An Exhibit of Fine Bonsai

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Each January, Bay Island Bonsai, under the direction of their sensei, Boon Manakitivipart, presents what is arguably the finest exhibit of bonsai in North America. Beginning in 2005, when the goal was simply “to see an exhibit of good quality trees displayed in a formal setting.” Boon and eleven members put the first show together, and in 2007 nearly 150 people, members and non-members were involved.

In this thread I would like to show a bit of what the preparation for a show at this level is like.

Boon ties his advanced “Spring” Intensive (January is really spring in the Bay Area) to Show Preparation, so students work on repotting into show pots, mossing trees, applying lime sulfur, cleaning bark, fine wiring, etc. Anything the tree needs to be at its best is done this week. This also includes cleaning, prepping, and mossing companion plants.

Individual members care for their own trees, while the students work on the trees in Boon’s yard that are to be exhibited this year. This includes a good deal of instruction by Boon on the finer points of all of those aspects of display. It also includes a good deal of consuming food items that, while not necessarily healthy, are quite tasty.
 

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Work can proceed until quite late at night. Yawning is expected.

Pot selection is one of our most discussed procedures. This is usually done in the same way. Boon will say, "Each of you go find a pot for this tree." At that point it is a scavenger hunt under the benches, which is where Boon keeps his pots. We try to find one we think might be best for the tree in question. When we are finished, we try the tree in each pot and come to a decision that way.

Did I mention foods not especially healthy? This was Loard's Ice Cream, one of two hand-dipped ice cream shops in the city. Boon loves ice cream.
 

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On the morning of the show, volunteers show up to load a large moving van for the trip to the exhibition hall. There are usually more available than there is room for, but we find a way to put everyone to work.

Upon arriving at the hall, the truck is unloaded and the trees are placed in a holding area, and stands are laid out in another. For a show of this size, this is quite an undertaking. The volunteers set up all the tables, one member had made new backdrops that went together incredibly easily, and we hung fabric on the walls to hide the cinderblock construction, etc.
 

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The use of fabric on the walls as well as table skirts necessitates a crew with portable steamers to take the wrinkles out. This is not easy work. Up and down on the knees repeatedly, stretching and pulling the plug accidentally, but every square inch of wrinkles got steamed out.

The shohin display occupied a place of honor (and security) right at the front door. The trees were phenomemal. The camera was not. I apologize. Move along.
 

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In this exhibit, each display is allotted six feet of table space. The backdrops were built with that in mind. This allows a two or three point display without the trees crowding each other. You may recognize the red pine on the left of the first photo as the one I have shown with the use of a branch jack.

A fairly large sales area is incorporated for those who would like to sell pots, trees, tools, or supplies of any kind. This place is always exciting and some great finds are just waiting for the right person.

The auction area is also of great interest to those who attend. The material offered in the acution is almost without fail, high-potential material. Anyone wishing to auction a tree, can. The club itself is awarded 15% of the revenue from the sale. This has worked out wonderfully for all involved, as the quality of material tends to draw deep pockets from around the country, and so the sales process is easy and prices rise.
 

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This is a judged exhibit, which builds excitement and expectation. It also breeds professionalism and a trend toward excellence. For example, the first three trees below won "Best Large Conifer" and "Best Large Deciduous," and "Best Medium Deciduous," while the shohin Japanese black pine already shown won "Best Shohin."

In all there are six total awards, "Best Large Conifer", "Best Medium Conifer," "Best Large Deciduous," "Best Medium Deciduous," "Best Shohin," and "People's Choice." Students are required to judge the show as an exercise, but their votes are not tallied.

To see the cameraderie and companionship given to the winners, it is easy to see that a great deal of respect is given to members and their trees. Other members are genuinely happy for the winner. I doubt if someone with hard feelings would be around long.

The final photo is a very large specimen of zuisho Japanese white pine. That's for you, Jase.
 

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Tachigi

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Is this the spring show out west? Bay Island?

Edit: Never mind I just scrolled to the top
 
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Nice pics Chris!
Mom
Hardly, Irene, but thanks for the sentiment! Lighting is a bit problematic at most shows, and I hate using a flash because of the shadows that produces. Next year I will have my tripod with me which should help. I can't really carry a whole double-light setup with me, and the trees are all professionally photographed for the book following the show.

However, it is a real learning experience. Everything about this show is professional, from using an established calendar time frame so everyone who wishes to attend always knows about when it will be, to an established venue, so they will know where it is each year. There is some promotion, although I am not privy to how much PR is done or how exactly. I do know that hundreds of people show up each day. It's quite a mix from bonsai professionals and enthusiasts to the general public, all of whom pay a nominal entrance fee to enjoy the trees.
 

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irene_b

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I did take the lighting into consideration along with the knowledge that it was just a quick shot and not a photo shoot.
And I still say......Nice Pics Chris!
Mom
 

JasonG

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Thanks for taking the time so post some "behind the scenes" phots Chris!!

I see a bunch of folks who visit us a few times a year :)

Thanks again for taking the time, it looks like I will have to get there one of these years.....

Jason
 
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I ran across our judging form this afternoon while picking up a little. It's quite a simple form that makes it easy to judge if you have some background in the artistic aspects of bonsai.

Notice the extra weight given to the trunk formation, which can include everything from movement and bark formation, to taper and presence or lack of scars. This is because the trunk is the soul of the tree. Therefore, if a tree grown for bonsai has an unnatural shape, it will be downgraded. A collected tree with a spectacular trunk could of course receive highest marks, but this still is only 20% of the total scoring for the tree.

The advantages of this type of scoring are several. It is simple. It is as objective as something like this can be, and breaking it down like this slows down the judge and forces one to rationalize why one likes a tree or doesn't. It's quite instructive to judge trees of this quality!
 

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Smoke

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Looks like someone was not working as much as the others based on the amount of photo's taken of the others working;)

I was able to snap a few myself.

Here's Chris with a pine he worked on for the exhibit.
 

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Looks like someone was not working as much as the others based on the amount of photo's taken of the others working;)

I was able to snap a few myself.

Here's Chris with a pine he worked on for the exhibit.
LOL thanks for the support, Al!

I was point man on the steaming, mainly because I am so hot.

But chronicling the thing is of importance, too. I took a lot of video, and hope to make a DVD out of it, but we'll have to see what the product looks like.

In addition to the sales area, the auction area contained trees that would be show-stoppers in most shows around the country.
 

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