Welcome to the Saruyama Blog, intermittent and generally off topic. Occasionally you might see some trees...and weird ones at that.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Fashion and Bonsai...

Today saw me break new ground with a fantastic collaboration effort, combining the worlds of fashion and bonsai. It cam about as something of a surprise, but as accidental discoveries go, this may rank up there alongside penicillin. I was doing an initial piece of work on a Kinsai azalea that I picked up last year and did not get a chance to see the flowers...something which is bugging me still to this day...will it be covered in Lapa flowers or will I hit a rich vein of pure flowers? Either way, the tree has great potential as a bonsai image and it is one of mine that I am genuine excited about the future of. That sounds as though I'm not generally excited by the majority of my trees but this one was one of those finds that comes along every now and again, a diamond in the rough.

The work requires an initial operation of great severity and potential disaster, but hell, go big or go home. It would be unfair of me to go into too many details as it will be published in the future but todays initial work is setting the tree up for a progression photo series over the next three years at least. One of the biggest problems when comparing Bonsai Focus (or any European magazine) versus the behemoth that is Kinbon is that there is a lack of long term projects. This is in part due to the immediacy of modern bonsai but also a financial concern. Spending days and money on photo shoots for something that will not reach publication for a good number of years is difficult. The fast moving nature of modern life demands that pictures of a tree fresh of the mountain is styled, potted, facebooked and exhibited in a year or two. Who wants to spend a number of years waiting for their 15 minutes?

So, in keeping with that vein, this tree will get a premature showing, as part of the spring/summer Hague/South East London collection.

It is a dashing black choker backed by a wonderfully water absorbent kitchen towel packing, wrapped lovingly around the neck of this stout, yet elegant red flowering model. The reason for it? Answers on a postcard please.

Like I said, read the magazine for further details...not sure when it will come out, but I will keep you informed. For more satsuki malarky, the next issue sees a progression of great quality...from a small balding spot in early 2008 to a full on Eejit head in 2012. The satsuki does the opposite. Funny how life goes.

Further on from my bargain basement antics of the previous post, I dropped further down the food chain to work on this boxwood. I was, like 99% of people, put off by the initial bush (of which i did not take a picture) and the €25 price tag stuck in it. On further examination I discovered quite a nice trunk line and some definite possibilities. Turned out not too shabby...

I'm not saying this is a masterpiece or the pinnacle of bonsai, but this kind of mass produced stuff can, with a little bit of effort turn into something ok, and for the beginner, and let me stress that, for the beginner, a lot of fun and more importantly knowledge and experience can be gained from trees like this. I brought it back with me...thought at that price, it would be rude not to.

I mentioned the word "mass produced" in my spiel on the video and I repeated it there, but his should not necessarily be a negative concept. Whilst working on the tree, my mind began to wander, as it is wont to do, and I thought about how even though it was just one of many and created by some Chinese worker in a field working hard for a bowl of rice a day, it had the potential for beauty if viewed in a certain way...probably with a wonky eye?

It brought to mind some of the stuff I read way back in the dark place, namely "The Unknown Craftsman" by Yanagi Soetsu and to a lesser extent (because of it's racist undertones), "The way of Tea" by Okakura Kazuko. Some words by Yanagi particularly sprung to mind, in reference to the influence of early Korean Ido style bowls on the raku ware bowls later created for the tea ceremony.

The implements of Tea had no unstressed individualism about them. In that respect they were utterly different from objects made today by artist-craftsmen in search of self expression, although there is a superficial likeness. They are different, too, from the things favoured by the later men of Tea, who had lost their freedom in search for formulas.

The Korean Ido bowls were appropriated by the Tea masters who saw a unique and deep beauty in an everyday, almost disposable item that was not even intended to be used as a tea bowl. Click here for more details about this funky ass tea cup. What was an everyday rice bowl produced by the thousands for Korean peasants, was, and still is a priceless work of art for Japanese Tea masters. That isn't to say that ever single peasant Korean rice bowl was appreciated in that way, just one in ten thousand or even one in a hundred thousand. Due to the mindless way in which they were created, true randomness was apparent. There was no attempt to make it thus.

In comparison, the "modern day" version seems a little contrived...

Here you can buy it, or at least read up on it....I would still have a brew or two from it though.

So the point I was trying to make is that history has shown us that even if one culture sees something as worthless and everyday, in the hands of another, there can be a whole level of deeper appreciation depending on how it is viewed.

