What Happened On This Day in "Recent" Bonsai History?
1947 -- Jerry Meislik was born. [His interest in bonsai would begin as a teenager when he would visit the bonsai exhibit
at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. He would receive a BS in Biology from
Brooklyn College in New York and graduate from medical school.
Then he would do his internship at Albany Medical College in 1971 and would complete
his Residency in Ophthalmology at University of Colorado Medical Center in 1977. This
would be followed by a year of Fellowship in Glaucoma at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in
Miami. While living in Florida Jerry's interest would be re-kindled in bonsai after seeing some fabulous tropical trees
growing all around him, especially Ficus. Since then he would be actively studying trees and how to grow them in
containers and creating bonsai. He would be fortunate to have exposure to many excellent bonsai teachers, and his
knowledge would increase as he traveled to Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Taiwan,
Thailand and Hong Kong to study their bonsai and design concepts. Dr. Meislik would be a Clinical Instructor in
Ophthalmology at the University of Michigan. He then would work at
Huron Ophthalmology in Ypsilanti, Michigan for twenty years. He would be Board Certified
in Ophthalmology and be a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He would also be
on the Board of Directors of the American Bonsai Society (1989-1995), Chairman
of the ABS Journal Editorial Committee (1990-1996), Board of Directors of the
National Bonsai Foundation (1993), and Regional
Editor of the National Bonsai Foundation. He would be an instructor for bonsai courses at
Ann Arbor Public School Community Education Program,
University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens,
and Ann Arbor Bonsai Society. Upon
his "retirement" to Whitefish, Montana he would come to work at
Glacier Eye Clinic in 2001. His teaching of bonsai
would continue at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell and he would be president and vice president of the
Bonsai Society in Montana. Jerry would write Ficus: The Exotic Bonsai (2004) and Introduction To Indoor Bonsai
(2006), this latter based on many years of grown indoor and tropical bonsai under varying conditions including windowsill,
greenhouse, and artificial illumination. This would be in addition
to over fifty articles on various bonsai topics for the specialty magazines. He would be available to lecture, teach
and demonstrate bonsai by appointment. His web site would be www.bonsaihunk.us/.]
Jerry & Rhona Meislik.("Jerry Meislik - USA," http://www.bonsai-bci.com/bci-artists/145-jerry-meislik-usa; "Dr. Jerry Meislik, MD," http://www.avvo.com/doctors/jerry-meislik-2101315.html; "Profile: Jerry Meislik," http://artofbonsai.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=368).
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)
1974 -- The author, photographer, naturalist, and horticulturist George Frederick Hull died at age 65. (A 46-year staff member of the Chattanooga Times, his long career as its chief photographer and garden editor was interrupted only by his service in the U.S. Army during WWII. His photographs had been seen in such magazines as Life, Look, Time, and Newsweek, and he had articles on gardening in The New York Times, House & Garden, Popular Gardening, Horticulture, etc., and a magazine in England. His interest in miniature trees was aroused in the early 1950s when a reader asked him "Is it worth $10 for six packets of tree seeds and the secrets of bonsai in order to start a profitable business?" George doubted it, but pursued the answer with several trips to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, to various growers in this country, and with his own efforts to grow plants. Trips to Japan (at least four) would deepen his understanding. He contributed to the Nov. 1962 inaugural issue of the "Bonsai Clubs Association Newsletter," the first English-language bonsai publication, which eventually became Bonsai Clubs International Bonsai Magazine (see below, "Also this month"). The year after a 1963 study trip was made to Japan, his book Bonsai For Americans was printed by Doubleday & Company, Inc. (His second and third books in 1967 and 1969 were on general gardening topics and were also illustrated by his wife and daughter.) George was a founding member of the American Bonsai Society, was a member of its first Board of Directors and served continuously as a Director until 1973. He regularly attended the BCI and ABS conventions.)
"'Bonsai Greats' at BC'73 Atlanta
George Hull, Chase Rosade, Jim Barrett and Jerry Stowell"
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XII, No. 8, October 1973, pg. 7)
"George F. Hull at the Bonsai Convention, Pasadena, California,("About George Hull" by Dorothy Ebel Hansell, Bonsai Journal, ABS, Spring 1975, p. 15, with photograph; "In Memory...George Hull," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Jan/Feb 1975, p. 16; Hull, Bonsai For Americans, dustjacket notes; "Meet the Directors," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Summer 1971, p. 37, with another b&w photo) SEE ALSO: Feb 23, Nov Also
July 1974. Photograph by Donald Vining."
(Bonsai Journal, ABS, Spring 1975, pg. 21, Fig. 15)
1981 -- Peter Ryan Neil was born in Glenwood Springs in western Colorado, on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. [Throughout his youth the fantastic array of tortured and stunted trees surrounding his home would create a deep appreciation of nature and the resiliency of plants. With every hike he'd take into the mountains, Ryan's interest in plants and their resiliency would grow, increasing his curiosity and unknowingly establishing a foundation for his future. He'd be taking taekwando classes since he was eight, which would lead to many DVD viewings of the [non-taekwando] martial arts film The Karate Kid. One day Ryan became engrossed in a scene in which the karate master, Mr. Miyagi, is tending a small tree. Miyagi hands the pruning scissors to his student, and tells him to imagine the tree the way he would like it to be. Daniel, the student, is hesitant at first, but after taking a few tentative snips is clearly enthralled.
