Collectors of our own art

bonsai barry

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As I was visiting a bonsai nursery, I couldn't help but notice that all of the best bonsai were marked "not for sale". This didn't impact me too much because I had $40 to spend, but a thought did occur to me. With other art forms the artist works to get her art out among the people. In most cases, as soon as its finished the art is for sale. Bonsai artists tend to keep their best pieces. Of course there are exceptions to this observation, but I think it is still worth pondering.
 

Bonsai Nut

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At Chikugo-En bonsai nursery in Gardena, Mas Ishii keeps some of his personal bonsai out on display in the retail area. One entire long platform is just his trees - perhaps 15% or more of the retail display space. I think it is really nice to be able to see 30+ show quality trees at a retail establishment. It helps you to understand the quality of the store - the skill level of the people working there.
 

agraham

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There is a very small market for the "best" bonsai.I imagine that these trees marked "not for sale" are for sale at the right price.

On the other hand....bonsai are more like pets or members of the family.You don't just paint or sculpt them and they're through.You have to take care of them day in and day out.This tends to breed familiarity and a desire to keep them around.

andy
 

cbobgo

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I agree with andy's points. It's hard to get rid of something you've spent so much time working on, but if the price is right . . . who knows.

In the art world, there are collectors who pay big bucks to own paintings and display them. That drives the market. There is not really that sort of market for bonsai in this country. In Japan, owning a bonsai collection is seen as a status symbol, so wealthy people will own a large collection and pay someone to maintain them. But here, most people who own bonsai are people who work on them themselves.

If we could just convince a few hundred really wealthy people to get into bonsai, think what that would do to the US bonsai market. Anyone know Bill Gates' phone number?

- bob
 

Graydon

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Great discussion matter. I can agree with all of the above points. I am sure everything is for sale at some price point. I would also say that the sale would be based on the discretion of the seller - would you sell a masterpiece you spent 20 years on to some rich kid who could afford whatever you asked but deep down you know it will die within a year?

I don't know Bill Gates but I'm doing the scenery for the Ellen Show in a month when she is on Orlando. I have heard she is getting back in to bonsai again as she visited a bonsai nursery in Daytona last year. She told the nursery owner that she recently got her old Masakuni tools out and cleaned them up. I would assume she could afford to be one such collector. I may work up the nerve to ask her about her collection when I see her on set.
 

cbobgo

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Why don't you bring in one of your trees as part of the set decoration? Get some bonsai air-time.

Maybe Ellen can start a bonsai club for housewives like Oprah's book club.

- bob
 

Tachigi

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In my experience no really means yes....and that goes for bonsai as well ;).

Most often the not for sale signs in itself is a sign that this tree is for sale. It is also a sign that the tree will be extremely expensive and you best be good at negotiating. Learned that the hard way when we bought some finished trees for Shady Side. Whats worse is when you see the same sign on raw material. The sign on raw material really should be pucker up and bend over.

The "not for sale sign" is for an exclusive club that most of us will never be admitted to.
 

JasonG

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I know with us at Oregon Bonsai there are some trees that just won't be sold. In the past few years there were several really killer RMJ that were sold. Now the best RMJ are being held onto inorder to better the collection for visitors, and the future retirement plan of the owner, lol!

Pines are another story, they are way more abundant so the best ones in the collection are typically very large (Huge) and if they were to be sold it would be someone making a $30k offer. There are several med to large and even shohin pines that are also off limits. Several folks have offered to buy them but to no avail!!! Getting world class pines is no where near as sparse as finding the RMJ so several world class pines are sold every year.

But then again we don't run into this problem that often since we don't have a retail store front or commercial establishment. Typically this will happen when buyers from all over stop by to buy yamadori or field grown trees. Every field grown tree is for sale since they are easily duplicated for the most part.

Same thing goes for some of my personal trees, I just won't sale them.... some of the yamadori just can't be replaced.

That is my experience with this sort of thing.

There is a nursery here in the Portland area, Japan Bonsai and he just won't sale any of the good stuff, even the rough stock. Serious, he won't!! I was there a few weeks ago and there was a nice spruce from a landscape that I wanted and no amount of bartering was working.... Which is good since I now have a much better landscape spruce..... Fun stuff!!

Jason
 
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Tachigi

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Japan Bonsai and he just won't sale any of the good stuff, even the rough stock. Serious, he won't!! I was there a few weeks ago and there was a nice spruce from a landscape that I wanted and no amount of bartering was working....
I have a guy here did the same thing. I spent three years pursuing a couple of nice trees, he wouldn't budge. Last week I walked in and paid my mid winter respects and didn't mention the tree. As I was leaving he came up to me and said aren't you still interested in my trees? He had such a sad and pitiful look. Which I in turn said not today.

I do believe that the hunt for these people with a no sale tree, is better than the sale itself.
 

Dale Cochoy

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I'm doing the scenery for the Ellen Show in a month when she is on Orlando. I have heard she is getting back in to bonsai again as she visited a bonsai nursery in Daytona last year. She told the nursery owner that she recently got her old Masakuni tools out and cleaned them up. I would assume she could afford to be one such collector. I may work up the nerve to ask her about her collection when I see her on set.
Graydon,
While you are at it....Ask her if she needs any hand-made pots ;) :eek: :D
Dale
 
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This is an interesting topic; I have been fortunate to be able to work at my own art since receiving an MFA in 1986. First for a goldsmith in Maine, then as a modelmaker for one of the top museum exhibit studios in the U.S. I have kept pieces through the years for my personal collection that are not for sale. They are one-of-a-kind and I have no desire to repeat them. Selling them is simply out of the question.