This tree, which I couldnt find a better picture of...(thanks to Mark Cooper)

Was displayed at Noelanders 2012 and again at Alcobendas in November. It blew me away with the attention to detail and supremely well construction. (What was I saying about losing freedom in search of...), However many people did not appreciate it for the intrinsic beauty as a bonsai, regardless of the artistic questions. It was, and still is a pimp ass tree and I'm certain it had similarly humble beginnings as my little €25 beast, so perhaps next time, don't be so quick to pass over the bargain basement, you can learn a lot for less than a few ales.

Tomorrow sees me on the road again. After a nice cup of tea and a sit down like.

Oh and in case you were wondering what it is like to be in the spotlight...


Seeing as Mr. Snart is not down with the kids and has no idea what "pimp ass" means...here is the fairly safe for work definition...and the not so safe...and this is from back in the day before I was born...


Pimpass is a descriptive word used to enhance the awesomeness of something. Pimpass can be used on a daily basis, and will never get old. It can be used to describe several different things.
A) Damn Ben, your SUV sure is pimpass.
B) I'll pimpass in your gimpass.
C) ...Pimpass

So there you go Mr. Snart.


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Another Day, Another Step...

step forward. After the self inflicted trials and tribulations of yesterday, today was a little more sedate and lower level, although equally as challenging in a sense. Trying to make teaching points and work in a logical way to make a cohesive story is something I still need to work on, but two of the trees today worked out well on that part I hope.

 This Jasmine was presented to me as one of the step by step trees.

Now at first glance, most people would be like "WTF?", but I got kind of giddy at the possibilities it presented from a tree and also from a teaching perspective.
When approaching any tree, the same process occurs regardless of the cost or aesthetic value of the tree...or at least it should. Application of fundamental, basic design principles and almost no artistry got me to a fairly reasonable tree. I said this to Farrand, that there was no artistry involved and to a large extent it was true, he looked at me kind of quizzically, but I stand by it.  Following basic principles based on species, line, space and form, we got to the finished article (or at least initially finished), i won't tell you how I got there or any of the tips and techniques, because you should get the magazine to find that out. But after a long, drawn out two hours of stopping for the camera and retakes n the video, we had this as a very passable result.

A very "naturalistic" looking deciduous image which follows fundamental principles and required no difficult techniques or massive amounts of wire, just a simple step by step progression of finding the tree hidden in amongst the chaos. To me this is a superbly easy example of the essence of bonsai.

One of the great examples the Chief used to wheel out, and now I in turn use is the difference between bonsai and gardening (specifically English). With gardening, you start with an empty plot of land and add stuff to it to give it interest. Different flowers, different textures, smells, colours, heights, positions...you put in lots of stuff and look at the whole rather than each individual parts. It becomes a chaotic medley of sorts With bonsai it is the opposite. We start with chaos and seek to remove all that stands in the way of capturing the essence of what makes a natural tree beautiful to our eyes and to our emotions.  The lines are simplified until we can replicate on a small scale what we perceive on a larger scale in nature. We take away the unnecessary things and what remains is pure.  Or at least that is what we try to do. If we can achieve it then we have something of beauty and truth which we can learn from and be moved by. Trying to apply those same principles in life is an idea that some Indian bloke who was born and then sat under a tree tried to push. Look where that got him. A state of supreme liberation.

It will never be a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but for €50 of someone else's money, it was fun. Yes there are issues and problems, many of the insecure haters will be quick to point out, undoubtedly privately in little venom filled cliques, and I could write a list of faults as long as my arm...but the point is not to seek the faults and the negatives in trees all the time, but to accept it for what it is and see how it can be improved, rather than what is wrong.

Its 3.30 and I can't sleep...hence the rambling

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

On the road again...

Seems I am having some technical difficulties...so there are no pictures...damn iPad is playing up. Been trying to post this for ages...will add pictures later...hopefully works now.

It wasn't long back at Saruyama Towers before the powers that be dictated that I leave my lovely warm duvet behind for a succession of various hotels, beds and other sleeping places. I did manage to spend twenty minutes with my trees and ensure that they were continuing to progress through the cold, dark winter as planned, but now I am somewhere on the Belgian/Dutch border, rallying the troops for yet another assault on the bonsai community. Tomorrow I will begin a three day stint at the new studios of Bonsai Focus in The Hague. I will be doing a number of photo shoots including more of the step by step beginner series and continuing a few trees that are already in progress.