[Fishing may have been Ryan's initial justification for exploring his backyard, the Rockies, but after a fateful encounter with bonsai at the annual town fair and mentor-to-be Harold Sasaki from Denver, the subject of his hikes and the path of his life would be changed forever. One important aspect of the change was a Juniperus procumbens that he bought at a garden center in Glenwood Springs for $25 when he was twelve years old. (Ryan still has that tree today.) After passing the initial phase of excitement upon discovering bonsai, it wouldn't take long before he'd start exhausting his resources for self-study. Out of the blue a family friend would hand him an issue of Bonsai Today magazine that she'd find at a garden center. Ryan would start reading about the trees and try his hand at his first Ponderosa pine at 14 (which he would also still have in 2015). As he'd study up, Ryan would find an article on a famous Japanese bonsai master named Masahiko Kimura. In the time-honored world of Japanese bonsai, Kimura was an outlier; a radical who'd pushed his trees into dramatic shapes never seen before, with extreme, sculptural bends in the trunks and branches. The main article in that issue would show Kimura working on a cascading shimpaku. Ryan would be mesmerized by what the great Japanese master was doing with the tree and the manner in which he brought about such change. It would be like watching him sculpt a personality and give life to something already living, a second birth of sorts. Gathering back issues of bonsai magazines that contained Kimura's work, Ryan would become more and more enthralled with the way sensei was able to tease so much interest and expression out of a tree. Contrary to the sedentary image of a classical Japanese bonsai, Kimura's work would have life and vigor, it talked, and moved, and always would seem to tell a story (a theme his work maintains to this day). Like many other western bonsai practitioners, Ryan's mind would by Kimura's work be open to what a bonsai could be. To Ryan, these forms were magical, and he'd resolve to become Kimura's apprentice. An unfortunate injury would end his collegiate athletic ambitions and after that he'd actually started pursuing bonsai seriously. Serendipity would prevail once again. After graduating from high school, Ryan would know that an education in horticulture could only help his chances. He would go to major in horticulture at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. During his college education, Ryan would spend most weekends traveling to Los Angeles or the Bay Area to seek out the answers to those questions he'd have about bonsai. Some would be answered, many not, but each trip would take him one step closer to getting where he wanted to be. Ryan's motivation for pursuing an education in Japan would not only be driven by the desire to become adept at bonsai, but also to gain skills, knowledge, and answers to questions he'd have a hard time finding while studying in the United States. On one such trip during his sophomore year, Ryan would have the pleasure of working with Japanese-American bonsai artist Ben Oki in his Los Angeles garden. Little would Ryan know the magnitude of this meeting, but after subsequent journeys to see Ben, Ryan would tell Ben of his dream. Ben would then be invited on a trip to Japan to see the prestigious Kokufu exhibition and to meet the man behind Ryan's inspiration, Masahiko Kimura. The American bonsai artist would then offer to introduce Ryan to Kimura, if Ryan could get himself to Japan. At this point, Ryan had accumulated some savings from cleaning offices, bussing tables and working for landscaping companies. So he would put aside his studies and set off with Oki. After touring several bonsai gardens, Ryan and Ben would finally approach what Ryan considered the holy land: Kimura's studio, in a small town outside Tokyo. Ryan would be struck by Kimura's power immediately. "He had an aura about him," Ryan would recall. "He really commanded respect. It was kind of instant humility for me. Apprentices were running around, predicting his every move and handing him what he needed without him asking -- and I wanted to be part of that."
[On this particular day, Kimura would be restyling a 1,000-year-old spruce. To Ryan, the process would be "almost a religious experience." It would seem as though Kimura gave the tree a soul. At one point, Ben would find a chance to talk to the master in private and introduce Ryan as a potential apprentice. Kimura would laugh, for he was of no mind to accept another foreign apprentice. It would be no secret that the eastern and western mentality and way of doing things differed greatly and, at that time, Kimura would be very upfront telling Ryan he didn't think an American was capable or prepared to do what was necessary to study at his nursery. Ryan would be undeterred. He would remain determined to obtain an apprenticeship and make his dream of studying under Kimura a reality. After returning home, he would write Kimura a letter repeating his request to come study with him, but he'd receive no response. He wrote another letter, and again heard nothing. He would write Kimura a letter a month for two years with the intention of at least staying in his mind. A month or two before Ryan would graduate from college, Kimura would write him back with his first and only response. The master would apologize for his absent replies and note that he had been busy. He would say, "Stop writing letters. You're welcome to come try but don't plan on staying long. Try if you wish but failure is imminent."
[And so, Ryan would be off to Japan, with limited funds and speaking no Japanese. After arriving, he would be given a small stipend for room and board, which would allow him to find a tiny apartment near Kimura's studio. Ryan would be the youngest and the only American out of six students, and he'd start at the bottom. After a few weeks, he'd realize that apprenticeship was much worse than he ever could have imagined. His duties would include scrubbing toilets, washing rags for hours at a low stone sink and weeding the lawn with tweezers. He would work a seven-day week, often till midnight, and then would have to clean the workshop before the older apprentices (senpai) arrived in the morning. When he did get a chance to be around the trees, "Mr. Kimura never explained a single thing to me. I didn't speak the language for two years, but I sat and watched him." His techniques were drastic, using heavy clamps that exerted thousands of pounds of pressure on unusually large, living sections of trunks and branches, radically altering the tree's direction. It would sometimes see as though Kimura was brutalizing his trees. He was no Mr. Miyagi. Instead, he was a taskmaster who would blow cigarette smoke into Ryan's face as the student worked, telling him that if he weren't hard on him, he wouldn't remember the lessons.
