Shimpaku Project

Brian Van Fleet

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So I got this shimpaku for Christmas in 2008. It came from Brent at Evergreen...good things always come from Brent. Since I hadn't spent much time with junipers, I decided to save it for a workshop and try to learn a little about their training in the process and so I brought it to a Kathy Shaner workshop this spring. She is amazing. I learned a ton, and she started this tree down some kind of path towards styling. I couldn't fully grasp her vision, but figured I'd just bring it back to the next one and continue the project.

Problem is...I kind of obsess and walking past it several times a day without a darn clue where it was going started to really gnaw at me. I'd bring it in and keep it on my desk while I worked, just trying to see what the he!! Kathy saw in it.

Finally, this weekend, I had it up near the house, and just caught a glimpse of it as I walked past the window it was sitting outside of. Bingo, Dingo!

This virt utilizes all existing branches, just removing ones Kathy identified as sacrifice, and refining some of the pads that are there...kind of like Michelangelo said, just remove everything that doesn't look like David...or whatever...

Anyway, it will be interesting to see the tree develop into something similar to the virt...
The shots are:
1. Brent's photo
2. After 2009 growing season
3. During Kathy's workshop
4. August 2010 (untouched)
5. The virt...
 

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mcpesq817

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Looks pretty good to me. Are you going to add deadwood at all?
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Looks pretty good to me. Are you going to add deadwood at all?
Definitely. The right side of the trunk has some shari that I will widen and ultimately connect with a good-sized jinned branch on the right. Several branches will become jin where it makes sense as well.
 

misfit11

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That virt looks great. What a great opportunity to have Kathy work on one of your trees. Keep us updated on the progress towards your goal.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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That virt looks great. What a great opportunity to have Kathy work on one of your trees. Keep us updated on the progress towards your goal.
Thanks! Now that I know where it's going, I am very eager to work on it... And, yes, it was incredible to be in a workshop with her...The coolest part was that it was an all-day workshop with 5 participants, so we the atmosphere was like working in a buddy's garage (minus the beer). Can't get much better than that!
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Spring update

Recently, I had an opportunity to take this tree to another workshop with Kathy and we continued the work. Here is a quick update of what we did:

1. Checked to see if any wood was added around the ovals we carved last spring.
2. Widened some ovals and opened up a few new ones to start to establish some interesting live veins.
3. Removed most of the wires.
4. Removed some of the upper branches that were wired, carved, and shaped for later creating jin.
5. Pulled down the lower-left branch, splitting it so we can get good movement.
6. Thinned out the growth to allow light for some shoots that can become branches.

This year, it was slip-potted into a larger container, and the name of the game is to push growth. It is very different to work on a tree over time and not have it look presentable.

One great point Kathy made was that, over time, trees sustain trauma, maybe something major every 20 or 50 years; a lightening strike, snow/wind damage, a large branch falling out of the top. We simulate this on an accelerated timeline every year or two in bonsai work. What makes a tree interesting isn't this trauma itself, but rather how the tree responds to the trauma.

So, those carved ovals visible in this tree aren't the design goal, they are the simulated trauma. The design will be predicated on how the tree responds to these (and future) wounds. The response should be interesting, layered depths of dead wood, and dynamic, winding live veins climbing up the tree.

I'll post an update in 8 months or so, when I hope the thing is just a big green bush!
 

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mcpesq817

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Very nice. Making great progress! :D
 

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can you get a better shot of the ovals in your second photo, to show how the tree responded after the first time?
this is a new idea i havent heard and would like to learn more about and try out.
and your tree is nice too!
p
 

Kirk

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Thanks! Now that I know where it's going, I am very eager to work on it... And, yes, it was incredible to be in a workshop with her...The coolest part was that it was an all-day workshop with 5 participants, so we the atmosphere was like working in a buddy's garage (minus the beer). Can't get much better than that!
I think Kathy would prefer a nice single malt scotch...

I just did another all day session with her on Friday. Something that I admire about her work and teaching is that her goal is not to provide you with a finished looking, re-styled tree that day. She teaches you how to move the tree, create those little ovals or "comma" marks that later become shari, do some work that will create an amazing tree...later.

We did major work on my San Jose juniper. I thought we were going to tweek branches, wire and place. Live vein was separated from dead wood, split again, wrapped in raffia and then twisted 180 degrees. The end result that day was not a tree that looked as good (close to finish) as the one I brought in, but it created necessary structural changes that will improve the tree later on. She also commented that she did not have an absolutely finished image in mind. That's why she doesn't do "finished" drawings. After major work, the tree recovers and presents something new to you that can be worked and utilized.

Kirk
 

Brian Van Fleet

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can you get a better shot of the ovals in your second photo, to show how the tree responded after the first time?
this is a new idea i havent heard and would like to learn more about and try out.
and your tree is nice too!
p
Here are 2 photos of the same area; one after about 5 months of growth, where you can see the cambium starting to swell up around the wound, and one from now, showing where we opened up one of the wounds a little more, and created a few new ones. The ovals serve several purposes:

1. Creating wounds that the tree responds to by callousing around; which gives us more character to work with later. Do a little at a time, rather than using power tools and the detail is more convincing...if you're not great at carving with power tools. More wood piling up around the wounds gives depth, character, and more wood to work with.

