Originally posted on British Shohin Bonsai:

Graham Walker gives us his report on the first official engagement of the BSB

The BTA autumn event was held at the Heritage Centre at Elsecar, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire this year for the first time. This move was forced upon them as the original venue, used for many years, had been demolished.

The Heritage Centre is on the site of the old National Coal Board Engineering Works, and includes many small and varied units, together with an operating historical railway.

The day started early for me with the alarm going off at 5.00am (never realised there were two 5.00 o’clocks in one day). After a quiet drive I arrived to be joined shortly afterwards by the two Johns – Armitage and Brocklehurst. The display units were all set out awaiting dressing with cloths before we set up our Shohin displays. As the space was limited we each put one…

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British Shohin Bonsai: A new beginning

I admire anyone who wants to drive the interest of bonsai onwards and upwards, and also to take in a new direction. Embracing online communication via social media, blogging etc. fully will reach a wider audience, reduce costs and bring immediacy to news and events. I understand that there are those who do not engage or simply do not have access; unfortunately this is there loss. For an organisation to thrive the best way of accessing its members must be addressed, the very fact that you are reading this indicates that you are NOT a Neo-Luddite.

shohin 3Here is the release from British Shohin Bonsai

Last Saturday saw the official “launch” of British Shohin Bonsai and interest in the group is already taking off well.

We have used “launch” in inverted commas as it is more a case of revamping of an older familiar face. BSB has arisen from the British Shohin Association which was the first and only Shohin and small sized bonsai society in the UK for nearly eight years. Sadly, as with many clubs and societies, the BSA was finding it difficult to get people to take on the administrative functions necessary to run an organisation.

But rather than let the momentum of the BSA fizzle out,  a group of members took it upon themselves to progress the group in a manner that involved an entirely new way of doing things.

shohin 1Accepting that a sizeably large number of people wish to source their bonsai knowledge and indulge their bonsai passion online, the BSB decided that they would relaunch using an internet presence as the main method of reaching the bonsai public. A new Facebook group has been established to front this process, along with a new website.

As with the BSA, the aim of the new group is to promote the smaller sizes of bonsai, and while the online presence allows us to this through discussion, we will also be retaining the best bits of the BSA – namely the Exhibition and the Journal. These, along with occasional workshops and demonstrations, will allow us to develop people’s practical skills.

The name change is simply because we felt that a slight change of  “branding” was needed. This is mostly to give due respect to the sterling work done by the officers of the previous incarnation. It is truly good that most of them are coming with us on our new journey and we hope that freeing them up from the shackles of a committee position will allow them more freedom.

shohin 2Although there is no formal membership for BSB, we will be introducing a Supporters set-up whereby in return for a small one-off donation, you get access to the Journals and reduced price entry to BSB events.

Shohin bonsai has certainly taken off in the past few years and the former BSA was instrumental in that happening. We hope to continue that momentum and to take smaller sized bonsai to even greater , erm… heights.


To keep up to date take a look here: The website or here: Their Facebook page (‘Like’ it too)




International Bonsai Art & Culture Biennial 2014

Tony Tickle:

I desperately wanted to go to this groundbreaking show, Robert has really taken bonsai art to the next level, thanks Bill for your extensive coverage and great photos.

Originally posted on Valavanis Bonsai Blog:



Today we visited the opening day of Robert Steven’s International Bonsai Art & Culture Biennial 2014 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. There were lots of beautiful bonsai displays to appreciate in a large exhibition hall, which was divided into about ten smaller galleries, plus a Robert’s “Thinker’s Secret Studio” complete with “peep holes.” Each gallery displayed several different styles and forms of bonsai and displays. Most of the compositions were labeled belonging to Robert, but other exhibitors were listed as well.


This was not an exhibition where one goes to study the form, trunk, and roots leaves and the bark of a bonsai. The beauty of each tree was creatively used to present a new use of bonsai artistically, unlike anything that I’ve seen before, and I loved it! Although I’m accustomed to seeing bonsai displayed in Japan with a quiet and refined taste, these bonsai were dramatic, creative, exciting and innovative…

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Our Club’s Shohin Display at the Barnsley Show

Tony Tickle:

great display from these guys… my favourite in the show

Originally posted on Robert Nocher Shohin Bonsai:

I am still recovering from what was for us, a very satisfying but tiring 2 day trek to the BTA bonsai show in Elescar, Barnsley. Guess what? To our great surprise and delight, our shohin display was awarded first prize.

Here are a few pictures of our display at the event. I must apologise for the quality of some of these images. Lighting in our part of the hall wasn’t ideal for photography and the public interest around our display, throughout the day left very little time for me to take pics of each tree individually.




The Lanarkshire team from left to right are myself, Robert Porch, Jim McMaster, Andy, Maurice Maidment and Ian McMaster


The following 3 pictures are courtesy of Robert Porch




Individual images of most of the trees displayed can be found in this earlier post



 I managed to take quite a number of pictures of trees that…

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Ongoing maintenance of the Hawthorn Ikadabuji

When you are developing a deciduous tree you want maximum growth and choice of branches as you progress towards the design you are hoping to achieve. Once you have arrived at the point ongoing maintenance is critical to keep the tree in scale and shape is a year round task.