[Every apprentice would have a three month trial period, a wash-out phase of sorts where they would be tried and tested and all non-hackers weeded out. Those first three months would be the toughest three months of Ryan's life, but determination and desire to accomplish what he set out to do would prove to be the most important factors in securing his apprenticeship. Kimura's various apprentices would be keen to his every need and work in perpetual motion while the master would go about the task at hand. Discipline would be the foundation of his school of thought and no action wasted or done in vain. It would seem like every move he'd make would be conducted with one deliberate, calculated, and powerful stroke. After watching Kimura work for close to an hour Ryan could only begin to understand what being a master truly meant, but it would be enough for him to realize his nursery was where Ryan would want to be. For him the hardest part of the apprenticeship itself would be maintaining his mental composure under any set of circumstances and any working condition. When he would go home every night he'd be exhausted, but it wouldn't be because of the massive amount of physical labor, although there'd be a fair portion of that. Instead, there would always be a tremendous amount of mental pressure that the apprentices would have to deal with studying under Kimura and that would take its toll over time. It would be all part of his master plan to get them where they needed to be so that they could succeed in the world of bonsai. Ryan would complete six years of apprenticeship under the guidance of his world-renowned master. His time in Japan would be challenging and full of failures and triumphs. From the beginning Kimura would tell him that being an apprentice is not about bonsai; instead it is a time to strengthen your heart and become a man. It was true that he would not go easy on his students and his methods of teaching and inducing growth in his pupils would often times take a lot of reading between the lines to understand what it was that the master was trying to tell them. A bonsai apprenticeship, if you last, would goes on for about five years, though it'd be up to the master to decide when you have completed your training.
[Ryan would learn a lot by failing. "I would see my master doing groundbreaking work," he'd remember, "and I would go home and buy a very inexpensive tree and I would apply the technique. I had a freezer box, and by the end of my apprenticeship I had a freezer full of 76 dead trees. That box was my learning curve. No one who's ever going to be proficient at bonsai is going to do so without killing a tree." Ryan would soon learn that the horticulture was one thing, the artistry quite another. "The first two or so years of my apprenticeship was 90 percent of what I needed -- the technique," Ryan would say. "The remainder [another three years] was the last 10 percent -- understanding how you achieve interesting design." During his fifth year in Japan, Ryan would begin to think about what an American style of bonsai could be, and the idea would take root. He wouldn't yet be sure of its form, but he would know it should represent something essential about American culture, as well as its environment. Part of what inspired him would be how unusually aggressive Kimura was with his trees, daring to push them in directions they would not otherwise go. There was a boldness in Kimura's style, which he began to think might work well with the boldness of the American landscape. After his five-year apprenticeship, Ryan would spend an additional year working for Kimura -- a way of repaying your debt to your master. Kimura would never soften, but he would treat Ryan less as a student and more as a peer. Occasionally, he'd even ask Ryan's opinion. But, in the end it would all lead down one yellow brick road, so to speak; he would be simply teaching the students how to think and how to use their heads to solve problems before they approached a task with their hands. Ryan would have learned more about how he thinks, how he learns, and how he goes about improving himself than he would have learned about bonsai. However, he would have managed to pick up a fair amount of bonsai knowledge along the way as well. As apprentices the students would be responsible for all the trees at the nursery, including clients' trees (the majority of plants there) which would be treated no better nor worse than Kimura's personal trees. They would be all handled with the same amount of attention and dedication. Even on his days off Ryan would find himself gravitating to his own small collection of trees on the balcony of his apartment, as if visiting friends or watching over a child. Bonsai would become a habit, a lifestyle, something he would later do without thinking about. One of the most important aspects of his apprenticeship would be the idea of being part of a select group of individuals that were able to fully grasp what it was Kimura would be trying to teach them, and who would value that knowledge enough to honor the tradition of remaining close to their master. All of Ryan's experiences would allow him to grow and develop as a bonsai professional.
[Ryan's objective upon returning to the United States would be to continue promoting the art of bonsai and more importantly help raise the level and knowledge of bonsai in America and abroad. In 2010, Ryan would return to the U.S, intent on starting a nursery unlike any other. Although he'd never set foot in Oregon, he would choose the state partly because just about anything can grow in its temperate, wet climate. (Oregon is often called the nursery capital of the world, and a single region near Portland -- the Willamette Valley -- would provide 85-90 percent of the stock to U.S nurseries.) He would invest cash and considerable sweat equity to turn a run-down, semi-rural property outside Portland into a fitting setting for his creations. He would carve a nursery space out of the forest, building bonsai display spaces and adding flowering ground cover and native perennials, all punctuated with full-sized specimen trees -- Japanese maples, dramatic evergreens, and a splendid flowering plum. But the main advantage to the area would be a ready supply of collected yamadori—rough, scrubby-looking trees that would have the potential to become bonsai. Over the next three years he would acquire $1 million worth from a local collector.
[Ryan would finance all this by teaching bonsai workshops around the country, which would keep him on the road nine months of the year. His first international demo would take place in 2010 with Marc Noelanders, who would have also previously studied under Kimura. Ryan would put into action the things he learned from his great master, and expand on them through the realization of International Bonsai Mirai outside of Portland, OR. In both 2011 and 2012 he would demonstrate at over a half dozen major national and international exhibitions and conventions. He would go on to be the subject of several articles and videos in Bonsai Focus (the successor to Bonsai Today), and numerous other videos of his demos and critiques would be posted on the Internet's World Wide Web.
["I don't want people to look at my trees and say, 'Oh that's nice,' Ryan would say.  "I don't want the trees to be passive and quiet and reserved. I want people to actually respond." "I want people to say, 'Holy Shit!' Or 'I hate that! I'm trying to push the envelope. Nothing about Mirai is really that relaxing. These are pretty energetic trees." Ryan's long-time grilfriend Chelsea would also have grown up in that small Colorado mountain town. They'd be old-fashioned pen pals through college and afterwards. They would elope in 2012 and a year later have a son. Chelsea would be passionate about social and cultural justice issues. There'd be a lot of money coming into Mirai, but there'd also be a lot going out. When Ryan would start the nursery, he'd handle the business side of it in "the typical artist's way of doing things," he would say. "It was a total shit show." Eventually, his wife Chelsea, an attorney, would quit her immigration law practice to help Ryan as Director of Operations at Bonsai Mirai. But the economics of bonsai would be challenging. To balance the books, Ryan and Chelsea would have to turn their bonsai interests into a multi-faceted business. They would sell trees, teach, consult, and even offer a kind of tree day-care service, boarding other people's bonsai and providing maintenance. For a skill as rarified as bonsai, these services could be lucrative. On the teaching front, for example, Ryan would typically have about 80 students who'd pay between $1600 and $2400 a year for the privilege of spending several days at Mirai during periods when the trees would need a lot of work. Then there would be Mirai's sales, which would average 20 to 30 trees a year, with prices ranging from about $1,200 to tens of thousands. On the other side of the ledger, Ryan would admit, "our overhead is very high. We've already spent about $45,000 on pots this year. I think we showed a profit for the first time last year, our fourth year in business."
