Bonsai Summer Images 2016

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This article contains a selection of updates and images I've posted on Social Media (Google+ , Facebook , Instagram) over the Summer of 2016; from June 21st to September 21st 2016.

olive bonsai pot erin pottery

Late August 2016: Work on a hot August morning included shoe-horning this 8"/20cm diameter Olive into its new pot from Victor Harris of Erin Pottery! Unlike many tree species used for bonsai, Olive (olea) are much better repotted during the growing season.

olive bonsai pot erin pottery

Late August 2016: The Olive planted into its new pot by Victor Harris of Erin Pottery.

olive bonsai pot erin pottery

Late August 2016: Olea sylvestris /Olive bonsai, carved and styled over the previous 18 months from raw yamadori material collected in Majorca, the tree is 21"/52cm in height with a 8"/20cm diameter trunkbase.

The new pot, and more to the point, its size, drew very mixed reactions on Social Media. Most loved the inverse-damage design that meant that the pot was left 'undamaged' in the central section in line with the plain area of bark on the trunk of the tree itself. But for some, the size just didn't work. My arguement was that as a round pot, this 7" diameter was perfect for the 21" height of the tree, however, as a square with corners, we are all much more used to seeing a rectangular pot which would be 14" diameter (2/3 the height).

Vic Harris himself gave us a summary of his thought process behind the design of the pot:

" When designing a pot i like to look at the tree and listen to the story it has to tell. This tree is leaning and has the main bulk of its canopy falling to the right.

Also there is the very thick lower trunk / nebari which thickens quite abruptly. Nature is all about cause and effect, energy is not wasted needlessly, therefore the thick lower trunk formed for a reason. It gave me the impression that the tree was gripping the ground as though it had struggled throughout its life to stay standing. I felt the tree had fought hard for life, but in spite of this it had over come the adversity and had grown in to a strong old tree. 

I have seen trees resembling this growing on slopes of loose shale, gravel or slag. In the summer they are as dry as a desert and in winter the rain can form landslides, most of the trees that germinate on these slopes die. However some do survive showing the results of their heroic struggle in their form.


I used a number of visual cues to illustrate the life story of the tree. I wanted to create a feeling that the tree was in a precarious situation. I decided to use a pot with a very small base and overall dimensions to hint at the instability of the environment. Also the left side of the pot is higher than right, symbolising a slope. 
To further this illusion I carved either side of the pot away leaving an inverted central panel. This again gives the uneasy impression of instability, the strong line of the un carved area dominating the eye and giving the appearance that the tree is balancing precariously on top of this.

But harsh environment and instability are not whole story. The tree has over come this adversity and is very strong. It is also very masculine even with its curves. I wanted to mirror this strength in the pot. Also I wanted a pot with some visual weight to be at juxtaposition to the visual instabiltilty that I had hopefully created, balancing it to some extent and anchoring the tree to the ground. I say to some extent, because the whole point of the design is to cause a slight feeling of unease. 
At one third of the height of the tree the pot should have been round, according to traditional guidelines. However to achieve the visual weight that I wanted and also harmonise with masculinity of the tree I opted for a square pot.

olive bonsai pot erin pottery

Late August 2016: Detail images of the tree itself.

olive bonsai pot erin pottery

Late August 2016: Detail images of the tree itself.

japanese maple bonsai

Late August 2016: Multi-trunk Acer palmatum/Japanese Maple bonsai, defoliated and re-styled for a client over the past couple of months. Height 17"/42cm, trunk diameter 4"/10cm above the nebari.
Unknown bonsai pot.

japanese maple bonsai

Late August 2016: Detail of the nebari of the Japanese Maple multi-trunk.

hornbeam bonsai

Late August 2016: A Carpinus betulus/European Hornbeam bonsai I have worked on for 6-7 years, from very humble beginnings, and acquired from its previous owner during late 2015.
The tree still required wiring and refining to get the best out of it, but I was still very pleased with its progress, having carried out a lot of carving work on the thick surface roots in the Spring and then partial defoliation at midsummer. The leaves were getting nicely reduced already!
Height 26"/64cm, trunk diameter (above nebari) 5"/12cm. Currently planted in a mica training pot.

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