Monday, February 27, 2012

Bonsai Workshop with Bill Valavanis

This past Saturday I was lucky to have found a bonsai workshop 2 hours away in Lynchburg with Julian Adam's CVBS and Bill Valavanis. The topic was literati style. Bill started with a tree critique of a few members' trees. I love watching critiques. People become so intimately attached to their branches and sometimes seem like they are offended when a credible source tells them to chop one off. But it takes that fresh perspective sometimes I think. It is possible to lose the forest for the tree. Bill then showed us slide shows of some of the literati that he felt were good representations and we discussed what makes a literati. Long lesson short, it's not so much the composition, but rather the feeling one receives when viewing a literati. It's thin. Light. Wispy. Whimsical. It's the representation of any tree you might find in nature. Here's one of my favorite examples:

The workshop ended with Bill doing a demonstration on a shimpaku he selected:

Next up, the raffle. Any good bonsai meeting has a raffle right? I was the last to purchase $5 worth of tickets and long story short, I won BOTH top prizes. I went home with a hardback book about Chinese bonsai and the tree that Bill V. shaped. There was jealousy afoot! Honestly, folks were all happy for me and I was grinning from ear to ear.

Following, we were all able to select a shimpaku and Bill came around as the ten of us designed our own. He was helpful and I met others that were equally instrumental in instructing me. It's a great environment to learn if you're open to receiving lessons. The best lessons begin or end with, "I learned this the hard way".

I wasn't too thrilled with what I ended up with honestly. I think it has potential; but I'll need to remove two lower branches if it's to become a true literati. Good thing I get to add Bill's to my collection. Here was my attempt:

We ended the day at Julian's home in his garden looking at his growing fields, 100s of prebonsai (especially pines) and purchasing wire and pots. The pots are nothing overly special but I have to start accruing them at some point and his were priced correctly. Not collection worthy but definitely enough to start off. I brought home about $100 worth of wire and learned something very important to working with copper. Turns out, you have to baby the stuff before applying it to keep it soft. Letting it bump into stuff or get jostled in my tool bag is bad news for wire. It hardens to any trauma at all. I brought home my new wire very carefully.

More than the retail therapy, I enjoyed being around the old heads today. They always take interest in the young guy and no matter where I go, I'm usually the youngest one in the room.


Tonight is the Richmond Bonsai meeting. I can't wait to share my stories with my friends there.

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