[In 2015 Ryan would then reduce his travel for conferences and workshops to about four weeks a year. He would want to see American bonsai embrace the energy and diversity of the American landscape. To do that, he would want bonsai artists to use "trees collected from the harsh conditions of America's mountains, deserts, and coastlines." In his opinion, this would give bonsai artists a mostly untapped opportunity to bring out "the unbridled" quality of American trees through "asymmetry and dynamic movement." And that, Ryan would argue, would give bonsai a kind of wildness that "speaks to the freedom in American culture." To that end, Ryan and Chelsea would combine have combined energies with Michael Haggedorn and others for a few years to put on The Artisans Cup exhibition at the Portland Museum in late September 2015.
[RN - "I hope bonsai evolves to something beyond "bonsai" and into something identifiably American in form and context. We cling to this notion of bonsai as something that is only bonsai if it is authentically Japanese. As we continue to evolve and use our natural surroundings as a reference, bonsai has no choice but to turn into something else as an iconically American art form. Someday, I see a moment where our rendition of bonsai is called something else entirely."
[CN - "I hope for a new generation of bonsai artists and practitioners across the world to approach the art with introspection, reverence, and, most importantly, a strong horticultural foundation. I hope that we will continue seeing bridges crossed between cultures, and egos dismantled, so that bonsai can truly become a diverse, cultural representation of nature in miniature."]
RJB and Ryan at the ABS/BCI Convention in Denver,(Conversation with Harold Sasaki by RJB and Ryan's business card given to RJB with birthdate added at Bill Valavanis' insistence, both 06/24/2012 during ABS-BCI Convention in Denver; "Profile: Ryan Neil," http://artofbonsai.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3860; "The Story of the Mind Behind the Mirai," http://www.bonsaimirai.com/about/the-story-of-the-mind-behind-the-mirai/; Ryan Neil posting on Facebook, June 22, 2015; LeBrun, Nancy "The Bonsai Kid, A young Oregonian believes that he can create a uniquely American form of the Japanese bonsai tree. And he is literally betting the farm on the idea that if he builds it, they will come," Sept 17, 2015, http://craftsmanship.net/the-bonsai-kid/; "Patrons of American Bonsai: Ryan & Chelsea Neil," September 14, 2015, http://www.theartisanscup.com/blog/patrons-the-neils, which includes the above final two quotes) SEE ALSO: Mar 31, Apr 25, Jun 22, Jul 8, Sep 25, Dec 29
June 24, 2012 (Photo by Kenny Asher)
1998 -- Dr. Stephen K-M. Tim, a senior botanist at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and an illustrator who was a guiding force for many of the exhibits and publications of the BBG, died at New York University Medical Center in Manhattan of cardiac arrest at age 61. (Born in 1937 and reared in South Africa, Tim received his doctorate in botany from Rhodes University. Tim had once nurtured fine bonsai in a <50 sq.M. hothouse in the Bertrams (the oldest suburb of Johannesburg). He, his brother Peter, and Douglas Hall were among the original Bonsai Gurus of South Africa. Later, director of the BBG, Elizabeth Scholtz, a fellow South African, hired Tim in 1971. He became the BBG's vice president for science, library and publications. He was described as an institution unto himself for his expertise in poisonous plants and for his popular educational programs for the public. Tim oversaw the launching of the garden's award-winning series of practical gardening handbooks and the opening of the Steinhardt Conservatory, for which he designed state-of-the-art plant displays. His illustrated works included The City Gardener's Handbook from Balcony to Backyard by Linda Yang (1990 and its revised editions in 1995 and 2002), the BBG's 1995 article "Spiranthes cernua odorata 'Chadds Ford'" by Barry Glick, the BBG's 1998 article "Goldenrods -- Three Cultivars to Set Your Autumn Garden Ablaze" by Stephanie Cohen, and the book Stalking the Wild Amaranth: Gardening in the Age of Extinction by Janet Marinelli (1998). Tim was co-editor with Marinelli for The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Gardener's Desk Reference, also published in 1998. In addition, he wrote the brochure The Fertile Crescent: Plants of the ancients, an exhibit and symposium presented by Brooklyn Botanic Garden, February 9 to March 25, 1979, and the chapter on "Resting Periods, Light Effects & Indoor Bonsai" in the BBG's 1990 Indoor Bonsai handbook, edited by Sigmund Dreilinger (plus subsequent revised editions through 2002). [A botanical art exhibit of Tim's work would be presented in September and October 2001 at the Highstead Arboretum in Redding, CT. And in 2009 the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Auxiliary Cookbook would include some of his botanical artwork. The Stephen K-M. Tim Trail of Evolution -- on a continuous panel and illustrated with live plants -- would trace the history of plant evolution and the effects of climate change over 3-1/2 billion years. The Trail would be part of the Steinhardt Conservatory Greenhouse complex. Also part of that complex is the C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum and its historically-important collection.] (Fountain, Henry "Stephen Tim, 61, Plant Expert At Brooklyn Botanic Garden," NY Times, November 29, 1998, http://www.nytimes.com/1998/11/29/nyregion/stephen-tim-61-plant-expert-at-brooklyn-botanic-garden.html; Shin, Paul H.B. Dt. Stephen K-M Tim," November 26, 1998, http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/1998/11/26/1998-11-26_obituary.html; May 17th Comment to http://66squarefeet.blogspot.com/2010/05/native-plants-in-may.html; Hall, Doug and Don Black The South African Bonsai Book (Cape Town: Howard Timmins Publishers, Ltd.; 1976, 1983), pg. 17.) SEE ALSO: Sep 17
|22||1947 -- Craig Coussins was born in Scotland. [He would first see a real bonsai in a flower shop
window in 1972 and would start growing these a year later. A meeting with the UK's
leading master at that time --
Peter Adams -- in 1977 would lead to regular studies under Adams through
1991. A 1500-km round trip would be made every month from Scotland to so study.
Craig would begin teaching in June 1978 when he would found the Scottish Bonsai Association.