2. Redirecting the water-lines, or live veins around the wounds. If you look at the heavily carved shimps, you'll see several live veins winding up and around the deadwood. We're slowly but surely going to connect these ovals of deadwood, and we'll be left with these live veins that wind up and around the deadwood.

3. When an oval is carved, and the tree responds as described in #1 and #2 above, it creates some swelling around the wound, which we can use to make the trunk appear thicker. Carve an oval in the front, and the swelling on either side of the wound widens the trunk. Carve one on the outside of a bend, and bend becomes bigger. You can really use this to your advantage if you plan accordingly.

The second image shows an oval Kathy drew around an existing oval. She wanted to save this one for last, to see if the tree actually added wood, or if it was just the cambium swelling. In this location, the tree hadn't added wood here, so she decided to leave it alone for another year.

To Kirk's point, it is a very different, but a refreshing approach to work with Kathy because you don't leave with a finished tree, it's like going to Bonsai Class...you learn a TON, usually not in the area you expected, and you advance a tree, doing something this time for the tree to respond to, and we'll look at it's response next time.
 

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"She also commented that she did not have an absolutely finished image in mind. That's why she doesn't do "finished" drawings. After major work, the tree recovers and presents something new to you that can be worked and utilized."

I believe after she said that I would have asked her to bend my tree back.
 

Kirk

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"She also commented that she did not have an absolutely finished image in mind. That's why she doesn't do "finished" drawings. After major work, the tree recovers and presents something new to you that can be worked and utilized."

I believe after she said that I would have asked her to bend my tree back.
There was more copper on it than a Georgia Power line at that point.

I probably needed to clarify that a bit but didn't want to hijack Brian's thread. My workshop experience was similar to his and I wanted to chime in.

I'm sure she knew what the design should look like in the end. I believe her point was that after you do major structural improvements (and trauma), as the tree heals, it may provide opportunities for an improved finished look that couldn't be anticipated by a sketch with each finished/placed jin, shari and branch. Overall, I'm sure Kathy knew what she wanted it to look like and did convey that to me. Definite improvements were made. Good experience.

Kirk
 

cquinn

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There was more copper on it than a Georgia Power line at that point.

I probably needed to clarify that a bit but didn't want to hijack Brian's thread. My workshop experience was similar to his and I wanted to chime in.

I'm sure she knew what the design should look like in the end. I believe her point was that after you do major structural improvements (and trauma), as the tree heals, it may provide opportunities for an improved finished look that couldn't be anticipated by a sketch with each finished/placed jin, shari and branch. Overall, I'm sure Kathy knew what she wanted it to look like and did convey that to me. Definite improvements were made. Good experience.

Kirk
I was just trying to be funny. We've actually met before. I came down to an Atlanta show with Tom Scott some years ago when I was first getting started. I've since adopted Warren Hill as a teacher. Tom is still active though in the new Chattanooga club.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Snapped this photo this afternoon; I haven't done anything to it since the March update besides feed and water it, just thought it looked nice in the sunshine. Looking forward to working on it again next spring. It is filling in pretty nicely and it will be interesting to see where Kathy wants to take it next. I can see removing the left branch completely and never looking back.
 

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Looking quite nice Brian. It'll be interesting to see what you guys work towards next year.
 

Bill S

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I concur that working with her is a great opportunity to learn, she presents the info in a way that is easy to understand and accomplish, don't bring something you think is nice if you are squemish, although it's not like she tries to force an idea on you. I had a few trees I had brought, more looking for some advice, I did some work on mine, but it was great to follow her around from tree to tree, learned more in that WS than any other I think. She is fun to work with as well.

A funny story came from our last WS w/ her. One of the attendees is way way way consevative with the roots of anything, to see him with a chisle and hammer wacking away for a couple of hours creating a good root foundation on a J Maple w/ about a 4' trunk, was a sight to see. More take out more, then she explained it all, including that proper wiring into the pot helps to create a good looking nebari.

Tree is looking good Brian.

The ovals or a smaller version can help to set bends wired in as well, as they callous it helps to set the bend.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Thanks guys. This one continues to make it's way to my office to contemplate on days I work from home. I'm patient in bonsai terms, but am really getting eager to push this one along some more, and it's ready.

Good story Bill...a camellia and I became acquainted with said chisel and hammer last year...
 

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Brian Van Fleet

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Quick update after the March '12 workshop, and 4 months of growth. Work done with Kathy in March:

1. Thinned it out.
2. Cleaned up the callus around the ovals.
3. Split the first left branch and rolled the top section forward closer to the trunk.
4. Extended the Shari on the trunk. (drawn with a sharpie in the first photo below)
5. Pruned the apex, and wired a few branches.

Looking at the strength of the tree, it was weak on the back side, because it had been on another bench, against the fence, facing east for the last couple years. This year, it has been grown facing west to get better sunlight on the back side of the tree. It seems to be working.

After the workshop in March:



It still has a very long way to go (especially in the upper third), but it is definitely developing some interest and character along the way. After pruning it back a bit today:

 
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Very nice, Brian. These extended documents showing the progress of a tree are very useful.
 
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