When you buy a bonsai or a piece of yamadori material you are simply buying a plant, and in the case of styled trees also expertise, nothing more nothing less. Bonsai can be cheap and should you take the time and effort involved to seek out and establish yamadori even free. What makes bonsai expensive is time so you are buying time.
When I started creating bonsai 30 years ago I should have planted seeds, made cuttings, and styled trees in the field… but 30 years ago there were many things I should have done!
I am not advocating that as artists we do not grow cuttings or plant seeds to create future bonsai but I find it hilarious that ‘bonsai seed’ sellers on EBay show a tree that is usually well over 100 years old as an example of the tree that you (given time) could grow and create. What the EBay description should say is “If you live to over 100 years of age you may create a bonsai like this from these seeds” I somehow think they would not sell many trees with that sales pitch.
Perhaps our greatest failing as Western bonsai artists is that we are impatient, Bonsai takes time… I find it fascinating that in the last few year’s trees that have been created from ‘local’ material over that last 20 years in Europe is now beginning to look like mature bonsai… it can only get better from this point in time. This is most noticeable in the UBI exhibition catalogues that have been published since 1997 producing a record of Italian bonsai over the last 15 years, what is most evident is the quality and maturity of the trees in 2012 compared to 1997.
So do not be surprised when you see a bonsai for sale that is expensive because you are not only buying the tree you are buying the time that it would have taken you to create the Bonsai… that is if you had the expertise.
Note: I am not advocating buying bonsai off Ebay, far from it.