A year after the first UK Bonsai Convention (1981), he would be a founding committee member
of the Federation of British Bonsai Societies (FoBBS). Meeting with grand master
John Yoshio Naka in 1984 when the latter would
come to Edinburgh, Craig would also study with Naka-san at the latter's home
in Los Angeles. A Scots pine mountain-collected in Scotland in 1978 would be designed
by Craig in the southern Chinese penjing style and would be presented to the people of
by its twin city, Edinburgh eight years later. Craig would start travelling, teaching in
clubs and conventions around the world in 1990, working in South Africa, England, Italy,
Ireland, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Singapore, Canada, and all over America.
He would write for many bonsai magazines around the globe. His books would include
Bonsai for Beginners (2000), The Practical Guide to Growing Bonsai (2001),
the multi-contributor and heavily-illustrated works The Bonsai School (2002) and
Bonsai Master Class (2006), and The Handbook of Bonsai (2007, derived from
his first book). He would marry Svetlana Novikova. Craig would also
love singing bowls, Native American flute, Jazz, opera, photography, suiseki (a
collection of over 1,000 pieces would be amassed from around the world), and Chinese and Japanese
gardens. Craig's web site would be
[In early August 2011, Craig would announce that his bonsai collection of over 60 specimens, including a number of large yamadori medium-sized bonsai and shohin, was being put up for sale so that he could focus on his suiseki and scrolls business.]
"Craig Coussins, with his wife Svetlana"(Craig Coussins in e-mail to a group of friends, including RJB, 27 Nov 2007; while much of the above information was originally found on the following web sites, the dates used above are corrected to match info from the back inside dust cover of Bonsai for Beginners, plus "About the Author," from pg. 9 of his book Practical Guide (although that one book plus its back inside dust cover give 1981, 1982 and 1983 as the founding dates for FoBBS); "Craig Coussins," http://www.psba.us/coussins.html; http://www.bonsai4me.com/Gallery/GalleryCraigCoussins.html; http://www.suiseki.com/collectors/craigcoussins.html; http://home.comcast.net/~p.wehr/bonsai/CCoussins.html; Coussins, Handbook of Bonsai, pg. 9; http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t7423-craig-coussins-bonsai-collection-for-sale) SEE ALSO: Jan 4, May 12, Jul 15, Nov 24
("About the Author," The Practical Guide to Growing Bonsai, pg. 9)
2015 - In concert with the "All India Bonsai Convention & Exhibition" in Vadodara, India, the first Black Scissors Community (BSC) meeting was held. The attendants were the Indonesian Bonsai Artist Community (KOSBI) Bonsai Sister Community members and other Black Scissors fellows from Indonesia, China, India, Vietnam, Australia, UK, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, USA, Japan, Poland, and Africa. The BSC is a multi-dimensional spirit in any positive aspects in any perspective. It is the symbol of new worldwide bonsai culture movement. The BSC remain as an informal "young generation" community to keep the dynamism and avoid unnecessary overlapping, duplicating or competition among existing organizations. Its mission is to promote the spirit of inclusive and respective bonsai sisterhood, spirit of enthusiasm to explore new ideas, spirit of freedom to create and to express, spirit of motivation to encourage and to share creativity of bonsai art in order to lift bonsai art to higher level in a new perspective. The greeting sign of BSC is two fingers (index and middle) on one hand pointing to any direction (although usually downward).
(In 2013, Chinese artist and organizer Su Fang had initiated the idea of Black Scissors in a dinner-table discussion during the bonsai exhibition in Malaysia. This was then adopted by Chinese-influenced Indonesian artist and author Robert Steven in his Indonesian Bonsai Artists Community (KOSBI) which was declared/launched during the "International Bonsai Art & Culture Biennale 2014" on October 21 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia with the KOSBI Bonsai Sister Community program. Despite the enthusiasm of a new bonsai generation for this new platform in accommodating their burning spirit, it was also realized there had been many questions about what Black Scissors was, what the mission was, was it an organization?, etc. So it was decided that it was time to "officially" define and announce to make this movement clear in transparency to avoid mis-perception and bias of this spirit movement.)
Everyone can create their own Black Scissors motto, but should reflect the Black Scissors spirit and mission, such as: We Dare to Create, Creativity Changes the World, Sisterhood is Our Family, Freedom of Expression, Think Out of The Pot. Black Scissors Pro's are kind of advisors team from "young bonsai generation" e.g.: Sergio Luciani, German Arellano, Ofer Grundwald, Sanjay Dham, Matyie Che Makhtar, Tony Tickle, Nacho Marin, Jeni, Jun Ilaga, Chong Yong Yap, Masashi Hirao, Rui Ferreira and Erik Wigert. New Pro's can be added.
