I was a guest artist at the Bonsai Triennale, 20-22. June 2014, Pillnitz, Dresden, Germany.
The Bonsai Triennale is the joint project of the Central German Bonsai Regional Association and the National Bonsai organisations in Poland and the Czech Republic it’s in the fourth edition and returns after 2011. The event took place in the beautiful ambience of the orangery of the castle and Pillnitz
Almost 2000 visitors enjoyed a high level exhibition and a packed program of demos and lectures. What impressed me the most was the team behind the show.
Having a good team is crucial to the success of a Bonsai show, you have to have people you can rely on, who work hard and are prepared to take on any job to ensure that the event is a great experience for visitors.
I did not see the build up of the show but witnessed the breakdown, the guys and girls worked like a well-oiled machine; everyone knew EXACTLY what to do and where to be to clear the venue as quickly as possible. The whole event was cleared in under 2 hours… AND they were not happy as they had done if faster on previous occasions… Germany Efficiency you better believe it!
If you entered tree for the Noelanders Trophy and on checking you email this morning you should have received an email for the Secretaris Bonsai of the Event. There will be joy for those who have had bonsai selected and disappointment for the rest.
If you have organised a bonsai exhibition no matter what ‘level’ the show be it club or national the selection process is often fraught and difficult. Informing those who have been successful is easy, letting those who have not been less so. So I was very impressed with the procedure adopted by the organisers of the Noelanders Trophy, here is a sample from the email:
“Reasons for not accepting bonsai are very diverse. Some of these bonsai will become good bonsai in the future, but based on the pictures, they were not yet ready for exhibition. This means that we would like to see these trees again in a few years as participant.
Other bonsai didn’t have enough intrinsic qualities to participate in an international contest, in which we want to surprise the spectators with exceptional trees in their best condition. This is not detrimental to your work nor to the joy that you experience with this bonsai.”
The selectors address two issues:
The first being that the tree is not mature as a bonsai and thus not ready to show. We have been too eager to show trees too early, too little foliage, poor ramification or ‘just been styled’ This is a BIG problem for many bonsai shows particularly when traditionally too few people submit their trees for exhibition, should selectors accept a tree to ‘make up the numbers’ or keep the quality high but have fewer trees? This is NOT the case for the Noelanders Trophy as I am aware that it is massively oversubscribed and can afford to be selective, it IS the premier Bonsai event in Europe after all!
The second issue of “Not upsetting the entrant” by letting them down gently! They may well have worked on the tree for many years, paid for an expensive pot, commissioned a handmade table and the tree has not been accepted “This is not detrimental to your work nor to the joy that you experience with this bonsai.”
Let me put the statement: “we want to surprise the spectators with exceptional trees in their best condition.” into context. If I travel over 1000 miles pay for a ferry, stay in a hotel for three nights, take two days off work and all the expense associated I want to be damn sure that the exhibited trees will be worth the effort. That and the quality and range of traders make the journey more than worthwhile.
So if on this occasion you have not been selected go to the event, see the quality and it will give you something to aim for, because you are worth it.
If you were wondering? Yes… I have had two trees selected.
I have left this a few months since early in May to post as I wanted to reflect back on the warmth and exotic experience during the wet autumn months back in the UK. If you want to read more of my time in Israel take a look here.
My good friend Ofer Grunwald invited Enrico Savini and me to work with him to make the event more than an exhibition. Jerusalem Botanical Gardens is in the middle of the ‘New City’ in a Valley surrounded by offices and apartments. It is an oasis of green and calm in what is a rather drab coloured conurbation.
By European standards the show was quite compact, consisting of 13 native trees and the standard was very good. Israel is an ‘emerging’ nation of Bonsai enthusiasts and if this show is where they have come to in such a short time then the future looks bright. Ofer worked hard to include all ‘factions’ in the Israeli bonsai community and from my perspective he did a great job. One of the ‘highlights’ at the start of the conference was a very vocal bonsai protester An ‘apparently’ well known Israeli octogenarian conservationist stood up and voiced his displeasure at ‘interfering’ with nature. Ofer let him have his say, then the proceeding commenced with Enrico and Tommy styling a Pine, after half an hour and whilst they worked I presented a few items with the help of the digital projector. The remaining time was filled with an open forum whilst the guys continued and finished the tree.
The bonsai community of Israel is very fortunate to have such a young and enthusiastic organiser as Ofer and the support of the premier horticultural centre of the nation offering such solid support for the art, would it be such in our countries things would be very different.
One room, 15 demonstrators and I imagine quite a few egos! working on amazing yamadori trees… it was quite a feast for the eyes. It was actually more the 15 because some artists had UP TO 5 assistants all working frantically to complete their projects in the allotted time. Here was an opportunity to showcase your talent/bonsai school to a very large audience.