Unlike Kinbon or Gekkan Satsuki, I have to go to the camera rather than they coming to me and that involves a jolly jaunt across to the continent. Thankfully this time I have broken it up by visiting one of my European little brothers, the male model masquerading as an up and coming bonsai super star also known as Yannick Kiggen. Yannick came to study at Shunkaen a couple of times last year and after making a lasting impression is a defacto apprentice. He has an open invitation to study for as long as he likes, however his circumstances are keeping him from his desired return to Japan at the moment.

Being the all round good guy that he is, Yannick has offered some material for the photo shoot should it be required and after successfully acquiring some superb collected pieces from him over the last two years, I jumped at he opportunity to look at the trees. Sadly I got here at 10pm, and so I took some pics this morning.
A pine he has been working on. A few little issues with it, which we discussed and he already realised, but by and large a good first styling.
I have been working closely with Bonsai Focus for a good number of years now and every now and again I look at my work and think that perhaps I should rethink my approach if I want wider recognition. Last year a translated piece from Kinbon was published where I styled a massive bushy juniper and I had a great number of positive comments from people, despite the fact that I have been doing similar work, albeit on a smaller and less impressive scale on a regular basis. It is a truth that in order to be recognised, a big and important tree is necessary, even if the techniques used are exactly the same as in the step by step beginners series. Truth be told, I was happier with the air layered maple from a few years back than I was with that big juniper...but hey, who cares about air layering?
My thoughts, be they right or wrong, towards the dissemination of information is that the goal is for the average enthusiast to be able to reproduce that which is shown, thus raising the level of the average. Not many people have access to costly, high quality material and the average enthusiast needs to know how best to approach design and tree creation from a fundamental perspective first before moving on to such pieces. I still see a lack of fundamental knowledge, even amongst many top names who cannot structure a tree properly or create foliage pads that will be easy to maintain over time.
The problem with creating a magazine is how can it attract a wide audience and appeal to both beginner and advanced enthusiasts. Without beginner articles, there is a lack of applicable teaching points, equally without impressive trees, the magazine becomes boring for the advanced reader.
I wrote that all yesterday when I was a little tired and a little drunk. I maybe should have gotten some more sleep because I did a massive injustice to this tree today...

A tree belonging to Patrick, Yannicks friend, and a few years out of collection and ready to style. With their help, we managed to bend seven shades out of the tree and under pressure from myself and the demons on my shoulder, perhaps a little too much. Some solid aftercare is required for this tree and athought the final image was something reasonable, (get the magazine to find out), I was very displeased with my work. Sometimes reeling in the desire to get something done is necessary, other times not. This was one of those times where caution was advisable, otherwise I run the risk of falling into the trap of thinking I am the king of the monkey mountain.

Still tomorrow brings a fresh challenge...Hopefully I'm up to it.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Assessing the damage...

Now all the fun and games are over and its back to reality, it is time to look at what was left behind, somewhat to the elements. For any travelling professional, the most difficult balance to strike is looking after the home front whilst making progress with clients and personally away from home. Without dedicated help such as an apprentice, then it is almost impossible to take trees to a finished state as even small problems can slow the development down. This is not so much of a problem when trees are still in early stages and in big pots, but as the trees get closer and closer to the exhibition stage, the potential for disaster increases.

Coming home is always blessed relief, but there is a sense of nervousness going out into the garden for the first time. I have had my fair share of casualties in the past, despite the best efforts of my little brother and Lady Saruyama. There is no substitute for experience and in depth knowledge and should any problems occur then the only way to approach it is that I as the owner have ultimate responsibility and that anyone I asked to care for them has tried their best, but it was my choice to go away.

Thankfully, it seems as though things have gone swimmingly despite the weather, the gas for the heater running out a few days early and the poor weather we have had. Take a pound out of the till M'Lady.

This hawthorn, originally a Dan Barton tree, is beginning to swell nicely. It stayed outside as space inside is at a premium, but the bubble wrap protects the pot and roots from the worst of the weather and rain.

Spring is coming...

As shown by the swelling buds on the chojubai. They flower throughout the winter (if they see a bit of sunlight) but now the green shoots are poking through, it is a relief.


Especially on this one, tired after it's trip from Noelanders. I think there may be some slight damage to the branch tips, but it is budding on old wood so we are all good. I will bottom heat it soon, once the heating bed gets set up and the air temperatures improve.