[In 2016, there would be four Bonsai events that would be supported by BSC: National Black Scissors Exhibition, in April in Manila, Philippines; International Black Scissors Bonsai Convention, 02-04 September in Alytus, Lithuania; National Black Scissors Convention & Exhibition, end of September in New Delhi, India; and the 1st International Black Scissors Conference in China during the 2nd week of December. In 2017, a 2nd International Bonsai Art and Culture Biennale & 2nd International Bonsai Creation Conference would be held in the Philippines, supported by BSC. Any organization or club could apply to host a national or international Black Scissors event or to be supported.] ("What is Black Scissors?" Facebook posting by Robert Steven, https://www.facebook.com/robertbonsai/media_set?set=a.10207268857454252.1073741866.1068980522&type=3&pnref=story; Corrections and clarifcations by Robert Steven on Dec. 11 to William Valavanis' posting on Facebook the day before.) SEE ALSO: Jun 25, Dec 7
1945 -- A little-recognized but ultimately major turning point for the direction and fate of post-war Japanese bonsai -- and thus for most
versions of the art outside of China -- occurred today. Kyuzo Murata was an Ōmiya bonsai nurseryman,
co-inventor of the concave cutter with toolsmith Masakuni I, and caretaker of the
Imperial Bonsai Collection. Because of health issues Murata had not
been drafted into the Imperial Army for the Pacific War and was allowed instead,
begrudgingly, to preserve many of the Ōmiya bonsai left behind by his drafted neighbors. Because a large number of the Imperial
bonsai had become collateral damage from the hot winds created by last spring's Tokyo firebombings
near but not directly on the Imperial Palace and the past several years of material and
nutritional deficit were taking a toll on him and his countrymen, 43-year old Murata was on the point of taking up some other occupation.
The loss of the war brought about many conspicuous changes at the Imperial Palace, and nearly everyone working on bonsai there gave up
their jobs. Bonsai pots lay around in the burnt-out sheds and stores; there was not a pane of glass left in the greenhouse, and even the
tools required for cultivation were not there. With the Allied Occupation of his surrendered homeland came, among other things, a luxury
tax on bonsai that was so high that it nearly caused the disbandment of the returning growers at Ōmiya. However, on this particular
Saturday afternoon, fate intervened.
A jeep containing Lt.(j.g.) Leo R. Ball, a graduate of the U.S. Navy Japanese/Oriental Language School, and John R. Mercier, a newspaper correspondent from Washington D.C., drew up to Murata's Kyuka-en garden gate. They were horticultural enthusiasts who wanted to see the famous bonsai village. After they spent several hours in knowledgeable admiration of the beauties of the garden, Murata took out his Visitors' Book, which had been unopened in four years, and asked them to write in it. Both men wrote glowing tributes to the garden's beauty. [When Murata would have their inscriptions translated, the warmth of the messages left by his country's recent enemies would give him heart to carry on his work a little longer. Gradually, as more visitors came, he would begin to prosper.
[In 1947, the Ōmiya Bonsai Association would be officially established with Murata as its first leader. The bonsai growers around Tokyo and Ōmiya formed regional groups and two or three times a month they would travel to the Imperial Palace in groups of seven to ten persons and try their best to save the withered bonsai from dying. The Tokyo Bonsai Association would hold regular meetings of their directors, do technological research, and only approach their task after scrupulous preparation. Murata would often be in contact with Toshiji Yoshimura, a prominent bonsai and suiseki artist from Tokyo. At one point, Murata's wife Fumi would introduce a lovely young local lady to Toshiji's son, Yuji. On March 11, 1948 Yuji Yoshimura, who would become "the father of bonsai in the non-Oriental world," and Miss Kazuko Nagano would be married. From 1949 to 1955, Murata would be chairman of the Nihon Bonsai Kumiai (Professional Bonsai Gardener's Association of Japan), determining how to maintain a supply of younger trees for the art after the ravages of the war on so many older specimens.]
2013 -- Peter D. Adams died suddenly but peacefully in his sleep. This was about two months after being hospitalized for a sudden onset of pancreatic cancer with blood and kidney infections while visiting some friends in the town of Farnworth, near Bolton, in Greater Manchester, UK. (Peter began his fifty year career with bonsai as a 12-year-old student at art school in England. After seven years at provincial college, he gained entrance to the Royal Academy Schools in London -- one of twenty-two admitted from several hundred applicants that session. After obtaining a post-grad degree in painting from the Royal Academy, he worked as a portrait artist, an advertising art director, animation filmmaker (including one about bonsai), in TV as film director, and illustrated for the UK Ministry of Defence. His own bonsai nursery and school were well known for thirty years and were attended by many of the prominent figures in European bonsai and visitors from around the globe. Peter exhibited annually with the Royal Horticultural Society in London at the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show and advised the RHS on the selection of judges for Chelsea in the subject of bonsai, after having received the gold medal there for several years. He also taught the staff of the RHS Gardens at Wisley as a foundation for their bonsai collection in Surrey. Adams continued painting and his work is in many private collections. His ability as an art critic led him to provide various art-related services for bonsai collectors everywhere. One form this took was instruction in bonsai design as a graphic program tailored to the needs of the individual and their trees. Part of this package was a very detailed future state tree drawing. These drawings were eagerly sought after for framing. He was also much in demand as advisor to private collectors of bonsai.
Peter had to leave 40 years of work and hundreds of trees in England, including many famous trees. One red Seigen Maple from Nagoya he imported in 1970 and a raft Trident Maple were some of the best trees outside of Japan. A large portion of these trees are now in the National Collection in England. He had to leave everything because of USDA regulations which has a standing order not to import maples or two needle pines, of which he had many. One thing led to another, and he moved to the West Coast, Washington state. He vowed to never collect more trees, and instead to concentrate on easel painting. But then he was given gifts of trees in 2001 which started him building his collection to around 30 (or 70, if you asked his wife, Kate) or so trees. The decade hiatus was a watershed for this talented and productive man who now had a renewed manic enthusiasm and he felt like a novice again, this time in love with the small tree. Peter and Kate spent time traveling and teaching bonsai throughout the world.
Peter authored nine books from 1978 to 1999 (with at least three translations into other languages), and two more in English later (in 2006 and 2007). His specialty was maples, the topic of three of the books, and his works included his own line drawings. As well as being a prolific western author of books on bonsai, he wrote for journals such as Bonsai Focus on a regular basis and also illustrated Kate's book Bonsai Easy Steps with 21 Species.
