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Bonsai school 21 august

August 21, 2013

I had to check the date to see what date is today. I have lost truck of the days.

Every morning I wake up like 05 to get ready and arrive at school on time. By 7:30 I am there and start sweeping. I have been given a section to sweep. Oyakata ( my master) said I don’t have to sweep any more…I think he feels sorry for me…but I have to….don’t want to be treated any different than other people.

First thing in the morning I started styling a itoigawa  juniper I was given yesterday. You start by making a  Design drawing….oyakata has been teaching me how to do that.

This is the material I started with.

After trimming

Step one was to find the front. He liked the front I chose. It was on the side of the current  front.

Step two make a virtual.

Step three was to clean all the pads, remove material that was not needed, and prepare it for wiring.

Some of the branches taken out:

The tree was divided in different sections according to the pads. I started with the primary branches. You need to look and plan in advance which two branches you are going to wire together. When starting look for a position that will give you maximum surface contact for better locking. Make sure you wire very tightly and don’t leave free space between the wire and the branches. Selecting the correct size wire is also very important. Make sure you wire branches of the same thickness too. Wire should not cross, and if it is a must, it should be done under the branches. Think in which direction your branch will bend so You position the first loop in the right place. Ideally branches are bent and wired at the same time by experts, this way avoiding later creating gaps between the wire and the  branch and unlocking your branch. Plan your wiring. Three wires next to each other are fawned upon.

Select your apex according to the style….in this case it will have to be eventually above the base slightly forward. For now material is not available for that but I left some shoots at the correct place so that it can be developed later.

Symmetry in styling is not acceptable. As oyakata explained, junipers come  from the mountains, and grow in very adverse conditions. They are bitten  by the weather, so they are never symmetrical. At the same time you have to think about the  first two primary branches,  and have them in this case on both sides of the trunk, but never at the same height and never the same length. Branches and pads should be evenly distributed around the sides and back of the trunk.

This is how I styled it. Only primary branches were wired. Secondary branches will be wired
next year after they have grown sufficiently.

Later when the pads are filled in by growth, little balls…pads will be formed within the large pads.

You must remember that this juniper was not styled for exhibition purposes. One of the
demonstrators ones said: I would never style my personal juniper the way they are
at demonstrations. The health of the tree is of paramount importance. This tree is
styled for future development and not to impress any one.

Movement should be created within the branches. Secondary branches should come from the primary branches at a small angle. 45*  or less. The way he compared it is to a river and tributaries. After a short distance, the secondary branches are bent in the opposite direction fanned like the fingers of the hand spread, so they are evenly distributed . When  cleaning and preparing the branchlets each ball should be of the same size.

This is after oyakata corrected my tree. Branches need to be distributed evenly around the
trunk. In this case there are not enough branches, so later shoots from the apex will
be developed to fill the gaps.

The front after corrections by the master. Notice how flat the pads are.


This is another side that is suitable for front, but oyakata chose the other one since the
branch structure from that side was more suitable.

Some branchlets from the back or that are on top are positioned above the other branches, in the middle of the pad, filling the empty spaces.

Top view

The branch above should be shorter and preferably positioned not directly above the lower branch.  Space for the wind should be left said oyakata.

I was totally petrified in the beginning…I was so scared not to cut the wrong branch or brake something. Slowly I gained confidence, and he kept giving me more and more expensive material.i shall post pictures when I find time of the amazing yamadori he gave me to style. Yamadori is the most expensive material here.

This is not a yamadori, but it is still expensive material, and what is hard about it is that is a virgin. So you have to start from scratch.

I come from Zambia. I am the only one who has bonsai here. Plus I am a total newbie. I have been reading books and Internet like 14-16 hours a day…so my theory I think is fantastic.

I was given an exam, mostly about techniques,  and I kept saying, but that is just too easy….so he decided to ask me on the end the name of trees in Japanese. I don’t know all of them but he was kind enough to ask common ones, so I passed that one too. Then it was finally pronounced that I am there to learn.

So coming back to Zambia….no matter how much you read you need to see many things in order to understand them properly. I did not know where to go and learn practical experience….so decided to come here, so I don’t waste my time.

So this is the final result of what I made. Just remember this tree needs an apex to be grown and the current apex removed. Behind some more pads need to be developed and the current pads filled. This is a very young tree. I was so scared he will not like it….I kept on asking you really like it….so he started explaining that this tree is styled for the first time, and what will happen when the rest of the tree is grown….and that this is a good direction

This is the first thing I did. Later he lowered the right pad a bit more and shortened it little bit. Also he flattened my pads a bit more.

The above picture is after he corrected my tree.

I hope you are enjoying this as much as I did. And I hope you can learn something from my oyakata from Taisho en, Shizuoka, Japan.

  1. Joe permalink

    Lovely Post Neli Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks Joe, I shall make summary on styling junipers at different stages of development later, when I find time.

  2. Anonymous permalink

    Wow Neli, this was a fantastic post. Thank you. Looking forward to read the rest.

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