This little bad boy seems impervious to anything. The base of the trunk was getting over run with mycorrhiza so I cleaned it off in January, but it has come back already. One of the benefits of a John Pitt pot, large air holes in the bottom.

Rosemary on the verge of flowering. I still chuckle when I remember all those naysayers saying you can't grow Rosemary bonsai in the UK. Try studying a little before you make such sweeping statements there lads. Mine haven't stopped growing all year round.

And this Camellia is having a go at flowering all year too. It is still producing new buds, even though it started flowering over one month ago. Come on son.

All the conifers outsider were a little on the dry side, so I will need to explain that to Lady Saruyama...

It wasn't just the trees that escaped relatively unscathed, but also all the stuff I brought back with me. Normally I pack my own stuff so badly that I suffer terrible losses. This year however, it all went in the carry on and arrived unscathed. Its amazing how much you can fit in one small suitcase!

And for the eagle eyed amongst you, there is a John Brocklehurst root stand in there. I took it to show a number of people in Japan and have orders for as many as he can make. The general consensus was that the retail price he is selling at was cheap even as a wholesale price for the Japanese market. So think yourselves lucky. I will think myself lucky later on today if Parcelforce manage to deliver my last remaining package to me unscathed. Fingers crossed...

Addendum....twenty minutes later and Parcelforce delivered. Fingers uncrossed and all is well with the world. Expect to see this pot in Noelanders next year...until then, you will have to wait.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

And I'm spent...

A tough two and half weeks finally draws to a close with a long drawn out stretch of burning the midnight oil. A plethora of pots, stands, stones and books needed to be packed up and sent, and seeing as this was all my own doing, it was difficult to do during the day when the Chief required me to be doing all manner of stuff. Still, everything got done eventually and now I'm done and ready to go home.

My relationship with the Chief continues to evolve and change as we both get older and less dependent on each other. It is a double edged sword for a master to see his apprentice begin to work successfully on his (or her) own, on the one hand he is happy that his efforts in producing a capable professional have been successful, but on the other hand, the more the apprentice is busy with his own life, the less time he can spend helping out. Apprenticeships in other fields can involve the idea of noren-waki, or splitting the curtain. Now this is not schoolboy terminology for some deviant practice, but it means that an apprentice can take on the name of the shop where he studied and open a branch, traditionally in a town far far away. This concept is still alive today particularly in the restaurant trade, where an aspiring chef would study under a master and then once capable of producing food of the same quality, he goes and spreads the sushi or whatever. It was an early form of franchising I guess.

Now, in the bonsai world, there are no curtains to split, but what occasionally happens is that a student will take one of the characters from the name of his masters nursery if he is starting up a new nursery, other than that there are no similarities, and to be honest, the bonsai world is unique to a certain extent at how much you are still umbilically tied to your master throughout the rest of your career. You are expected to help out, work together and create a family. This is perhaps due to the lack of definite schools that you would see in much more historically rich art forms such as tea or ikebana. The lack of organisation gives the bonsai world a fluidity which can be very useful, but also plenty of grey areas. The politics of business can be difficult to read and change with the wind. Thankfully the Chief is fairly open about such things and openly discusses things in front of his apprentices. This year in particular I have been very appreciative of standing under the Shunkaen umbrella. It adds a certain weight to business transactions that some people studying at other nurseries simply will struggle to get. I told the Chief this last night in our manfully tearful farewell chat. We don't speak a lot, but there is still a comfortable ease and a feeling of missing the time that we used to spend together. Even now, on the balance of it, I have spent more waking hours in my life with the Chief than I have with Lady Saruyama.

During the demo up at Willowbog, Ryan made a comment when asked about the massive number of foreign short term students/pseudo apprentices in Japan at the moment. I had never thought about it before, but staying for just a short term means that you do not become part of the family and the bond is weaker. On average, three years is enough to learn the skills for an apprentice to become proficient at bonsai, and for some it appears to be only two; so why stay the extra years?

Although I have been busy with my own business and spent very little time with the Chief, we had a few select moments where we jumped back in time. I can't speak for him, but it was a heart warming moment to know that even as things change and evolve, the core remains the same. The one moment above all else that sticks out is the sheer fun that we had displaying this tree.