His works have been a major force in the progress of western bonsai. He was a great inspiration to many bonsai artists over the years and trained almost everyone in the UK during the period from 1972 to 1992. In 2003 he was awarded the Most Prestigious Award from ABBA, the Association of British Bonsai Artists, for 'raising the Standards of British Bonsai to that of an art form.' One quote about Peter said it all: "there were no teachers till he became one and there were no books till he wrote one." He pioneered the Scots Pine as bonsai and was widely known for his work with Japanese Maple, Larch and Juniper. Under his unique tutelage where art and horticulture were so woven together, students who worked with him on the ongoing tree programs he generated, made rapid progress with their bonsai. As artistic expressions, his hand-drawn tree designs were recognized internationally as being among the best outside Japan and this quality he shared with his students. Coming from a fine art background set Peter apart and made his image-making fresh -- a fact appreciated by such giants in the art as Saburō Katō and Susumu Nakamura. His peteradamsbonsai.com website was in place by Feb. 2009, and his Bonsai Studio website was established in July 2012. A short video exists of his workshop for the Longview Bonsai Society in April 2013. He had originally been scheduled to do a program for the Bonsai Societies of Florida in November 2013 when his illness occurred. In very serious condition for a while, after a month he was transferred to a rehab unit and was to return with Kate to the States the beginning of December.) (Peter and Kate Adams Bonsai Facebook page, Nov. 26, 2013; Petty, Cheryl "Irasshaimase! Welcome to Peter Adams," Golden Statements, Golden State Bonsai Federation, Vol XXXII, No. 4 July/Aug 2009, p. 10; post by Fiona of message from Craig Coussins to Internet Bonsai Club forum, 12 Sep 2013, http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t14234-peter-adams-illness#146728; "Peter Adams -- USA"; "About Peter"; "Peter Adams Schedule"; "Bio"; "Services") SEE ALSO: Jan 4
1933 -- Tom Zane was born in Daytona Beach, FL. [He would
meet a lady named Sena in 1953 while both were studying at the
University of Florida and marry her four years later. From 1955
through 1977 he would be in the Military Police Corps of the U.S.
Army. In 1972, he and his family would be stationed at
near Tokyo, Japan (for three years). During a courtesy call on a
Japanese official with whom he'd work, Tom would see a bonsai for the
first time. A few days later he'd be presented with his first
bonsai, a five-needle pine. The Service Club there would be
offering a 10-part course on beginning bonsai which Tom would
take. He and several others from the class would travel to the
instructor's home and nursery for lessons during the next two years or
so. From 1977 through 1993 he would teach various criminal
justice subjects at Daytona Beach Community College. He would
founded the Kawa Bonsai Society in Daytona Beach in 1978, being its
President and then Secretary and News Letter Editor for two
decades. He would start teaching bonsai classes in the late
1970s, writing and revising his own course syllabus as none were
otherwise available. After writing and publishing the
Instructor's Manual for "Introduction to Bonsai -- A Course Syllabus"
for several years, Tom would create the "Introduction to Bonsai -- A
Correspondence Course," donating the copyrights for both to the
American Bonsai Society. In addition to being on that body's
Board of Directors, he would also be on the Board for Bonsai Clubs
International. Tom would also serve BCI as a master of its
website, manager of the audio-visual rental program, 1st and 2nd Vice
President, and President (1994-95), among other offices. He would
write the Bonsai Societies of Florida Convention Procedural Guide and
the BSF Guidelines and Procedures Manual and serve as a website and
editor for them. His
"Intermediate Bonsai - A Course Syllabus"
would be available on-line through the BSF. He also would volunteer locally, read
extensively and become a specialist in identifying and collecting
forgeries of Japanese postage stamps.]
Tom Zane, 07/04/2002.("Interviews," Florida Bonsai, Vol. XXXIII, No. 4, November 2003, pp. 6, 16, 17, 19) SEE ALSO: Apr 29, Sep 15
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)
1938 -- Warren Hill was born in Minneapolis, MN. [He would grow
up in California and be introduced to bonsai in 1960. After graduation
from Moorpark College in Southern California, he would teach horticulture
and bonsai techniques for five years at this same school. He would
be a member of the California Bonsai Society,
and serve in board positions
for the American Bonsai Society,
Descanso Bonsai Society,
and the National
Bonsai Foundation in Washington, D.C. Beginning in 1970 he would
perform numerous demonstrations, lectures and workshops, his specialty
being forest plantings. Contributing articles for numerous publications
would highlight not only his grasp of the art but his prowess as a writer.
Warren would be referred to as the "Father of
De-ionized Water" and would
write extensively on this scientific subject. From 1996 through
2001 he would be the second curator of the
National Bonsai and Penjing
Warren Hill wiring a balsam fir (Abies balsamea) during his Windswept lecture in August 1983.
(Hill, Warren "The Concept and Reality of Windswept," ABS Bonsai Journal, Vol. 17, No. 3, Fall 1983, pg. 63)
Warren Hill with RJB at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum,("Profiles Of The Stars At IBC '94, Part II," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXXIII, No. 4, July/August 1994, pg. 16; "IBC Stars," Bonsai, BCI, Vol. XXVII, No. 2, March/April 1988; conversation with RJB during the International Scholarly Symposium on Bonsai and Viewing Stones, May 18, 2002, Washington, D.C.) SEE ALSO: Apr 1
Washington, D.C., July 1998
|28||1974 -- Denver Bonsai Club teacher George T. Fukuma died at age 72. (SSN Master File by Birthdate; "George T. Fukuma," http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Fukuma&GSbyrel=in&GSdyrel=in&GSob=n&GRid=45087539&) SEE ALSO: Mar 18, Jul Also|
Also this month,
1928 -- The first All-Japan Bonsai Exhibition was held in Hibiya park. The long "L"-shaped (or was it "U"-shaped?) layout had the trees displayed under a peaked awning and the visitors kept back by a railing just at the outside edge of the roof's edge. Each tree, raised up on its own table or stand, was shown in its own partitioned section. [The following year's exhibition would see the first display of the magnificent Shimpaku Fudo.]
