and collection management - limiting the number of trees in your collection; saving your money for exceptional purchases; perhaps only buying a new tree once every five years (if that justifies spending the higher cost for good stock), etc. Get them out of the mindset that they must have lots of different trees. The retail nurseries will HATE you for this!

By the way, where are you finding high quality bonsai stock in the US for $50? I'd like to go there. (grin)


Anonymous said...

what happend to the pictures walter?

Walter Pall said...

What pictures? There never were pictures.