It arrived in the garden on the 13th on the request of a client who wishes to sell it as it belonged to his late father. It is a relatively famous white pine with the name Seiki no yume. Or....dream of the generation? Dream of the century? Dream of the future? The thing with some of these names is they are difficult to translate...but in japanese it is a pretty bust ass name. It was originally grown and named by Murata Kyuzo of Kyuka-en fame and the author of the "four seasons of bonsai" book, (or something similar) which is possibly one of the top three must have books for any bonsai enthusiast, especially those who are tired of big trees and dead wood. For an understanding of where my aesthetic influences come from, read this book.

Murata was a dude, he did bonsai in the old school way because he wrote the old school manual. Trees made slowly, not overly worked and showing very little signs of the human influence that very definitely and deliberately shaped them. If you are looking for "naturalistic style", look no further. This tree and the naming of it is testament to his commitment to bonsai for the future generations. The name implies the tree has a future to be excited about, even if, and perhaps especially because, you will not be there to see it yourself. What a difference to the "I want it now and I want it for me" attitude that is prevalent in modern bonsai, and I don't just mean in the west, the same applies in Japan too.

Well, getting back to the Chiefly moment, we set up the display together, the Chief calling me over to be his sounding board and lifter and shifter. It is difficult to describe the sheer joy that you can have putting a display together, watching the combination of items come together and work in harmony. We sat and worked our way through a number of scrolls, pulling them out and discussing them and their suitability, all the time talking about (or rather being talked at) the importance of tree, the name and the possibilities for showing this in a display.

The Chief, despite his name and powerful aura, does have listening ears and asks the opinions of those around him. I soon learnt early in my apprenticeship that he likes to be contradicted from time to time, as long as the point is valid as it often gives a better result and stops him from getting stuck in a rut. The trouble with the current apprentices is that they haven't the ability to say no to him, nor the wherewithal to think outside of the box. We used to have great fun (and occasionally not so much fun) putting displays together back in the day. It is one of the things I dearly miss from my time spent here.

Textbook rule freaks will surely point some basic flaws in the display but I personally thought that the stone flowing off to the wrong side gave the display an even more expansive feel. It is something we talked about, and it was on my goading that he did it. He wanted to, but thought people may contradict him, so I said, "rules don't matter for someone like you"', at which he gave a cheeky smile. The migrating birds flying up and over the mountains away to a warmer, better life somewhere far beyond the enclosed space that a tokonoma can come to represent. I felt moved not only by the experience of playing display with the Chief again for the first time in ages, but also by the story of the tree, and both the history present and the future yet to come.

A fitting tribute to my stay perhaps, and as a fitting tribute to the Chief...

Onwards and upwards.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

After the festival...

I am a massive fan of proverbs, sayings and word play, so learning Japanese was a whole new avenue for ridiculous sayings. One of my favourites is ato no matsuri, or after the festival. It literally means after the festival and can be used to say stuff like, the wisdom of hindsight, closing the stable door after the horse has bolted or in this case, the damage has been done. That is kind of how I feel now it's winding down. Yesterday we packed up the majority of the sales area in the dark and went home for a well deserved meal and I treated myself to some alcohol. Not too much mind. The waiting around was the hardest bit, there is an order to letting people in and pack up, and although we were in the second group, I felt like the Dauphin the night before Agincourt, thankfully we fared a little better than he did.

Would it were day! Alas, poor Harry of England! he longs not for the dawning as we do...

The day however was ours, and we trooped home, like tired and weary men at arms to some chicken and assorted meats on a stick. Thankfully no horse meat this time. The shop we went to was close the the Chiefs, but it was my first and last visit. It was tasty if not a little too on the salty side but this picture frightened me a little

Im not sure if that is supposed to be a thumbs up or something inappropriate. Either way the apprentices all had a relaxing time as battle stories were shared and tales told of those who didn't make it.


Needless to say, I slept like a baby last night.

The day after the night before was a long one too, taking down the rest of the sales area and also the exhibition. Although it was over, there was still an eery beauty about the place, trees past their best, a sense of moving on to the next big task and planning for the future. Maybe that was just me though, most people just seemed relieved.

The sales area was even more lonely and deserted, where once there were occasional throngs of customers and more trees than you can look at in a day, now there was the remnants of what we had worked so hard to put together.

It was a bittersweet day, mainly because the weather turned nice and we were bathed in warm sunshine and a beautiful aozora or blue sky. Regular readers may remember the aozora satsuki episode, and there is nothng quite as beautiful as deep blue sky on Japanese winters day. It seems to go on forever (which it in fact does).

