Some photos from the California Shohin seminar exhibit this weekend

Adair M

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Thanks for posting the pictures, Paul! I was there Saturday morning.

I thought this chojubai display was especially striking;

2189D43B-E71C-4948-B0FF-A4AA84F7849E.jpeg

All the other trees randomly set around didn’t do much for me, but the chojubai in the jade ring was beautiful!
 

Tieball

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Thanks for posting all the photos. I’ve focused on big trees....I’m just now looking into Shohin size trees...with a new fascination.
Are these bonsai pots actually quite large in width? I’m trying hard to guard from the tree height to understand the pot dimension.
 

PaulH

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the pot dimension.
The generally accepted standard for shohin is maximum 8 inches from soil to top of tree. Knowing that you can get an idea for the pots. The little quince displayed in the glass ring was in a pot maybe 3 inches wide.
 

Tieball

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The generally accepted standard for shohin is maximum 8 inches from soil to top of tree. Knowing that you can get an idea for the pots. The little quince displayed in the glass ring was in a pot maybe 3 inches wide.
Thanks. The pots are much smaller than my earlier imagination. That’s some serious root management. My visual sense figures that most pots are 8” and less in width. So.....I have some good work ahead of me to achieve my first Shohin size tree.
 

Adair M

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Thanks. The pots are much smaller than my earlier imagination. That’s some serious root management. My visual sense figures that most pots are 8” and less in width. So.....I have some good work ahead of me to achieve my first Shohin size tree.
More like 6 inches or less.

When potting Shohin, mounding the soil is more tolerated since the pots are so small.

Also, quality Shohin pots are thin walled, so there’s more interior volume available for roots and soil.
 

Tieball

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More like 6 inches or less.

When potting Shohin, mounding the soil is more tolerated since the pots are so small.

Also, quality Shohin pots are thin walled, so there’s more interior volume available for roots and soil.
Thanks. I did not know there was a wall thickness difference....but it does make sense. No I need to keep my eyes open for good Shohin pot sales.
 

Adair M

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Thanks. I did not know there was a wall thickness difference....but it does make sense. No I need to keep my eyes open for good Shohin pot sales.
Good ones are difficult to make. Thin walls means they’re more likely to warp when fired.

With Shohin, the itty bitty details matter.

Bill Valavanis and I and several others had discussions about the various displays and how to improve them... a nerdier conversation than anyone would have thought possible!
 

0soyoung

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Bill Valavanis and I and several others had discussions about the various displays and how to improve them... a nerdier conversation than anyone would have thought possible!
Would this be a new thread, a continuation of this thread, or new course offering?
 

Adair M

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Would this be a new thread, a continuation of this thread, or new course offering?
Actually, Bill might post a discussion on his blog. What I noticed were several box stands set up “backwards” from the flow of their trees, or set on the wrong side of the display.
 

0soyoung

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Actually, Bill might post a discussion on his blog. What I noticed were several box stands set up “backwards” from the flow of their trees, or set on the wrong side of the display.
Okay. I'll look for something in Bill's blog.
Regardless, I think it would be good to have some nerdy discussions of stuff like this.

Posts about dealing aphids and fungi only go so far.
 

Adair M

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Okay. I'll look for something in Bill's blog.
Regardless, I think it would be good to have some nerdy discussions of stuff like this.

Posts about dealing aphids and fungi only go so far.
Ok, here’s one:

B0946277-F84E-4982-855B-F7C2CA486F80.jpeg

The box stand is moving to the left. The steps indicate the direction of movement. The tree on top is moving to the right. The box is placed on the end of the table, on the left, so, the box sends your eye off the table.

There was an “off the box” tree on the right side of the box. It should be on the left of the box.

To fix this display, there are a couple options: the easiest is to simply turn the box around! The other is to move the box to the right on the table, and move the “off box” tree to the left of the box, AND turn the tree on the top around.

Also, the tree on the left on the middle shelf: see how the height is the same as the tree on the right? No good. It’s on a little table that’s not needed. Remove that table, so that it dits directly on the stand, and then it’s canopy is a little lower than the tree on the right. The reason to use the little tables on the box stand is not for decoration, it’s to adjust the heights of the trees in the stand.