(photos from http://www007.upp.so-net.ne.jp/shokoan/top4-history.htm, Copyright ©1995 - shokoan All Rights Reserved.)
1962 -- The first monthly issue of the Bonsai Clubs Association (Northern California) "Newsletter" was published. It was a 5-page mimeograph with Robert C. Miller, Jr. as editor. [Yuji Yoshimura is credited with the idea for this, which once and for all would break down any notion of secrecy in bonsai and departed from "the idea of one Bonsai Master." It would make bonsai an art for everyone with great artists and great teachers in an atmosphere of freedom. Bonsai clubs would begin working together and encourage the formation of others. After two issues in 1962 and nine in 1963, the BCA Newsletter would be renamed in 1964 to Bonsai Newsletter with seven issues that year, eight the next, and ten per year beginning in 1966. That year would then see the name changed to Bonsai: Magazine of Bonsai & Japanese Gardens. Two years later BCA itself would be renamed Bonsai Clubs International. In 1970 the publication's name would become Bonsai: Magazine of Bonsai, Japanese Gardens, Saikei & Suiseki. The year 1979 would see a rechristened Bonsai International: Magazine of Bonsai, Japanese Gardens, Saikei & Suiseki; two years after that it would be called Bonsai Clubs International. It would go to bimonthly issues in 1984, be renamed in 1993 to Bonsai Magazine: The Official Publication of Bonsai Clubs International, and move to a quarterly publication schedule at the beginning of 2004.]
Mimeographed and Modest First Newsletter
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XI, No. 10, December 1972, pg. 3)
"Jim Ransohoff, first President of Bonsai Clubs International(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, December 1972, pg. 3; "Bonsai Clubs International -- A Progress Report," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, July/August 1972, pg. 22; "Hindsight on BCI" by Tom Heitkamp, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Jan/Feb 1978, pg. 4) SEE ALSO: Jan 30, Feb 28, Apr 16, Oct 22
in his Atherton, California, garden. He began working on this
green Atlas Cedar in 1959."
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, September/October 1993, pg. 53)
1965 -- Long-time New York bonsai grower Mary P. Case first visited Bombay, India for a four month stay. [She would repeat the visit the next two years. During these stays she would experiment and learn that bonsai in the tropics is not the same as "tropical bonsai." Her initial specimens would include bougainvillea, malphighia, lantana, pomegranate, and cedar planted in assorted Chinese and Japanese containers found in second-hand markets. Mary's early efforts would result in the formation of the Indian Bonsai Society in 1972. Additional input would come in a few more years through the Indo-Japanese Association. Mary also would make lovely mame pots and sold them at the first ABS conventions in the late 60's and early 70's. She would also write articles for the ABS Bonsai Journal.] ("Bonsai in the Tropics: A Report From Bombay" by Mary P. Chase, Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1968, pp. 3-7; "Bonsai in India" by Jyoti and Nikunj Parekh, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 37, No. 4, July/August 1998, pg. 39; ABStracts, Vol. 11, No. 3, September 1983, pg. 5) SEE ALSO: Mar 9, Jul 17
1968 -- Watsonville Bonsai Club began with 12 members. Tom Tao was elected the first President. [The club's teacher for the first five years was Toshio Saburomaru from Palo Alto, CA. The first bonsai show would be held the first week of May, 1973, at the Watsonville Buddhist Temple, and would continue annually to this day. The club would grow to over 60 members over the years, but at its 40th anniversary would be about half that.] (Personal e-mail to RJB from Don White, V.P. & Treasurer Watsonville Bonsai Club, 8 Dec 2008) SEE ALSO: Apr 16
1969 -- The Mashonaland Bonsai Society was founded in Harare (formerly Salisbury, Rhodesia). [In its early days the Society would create a great deal of interest with attendances of 30 to 40 members and visitors at the monthly Monday evening meetings. Many shows or exhibitions would be staged over the years, always popular and arousing great interest among the public. These exhibitions would either be mounted by the Society alone or, more usually, together with another group such as the Garden Club or the Aloe, Cactus & Succulent Society. "Digs" in the country would produce some very good specimens, with the added value of educating the public in a knowledge and appreciation of indigenous trees. The Society would maintain contact with various South Africa bonsai clubs.] ("Bonsai in Africa," in Tsukiyama, Ted T. (ed.) Bonsai of the World, Book I (Japan: World Bonsai Friendship Federation, 1993), pg. 78)
1976 -- The four-year-old Greater New Orleans Bonsai Society was invited to exhibit this month in the New Orleans Museum of Art with a collection of Zenga and Narega paintings.
In the left foreground is a hackberry (Celtis laevigata), native to southeastern U.S.,("Bonsai in an Art Museum," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 11, No. 2, Summer 1977, pg. 43) SEE ALSO: Oct 11
which was collected and trained by the late Daisuke Yenari.
1999 -- The Bonsai House at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens was opened. Situated next to the Japanese Garden, the building was designed specifically to house and compliment the bonsai collection by combining natural elements such as rammed earth walls and bamboo. There are approximately 300 plants in the collection, with as many as 100 on display at any one time. Many of the plants came from the collection of Sydney horticulturist, the late Len Webber. He first became interested in bonsai while stationed in Japan after World War II and developed an extensive collection at his home. In 1985, some of his collection was acquired by Ithaca College of TAFE in Brisbane for use as a teaching aid and was later moved to Grovely TAFE. While under the curatorship of TAFE, the staff and students added a number of plants to the collection. The decision to move the collection to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha ensures Queensland residents and visitors have greater access to a large established collection of bonsai. This collection is being developed further to illustrate different bonsai styles and to display a range of suitable species of plants for bonsai. ( http://www.australia-in-pictures.com/brisbane_botanic_gardens6/index.htm ) SEE ALSO: Jan 28, Dec 23