Obviousy the trucks are not the nicest thing, but this is Tokyo.

After the exhibition is the time to be careful with the trees, most trees are damaged after the show by poor care. Buds have opened and growth has occured due to the warm temperatures in the exhibition hall. On these chojubai's you can see just how green they have become.

Akiyama looks on, planning the position in the green house for when they get back. You wil notice as well that the flowers appear orange rather than red. This too is a result of a lack of sunlight. They need an immediate watering then protecting from the elements for at least a couple of weeks if not months, until the weather catches up with their biology.

Now after the festival, I am faced with sorting out all the stuff which was purchased...shipping pots, stands and stones out and taking trees to the respective exporters. Athough the fun is over, now the hard work begins...still, at least I'm not in a suit...and for those of you who don't know what that looks like...

Here I am, bald eejit heed, mini mutton chops, steptoe gloves and my Numancia scarf I have been trying to lose for ten years. Im hard at work on the Pad, working deals and also writing these ridiculous blog posts. It has been fun, at least I have had something to talk about this time. Im in Japan for a few more days, hopefully I can get everything done, so I had better stop this and get on with it...


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

It's the final countdown....

We're leaving together, but still it's farewell. And maybe we'll come back, to earth who can tell?

Lunchtime on the final day and everyone, and I mean everyone, is ready to leave. A dearth of clients, a cold, cloudy day and a sense of despondency hangs in the air like a stale fart trapped in a lift. A few people have done well, a few have done ok, some less so. There was a tremendous lack of international visitors, maybe only 30 to 40 in total. Gone are the days of bus loads of visitors, even though the exchange rate is improving in the favour of visitors. Even though I have complained and moaned, Kokufu is an absolute must see once in the life of any serious bonsai enthusiast. There is nowhere better...yet.

Im struggling to find anything left to buy and then have bought from under the table. Maybe some tools or something. There has been very few high quality stones this year. Nothing that really sunk my ship. There was this stone however which reminded me of a certain honey loving character.

I normally hate the "I can see a dog licking an ice cream in a shed" type approach to suiseki, because lets face it, they are just rocks, but therewithin lies the depth and interest. Comparing a rock to what we see everyday with our eyes is as shallow an interpretation of suiseki as there can be. The depth comes from a holistic approach, a sense of history and a slightly more cerebral and dare I say it, spiritual approach to viewing stones. Simple structure and shape is the entrance, forgetting the shape and seeing beyond is possible with the right approach. Next year there will be a massive suiseki exhibition at the same time and place as the Kokufu, so it will be interesting to see the response. A lot of effort is being put into it, so lets hope it bears fruit.

Speaking of bears...

"It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.

"So it is."

"And freezing."

"Is it?"

"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."


Monday, 11 February 2013

A slow day...

Today is a national holiday but even so, its quiet. Its like the end of a party when nobody is going home and the hosts want to tidy up and go to bed.

View to the right...

And empty to the left. We create a bottle neck with our stove and chairs...slows people up.

For some sellers, there have been very few red tags put on trees, for others, there have been plenty. Selling at any event depends on a few things, one is bringing what people want, the other is pricing them correctly and the third is to be active, friendly and actually want to sell. I never really thought of myself as a salesman, nor do I want to be, but thanks to the efforts of the Chief, Akiyama and the pressure of paying rent I have been able to function in the marketplace fairly successfully. Sadly there is little or no profit to be made unless you actually are selling your own trees...and so now I have been a little bit less busy today...in fact I have been twiddling my thumbs, I went shopping...and I'm an absolute fool. Lady Saruyama will not be pleased.

What on earth was I thinking? I got it from Kiyama-san...I always buy something from him because he brings crazy ass stuff like this. It will be a pimp tree in a few years though...if I can figure out what to do with it. Seems someone else likes it...maybe I can hammerfist some thing out of it.

This pot was another morning stroll purchase. A lovely Shuzan pot which had a tiny little crack, not noticeable really. It has great patina and an elegant line so I thought I would bring it back and put a tree in it...but some body bought it. I really should put my stuff underneath the table.

It isn't just me that has been buying stuff. Akiyama bought some scissors but I think he should get his money back. They are as wonky as my eye...

He got robbed there...

Maybe it's time for a walk and find another pot...

Addendum: I didnt find a pot. But I did find this.