And while we are talking about the little tables, if you use a table under the tree on the top, it should be very low, if at all. That tree, being on top, is already above most people’s eye, so we’re looking up at it. So, what we see is, unfortunately, the underside of the branches. The best Shohin for the top position have very low branches, that are pulled down low, so that we see them from the side, not from underneath. This tree, being rather tall, with high branches, on a stand, gives the impression that we’re looking up “under its skirts” if you will. It would be better just sitting directly on top of the box.

How’s THAT for nurdy discussion! Lol!!
 

0soyoung

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I don't know what I am supposed to see @Adair M .

When I look at one of these kind of stands, I think I'm being taken on a journey up/down the mountain (or something analogous). I expect to see lowland/domestic plants or warmer season fruiting species on the bottom, etc., ending with a something seemingly subalpine up top. All of it is supposed to feel quite cozy, so one tree must direct my interest to the next. Trees on the left 'point' to the right and ones on the right point to the left.

For me, the lower right tree moves to the right and should be reversed. The tier 2 tree on the left in the white pot should not be on a stand. I expect its apex to be below the one on the right. The stand makes the two apexes be at the same elevation. For me, the orientation of the JBP on top is reversed = inconsistent with my eye movement from lowest (left), up+right, up+left, up+right, and finally up moving left I expect, but it instead points the other way (right). I guess I'm just stating a long winded version of your statement that
The box stand is moving to the left.
If so, I now understand what the 'movement' of a box stand is (tentative thank you).

In this line, I feel that the pine on top is too tall. I think it should be much more sumo-like to be on top. When I go across the street or out into the forest and look up the trunk of a 100 foot tall tree, it seems to be short with radical taper = a sumo. I've got it in my mind that this is the image of the top shelf. Maybe that just isn't right. I dunno.

The photograph raises further uncertainty for me. I think the middle tier ought to be about eye level, so that I'm looking down on the low-land lowest-shelf trees, and up to the lofty heights on the top shelf. Of course, we say the same of bigger bonsai and they are all too often placed on display tables that are too low, which is why most people are bent over looking at trees in an exhibition. After some years, this now makes sense to me, but with box stands, I'm uncertain of my intuited expectations.

Finally, I find that shohin displays with lots of wild colored and/or painted pots really excite me. I really do like all the color and detail of the pots. It does, however, move my visual focus away from the trees and toward the pots, but I like it. The trees are magnificent but do nothing to upset the pleasure of the riot of color. With this display, however, every pot is dark EXCEPT that one white pot, 2nd tier left. At any rate, it stands out and makes me ask what is so special about that? Why are you (display maker) asking me to focus on that particular tree in the display? Change it to an unglazed or dark colored pot would greatly improve this display, IMHO. Maybe just having the other tree on the middle tier right in a lighter/brighter colored pot would do the job.

The only thing I am sure of, is that the exception to the rule (whether preconceived expectations of the viewer or those produced by the general nature of the composition) always get attention. So, what are the rules and how do I understand them is key info for me.

I remain unsure of just what I am supposed to see in a box display and maybe miss the artistic expression in the display because of that. For example, I think a princess persimmon on top is just not right. Were I to see one, I would be wondering if this is a rebel talking or just some know-less-than-me's ludicrous 'composition'. A cascade on the bottom shelf is just not right. But, on the other hand, a cascade on top seems acceptable as most of them that I see 'in the wild' are on sub-alpine rocky cliffs overhead. Here I suspect I've got something very wrong (or that traditions have stepped in) because I cannot recall ever seeing a (semi-)cascade on the top - why don't I/we?

This treasure trove of pix posted by @PaulH could make for some educational discussion. even though I suspect it was not his purpose in posting them.
 

Adair M

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Good discussion, 0so!

Ok, so traditionally, the box stand is meant to represent “the mountain”. Japan is a mountainous country. Conifers grow on the tops of mountain, so the tree on the top should be a conifer. Usually a pine or a juniper. And, preferably an informal upright. Not a slant or cascade. No, the tree on top is the “king” of the mountain, yet it suffers the hardships of its battle with nature, which cause the curvy trunk. Yet the tree prevails.

The middle shelf are where the slants and cascades go. On the mountain, this is where the cliffs are. The movement of the trees should be pointing back up towards the top tree, the king.

The bottom shelf is the base of the mountain, and the trees there should show more stability, less movement since they grow in the tamer environment of the valley. Usually formal uprights, sumo, and broom styles prevail.