My sister could not understand this fact and thought I was nuts for holding on to these old pieces. It's hard for people who are not artists to understand this, I guess. I have sold some of my trees and will continue to sell an occasional tree, but as time goes on there are some that fall into that category of NFS. And the comment that a tree may fall into the hands of a rich kid who doesn't care is a very astute one.
 

Vance Wood

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I agree with andy's points. It's hard to get rid of something you've spent so much time working on, but if the price is right . . . who knows.

In the art world, there are collectors who pay big bucks to own paintings and display them. That drives the market. There is not really that sort of market for bonsai in this country. In Japan, owning a bonsai collection is seen as a status symbol, so wealthy people will own a large collection and pay someone to maintain them. But here, most people who own bonsai are people who work on them themselves.

If we could just convince a few hundred really wealthy people to get into bonsai, think what that would do to the US bonsai market. Anyone know Bill Gates' phone number?

- bob
This point opens up an interesting and sad conundrum. There may be some wealthy people interested in class bonsai but not willing to pay for them. I have thought for years that much of the bonsai theft has fallen into this category. If you remember the theft at Brussels a number of years ago. These people used a semi to pull of that heist. This took organization planning and resources, probably a contracted job.

Recently these kinds of events, when reported, seem to indicate that the items stolen were taken by someone who knew what they were looking for and knew to take the best and leave the rest. Please forgive me if it seems I am trying to hijack this thread but the above scenario is none the less possible: Wealthy buyers purchasing bonsai from dealers that specialize in procuring great bonsai that are not for sale. The problem is really exacerbated by the fact that the police don't understand, don't care, and don't have a clue how to follow this up. The likelihood of any arrest in this kind of crime is very low. It would seem to me that the theft at one of the national collections would have sparked some sort of investigation, but I have heard of none and I have never heard of an arrest in any bonsai theft any where any time.
 

Vance Wood

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This is an interesting topic; I have been fortunate to be able to work at my own art since receiving an MFA in 1986. First for a goldsmith in Maine, then as a modelmaker for one of the top museum exhibit studios in the U.S. I have kept pieces through the years for my personal collection that are not for sale. They are one-of-a-kind and I have no desire to repeat them. Selling them is simply out of the question.

My sister could not understand this fact and thought I was nuts for holding on to these old pieces. It's hard for people who are not artists to understand this, I guess. I have sold some of my trees and will continue to sell an occasional tree, but as time goes on there are some that fall into that category of NFS. And the comment that a tree may fall into the hands of a rich kid who doesn't care is a very astute one.
This too is a great point. When you pour perhaps twenty-years into the development of a good bonsai the thought that it will die at the hands of a wealthy dilettante is terrifying.
 

cbobgo

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well, presumably the wealthy buyer is going to retain someone to care for the trees. Ideally, of course. In reality, there will probably be those who think they can just have their regualr gardener look after them.
 

Tachigi

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well, presumably the wealthy buyer is going to retain someone to care for the trees. Ideally, of course. In reality, there will probably be those who think they can just have their regualr gardener look after them.
This is when (if the purchaser is local) that you sell your services to maintain his/her new acquisition. If that person isn't local you refer off to a person with enough experience to do the job. It then is a win / win situation for all involved.
 

BrianBay9

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There are other reasons for the "not for sale" sign. We have trees that belong to the club, or to an out-of-town customer, residing at the nursery. Fun to look at, but strictly hands off....

Brian
 
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This is when (if the purchaser is local) that you sell your services to maintain his/her new acquisition. If that person isn't local you refer off to a person with enough experience to do the job. It then is a win / win situation for all involved.
Tom--I always try to offer some sort of follow-up and what you suggest is the ideal situation. We are a nation of "do-it-yourselfers" and it isn't always the case your client lives within driving distance. I do know that Kathy Shaner and Boon Manakitivipart travel to their client's yards to name just two. So this sort of thing exsists in the U.S., just so rare. I imagine a niche for someone out there to offer professional care for bonsai if they're willing to work their buns off for it. Most wealthy clients want someone who has apprenticed in Japan or has an Asian name. Not everyone has the means to apprentice in Japan, let alone travel there to see where it all started. So we sometimes have to do the best we can given our circumstance. This might mean being willing to give advice via e-mail.

Something definitely needs to be done to de-mystify the process of bonsai to the Average Joe in the U.S.of A. People need to learn that it takes time and patience to do bonsai successfully; something that usually doesn't fly this day and age.
 

redroo

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Gidday all,

I know at least two bonsai growers here in the Netherlands that have adopted this attitude: If they really want the tree then they'll be willing to paid the extremely high prices that [I/we] put on them, needless to say these trees never get sold as these two guys are really extravagant with/about their asprirations. Their prices always knock my socks off, but I can see, and even agree with their points of view.

None too clear about this point, but I think that many Europeans regard their trees somewhat as their children, I know that I do. I will never exhibit nor sell my trees, but do occasionally give one or two away to blokes that I trust.

As to Artists and their works, I know quite a number of European artists that are extremely loathe to sell their works....guess it's a case of 'horses for courses', if that makes any sense at all.

Regards,
Nigel
 

John Hill

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Maybe these nursery people use the high prices on these trees as a marketing tool. By this I mean if you see a tree with a ridiculous price on it then see another tree (same species)that is a bit rough for maybe 1/3 or even 1/4 the price, it may seem like a great deal. But I believe that they truly love these trees and do not want to sell because of all the time put into it.

A Friend in bonsai
John
 

irene_b

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Add something else to it...A gift from someone!
I have several that I would not part with because they are gifts...
Irene
 

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