Interview in Slovenski Bonsaj Klub Magazine (including English translation)

I will conclude my European Tour in May as a headline demonstrator at the EBA event in Ljubljana, Slovenia alongside Kevin Willson and Salvatore Liporace.

As part of the build up to the event Tomaž Kovšca interviewed me for the organising club publication. You can Read the original magazine here below is the English translation.

1. You are known as good event organizer, the recently finished Burrs event is becoming one of the most important bonsai event in UK. What is whole idea about Burrs?
I have organised many Bonsai events and Burrs is very personal to me. I recognised that a typical bonsai workshop lasted no more than 6 hours; this is not enough time to work on a big tree if there is one artist and ten participants. So a weekend workshop was the answer. I also invite different artists from across Europe as I believe it important that regular participants get a different perspective on their trees. Burrs is unique as I have 5 bonsai artists all working alongside each other each with complementary skills. Also the weekend is fully accommodated and catered so participants need never leave the venue. Burrs 2012 was the eighth.

2. How do you pick a guests which are invited there?
Visiting artists include: Enrico Savini, Mario Kompsta, Hans van Meer, Kevin Willson, Carlos van der Varrt and Pavel Slovak. Terry Foster is my right hand man. Looking at this list these are some of the best bonsai artists in the western world. I choose artists that I know will fit in with the Burrs formula, are not afraid of hard work (up to 18 hours over the weekend) and who participants ask for!

3. How did Nik Rozman performed? 😉
Nik was a very enthusiastic participant, it helps that he speaks excellent English. I deliberately gave Nik a difficult tree to work with on the first day. Nik impressed many of the other participants with his skill and expertise… I will be considering Nik in the next few years as a PAID visiting artist.

4. In 1995 you were the first runner-up at EBA NTC, was this a real start of your bonsai career? How important do you find such competition as NTC?
In 1995 the final of the EBA NTC included many bonsai artist who your readers will be familiar with including Marco Invernizzi and Tuenis jan Klien so the competition was tough. It was the first time that the NTC had taken place so hopes were high. As for kick-starting my bonsai career the NTC is only an opening door, you must proceed forward, continue to create and innovate, make contacts, work hard and continue to learn. The NTC is simply the beginning… nothing else. However the NTC IS important to showcase talent, the best advice I can offer is do not enter a race unless you know you have a good chance of winning.

5. You are exhibiting your trees in all major bonsai events in Europe. Why do an artist like you travel so many kilometres to exhibit a tree?
In 2011 I travelled to 13 countries in Europe with exhibitions, demonstrations, judging and trading. When I arrive in Ljubljana in 2012 I will have driven over 2000 Km. If you exhibit a tree you are part of the whole experience, not simply an onlooker.

6. Is this important also for your personal development as a bonsaist?
You have the opportunity to have your work critiqued by your peers. Sometimes this can be harsh but useful. I can take it!

7. How serious is bonsai for you?
I spend an average of 6 hours per day on my trees and in my garden. I blog, write and comment online daily about bonsai. I have over 1600 bonsai ‘friends’ on Facebook, I have 8 exhibition trees ready, 25 in development and over 100 yamadori material. Serious is a strange word to use as I have NEVER take bonsai seriously… bonsai is fun and a way of life for me… Oh and I started when I was 25 years old

8. Do you prefer some species? You (as many UK bonsai artists) work a lot on Yews and Hawthorns, do you like any other species?
I only work on native European trees, in particular Yew, Hawthorn and Pine. I have been working with Myrtle and Olive and am very pleased with the results. I am hoping to pick up some Picia and Pistachios on my visit to Slovenia and Croatia in 2012

9. How would you described yourself as bonsaist? Do you have any special technique or approach?
I was once described as a Bonsai rebel (I quite like that) In 1995 I was the ‘young’ guy from the UK who surprised everyone with my NTC result in Monaco. Last year Danny Use was delighted that after all these years I was still passionate about bonsai when so many other had fallen away… I have no intention of ‘falling away’ If I have a ‘mission’ in bonsai it is to teach, this is why I started Burrs and have a School in the UK.

10. In May you are coming to Ljubljana at EBA Convention. This will not be your first visit here, true?
I was in Tacen (Ljubljana) for the Canoe World Championships; I flew out three days before the declaration of independence on 25 June 1991. I was head of UK Press and in the two weeks that I was in Slovenia I fell in love with your beautiful country.

11. In Ljubljana you’ll perform as demonstrator. What are you preparing?
I am not sure what format yet whether a demo or something different. Over the last few years I have given digital presentations based around case studies. My skill is in collecting the tree from the mountains, establishing, developing and finally styling ready for exhibition. An audience needs to be inspired from a speaker, I hope to do this.