The box can be displayed on its own, or be accompanied with an “off the box” tree. These can be of any style, but care needs to be taken. The basic concept is this tree is depicting the beginning of the next mountain on the other side of the valley. The accent plant thus would represent the bottom of the valley, and the off box tree is a tree from the next mountain.

Now... given all that, the Japanese allow some freedom with the species. If each box position were rigidly dictated by their natural place on the mountain, all the displays would be copycats of each other. Also, Shohin display is meant to be “fun”, lighthearted, if you will. The larger bonsai are “serious” trees. Shohin, being smaller, cannot have all the visual elements to command your attention for very long. And, each individual tree Doesn’t have the same visual mass as the typical full size bonsai. So, the stand used, the arrangement of the trees, the variety of trees and pots become more important. Each element should be different, no replication, yet they should all complement each other!

Shohin is all about “the display”. It’s very difficult to do properly! You need lots of trees, lots of pots, lots of little tables and jitas to properly arrange the composition to keep the eye moving as you observe the display.

And to add to the complexity, the display should reflect the current season! Conifers usually look the same in all seasons, so the deciduous trees and the accent plant are used for that. Perhaps the choice of pots enters in here. It’s nice to include a fruiting or flowering tree to help depict the season.

Of course, there’s more... but this post is already too long!
 

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My shohin display education is still in its infancy so I'd like to hear why you believe the box stand shown is moving to the left.
I see the visual weight (including the lower right box) on the Right side. My eyes start at lower left and climb step by step, zig zag fashion, from lower left to middle right then to the top shelf. Does that mean the final step up from the middle right shelf to the middle of the upper shelf is toward the left so that's the final and overriding direction? Should my eyes start at the heavier (but taller) lower right and step down to the left initially?
The trees all seem to have visual weight towards the right so what are you seeing that indicates a left bias on this stand?
 

jimib

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I have no real display experience, but I picture the box with movement to the left. If I look at that box without the trees, as if water we’re running acrossed it like a waterfall from the top it would be running to the left and running off the left and not running up as if it were running up the steps to the right.
 

sorce

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@Shibui That's the reason the entire wood only part of the stand should be turned around, well, almost only!

The only one that gave me pause was this.
5DFF5EA2-F7E4-4D84-90A2-265C35D25EBA.jpeg

A quick swap of the bottom two trees makes a great improvement.

The thicker trunk is a greater "exclamation mark stopper", it would have faired better left. As the thinner tree easier allows the eye to pass through onto the accent.

Though, it seems they gave more presidence to the foliage, see, having 2 leafed trees on one side is a little odd.

Though that could be remedied with a leafed accent.

Balance.

Pick up a Gafu-Ten book. They are amazing!

Sorce
 

PaulH

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A quick swap of the bottom two trees makes a great improvement.
Thanks, Sorce. Actually this is my display and I had this discussion with some friends at the show who agreed with you. I think if I had a small stand to raise the height of the little elm on the bottom left it would help a lot... but I didn't.
I've still got a lot to learn about growing and showing shohin. I've had large and medium bonsai for many years but only started with shohin a few years ago when I started noticing my old back didn't like moving 100 pound trees around so much anymore. ;)
One thing I like about the bonsai community is that for most of us its about learning, improving and sharing the art. With most of my bonsai friends its about the trees and not the egos.
 

Adair M

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@Shibui That's the reason the entire wood only part of the stand should be turned around, well, almost only!

The only one that gave me pause was this.
View attachment 282364

A quick swap of the bottom two trees makes a great improvement.

The thicker trunk is a greater "exclamation mark stopper", it would have faired better left. As the thinner tree easier allows the eye to pass through onto the accent.

Though, it seems they gave more presidence to the foliage, see, having 2 leafed trees on one side is a little odd.

Though that could be remedied with a leafed accent.

Balance.

Pick up a Gafu-Ten book. They are amazing!

Sorce
The little tree on the bottom left is too small for that space. And the tree on the upper right is too tall for it’s space. The display would be improved by swapping them.

Think of each position as picture frame. The tree is supposed to “fill” the picture. Use little tables to adjust the height so that the tree is positioned best.

It’s difficult! There are so many design elements to consider, and no one has enough to trees to meet every “rule”. You will often see where a tree is turned around so it’s backside is faced forward because the movement fits the display better, even if it’s not the tree’s best front. In Shohin, it’s not about the tree, it’s about the display! Where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
 

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