A tree that has been at every sales area since I can remember...its a super old super mochi-komi'ed up white pine which barely grows. Has barely changed since I met it. Pictures don't do it justice. Its a true pot grown shohin bonsai. Not thick, not powerful, but old and compact, perfect leaf type...plus the guy who owned it has been talking it up since I first picked it up. Finally it has been moved on to me...where to next I wonder?

Addendum two. It's not often that you complain to make sales, but of the 7 things I bought so far, five have already sold...in one day...bought in the morning, sold in the afternoon for little more than I bought them for. I shut one pot away but the customer dug it out...

Here is Akiyama selling my pot. It was a very early Shuho pot, unglazed, rough and ready...still had the original price on so I couldn't raise it any more even though it was. Too slow for my own good. The customer asked for a discount, but there was no way...he was robbing me enough as it was.

The worst was kept for last. Some lanky blond american dude came up to me with some sob story about his father and asked me for the first tree I bought...and like the soft touch I am...


Akiyama told me to look on the bright side, at least I have an eye for saleable items, and the pots would have broken on the way home anyway. I made almost no profit and lost all the items I wanted to take home. How does that work?

Today has not been an onwards and upwards day...rather treading water and going nowhere.


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Into the home stretch...

We are now well passed the half way mark, into the home stretch but not yet home free. The weather has turned the corner, although the wind is whipping my now bald heed...perhaps doing an Eejit was not the best idea. If I get some time, I must buy a hat.

Sales at the club are slow and customers few. Despite the move to the museum, and an incredible number of visitors on the days after I went in the snow, they don't seem to be coming to the sales area. Tenteason for this is the lack of advertising at the show...partially because of the non commercial nature of the museum, partially because whereas in previous years there have been three shuttle buses, this year there are only two, leading to a 40 minute wait to get on the bus. Many people gave up and so didn't come to the club. The sales areas at European and American shows are so much better in comparison, actually inside the shows...the sales area at the Artisans Cup in Portland sounds as though it will be truly awesome, so Im looking forward to blowing some cash there...

Speaking of blowing cash, I spent some yesterday...walking around the sales area I found a seriously good pot at a very reasonable price. Can't believe it took me so long to find it...my wonky eye is getting wonkier. It is an Shukuho, an early piece, lovely thick glaze, elegant shape, not too deep. Very very useable pot. Lovely stuff.

Glaze me up..

Now I need a tree to put in it.

They weren't the only pots that had me surprised...these unglazed clay body pots were on sale...and according to the sign, it s the first time ever in Japan...possibly

A few new trees arrived today, a wonderful juniper, which soon sold,

This is probably the second best juniper here...after this bad boy...

This used to be at the chiefs until it went a bit funny...then it went back to the original owner. Wouldn't say no to it....And an Ezo Spruce which I want. Bad.

Although I wouldn't function well with one arm, one leg and a single kidney.

The Chief has been doing well at home as well, although we only meet briefly in the evening and the morning. A quick look around for a table for a client and I found this awesome Meiji Period table.
The detail on the top is incredible. Never seen it before.

Doug Mudd may be getting a call sometime soon...

As much as I enjoy coming back for the trees and the show, it is also a time to meet up with people. I get on very well with most dealers, thanks in part to my education from the Chief. He was always insistent on making yourself known and giving proper aisatsu or greetings. Some apprentices stay meek and some ignore other people thinking that they are enemies or that they are above saying hello, but I would be reprimanded if I didn't say good morning, please and thank you. This goes a long way in any culture, but especially Japan.

One of my favourite professionals is Mizukoshi-san who is mainly a Satsuki man but deals with a little bit of everything. Sadly he is getting chronic arthritis and may have to give up. I hope not because he is always a laugh and a joke.

Good times Trev.

Akiyama continues to hustle, selling a tree out of the back of the van this morning like it was a car boot sale. It wasn't intended that way but the customer he was arranging to meet came before the club opened. He has already equalled last years total with a two days to go. Even with a lot of sales, there is still a lot of expenses, the sales area rental alone is some £2000 for the week.

If only we could shift this one tree...we would be sailing smoothly

A collected hokkaido taxus...if I had it in Europe it would be easy to sell.

This is the juniper he is thinking of buying to work on for ten years...sell the taxus and buy the next piece of material.

Or maybe this chuhin chojubai, with juniper as the accent tree...couple of years and kokufu will be on the cards. (The big one...not the crappy little one...thats mine)

Last couple of days and the schedule should ease up...thats the plan anyway

As always, tired and running on fumes, but aiming for more.