When I am preparing this tree for exhibition I start 24 months in advance so that it can be presented in prime condition. This week I thinned out the small branches and removed crowded internodes. If this work is not done annually the canopy of the tree becomes a tight knot of thorns and twisted branches. I will wire with aluminium the odd branch to fill in where I have made a hole by removing the ‘star’ clump of small branches.

I work my Hawthorns as closely as they would grow in nature and not force them into a style not representative of the wild trees where I live.

The work appears very subtle and the difference in the two photos almost imperceptible.

Hawthorn Raft un-trimmed 0ct 14

Hawthorn Raft trimmed 0ct 14

Hawthorn trimmings

hawthorn branch structure Hawthorn trim Wire

7 Years wasted 

The growth of bonsai ‘doyens’ on the Internet continues apace, many eager to pass polite comment and praise on posts, giving encouragement and reassurance to those eager to have it heaped upon them. Very few professional bonsai artists are active on Facebook and other social media platforms and those that are rarely pass comment or judgment, this is tragic as those best placed to offer advice rarely do, as their honesty can be interpreted as arrogance and at worst unprofessional.

Last week I posted on Facebook a link to a Flickr account of a Yew progression over 7 years and commented that it was ‘7 years wasted’ I put my neck out and said what I thought. I sat back and watched the tirade of posts cascade down the screen. Most of the comments aimed at me boiled down to the fact that I am a ‘professional’ and I was bang out of order, because this guy was a beginner and should be encouraged. I backed up my argument with a link to this blog post where 7 years were NOT wasted, yet few agreed and many chose to skirt over the glaringly obvious. When asked, “how many would love this tree in his or her garden?” nobody replied… why is that?

It came as no surprise that most the PM’s to me were from respected artists in praise of what I posted yet when asked to ‘go public’ they declined for fear of exactly the same backlash I have experienced.

Perhaps the most telling statistic was that almost all the negative comments were from UK commentators, would they have been so loose with their vitriol if another ‘Professional’ from across the water had made this comment?… all of the ‘Likes’ were from beyond the UK what does that say about the UK bonsai scene?

The outcome of this tree reflected the ‘skills’ that he gained with its development yet the only Professional artist who commented on the post with: “Sorry, but with good skills, you can make a nice tree out of this material” …this is my point, you are never going to develop those skills if you are repeatedly told that your stick in a pot is amazing.

Here is another truth, the beginners in the bonsai journey who do not have access to a bonsai school, teacher or learned friend have to make do with faint praise and ‘walking on eggshells’ comments on social media. They will continue down the path of mediocrity hoping that ‘one day’ their stick in a pot will be a great bonsai because nobody had the guts to tell them otherwise. They may well be happy but ignorant and we all know that ignorance is bliss. If you put something online expect comment and critique if you do not want that don’t put it out there.

Those who know me well know everything I do to push beginners in the right direction, I have given away more material than most have had pass through their fingers. I have taken people out collecting to help them on their way and the fact that I am giving so many young guys and girls a platform to show their talent next year speaks volumes. So do not question my commitment to helping beginners or my generosity.

I am an easy target because I am visual and comment regularly, this exercise in ‘Truth’ brought out the worst in many people, and the best in a few. So if you want to ‘unfriend’ me because I speak my mind go right ahead, you will not be missed as your comments do nothing to further the art of bonsai or the skills of those wishing to learn.

For the record: “Starts with poor material ends up with poor ‘bonsai’ 7 years wasted” fact.

The beauty of Japanese clays

Tony Tickle:

This is my friend Patricia… An amazing artist and potter.

Originally posted on Bonsai pots Pas pottery:

Finalmente después de una espera de un par de meses he recibido todas mis piezas desde Japón.

boxes-Japanese clays-PAS pottery-2014

En esta nueva colección les presento parte del trabajo que realice en Shigaraki con diferentes arcillas locales.

Shigaraki es reconocida desde la antigüedad por la calidad de su arcilla y actualmente es el centro que provee una increíble variedad de arcillas al resto de Japón.

Japón es un país que aprecia y enaltece los más sutiles detalles, por tal no solo es importante la forma de una pieza sino también la arcilla con la que está hecha. De ella depende la textura e incluso el sabor que puede dar al agua que contiene por ejemplo una taza para te. Cada tipo de arcilla tiene un potencial particular que permite trabajar de una u otra forma y obtener resultados absolutamente diferentes, esto es dramáticamente evidente en lo que respecta a las quemas a leña.

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ABC4 Africa Bonsai Convention 2015: Cape Town

Next Year I am pleased to say that I am one of three International presenters with Ryan Neil and Francois Jeker at This is coming together to be a great show, I am looking forward to meeting all the guys who I have been chatting to on Facebook and here on my Blog. This is only two weeks after Bonsai Europa… so its going to be a busy time.

South Africa event screen grab

Hawthorn: Probably the best deciduous Species in Europe for bonsai

Its no secret that I love Hawthorns as a species for Bonsai. They truly are a four season tree, great in Winter and the image the display with all the fine branches, in Spring the fresh bright green serrated tiny leaves, as The flowers come in early Summer and then the Berries and finally a riot of colour in the Autumn…and if you are lucky (as seen here) the berries remain.

Tall Guy Hawthorn sept 14 Tall Guy Hawthorn Berries sept 14 1000