The Makings of a Master

emk

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How does one become a "Bonsai Master"? A simple enough question, though I suspect, in some cases at least, the answer may be somewhat nebulous. I've heard the term applied to a wide range of personalities in the field of bonsai; almost to the point where it seems insulting to refer to anyone giving a demo as anything less than a bonsai master.

So, who gets to call themselves a bonsai master and who doesn't? Is there a sanctioning body which makes this decission and gives someone a licence to become a Bonsai Master®? Do you have to be approved by a certain number of established masters? Do you train under a master for a certain amount of time and then get handed a bonsai master diploma? Or is it as simple as the best person at doing bonsai in the room at the time gets to be the master?

From what I can make out, it used to be strictly an master/apprentice system like in feudal times with many crafts and trades, but currently it seems to be based more on a general concensus of one's peers - though maybe I'm missing something.
 

Bonsai Nut

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I have never encountered any formal definition. You would first need a universal governing body of "bonsai craftsmen" to establish standards and award titles - and prevent unqualified people from using titles they haven't earned. In general, from other trades, the title of "master" is typically awarded after:

(1) A lengthy period of theoretical and practical study (often including active apprenticeship).
(2) A period of active employment as a craft journeyman.
(3) Additional study or work at the pre-mastery level - this may include related experience in crafts, history, research, business, education, etc.
(4) The satisfactory completion of exams/tests to demonstrate craft mastery. This may include the creation of a craft "masterpiece" or the development of a body of work that demonstrates comprehensive craft knowledge.

In general, I had always thought that you had to be a master in order to train apprentices, though now perhaps in bonsai people have started to use the term to mean "instructor" in a much looser sense.
 
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Titles mean little without results, results are what makes the master, not the other way around.

The world is full of bonsai instructors, there is one at every bonsai shop. The internet is full of experts, there are dozens on every forum. Masters are rare, masters on-line are rarer still, Walter Pall, Robert Steven, and one or two others being welcomed exceptions on the Internet.




Will
 
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How does one become a "Bonsai Master"? A simple enough question, though I suspect, in some cases at least, the answer may be somewhat nebulous. I've heard the term applied to a wide range of personalities in the field of bonsai; almost to the point where it seems insulting to refer to anyone giving a demo as anything less than a bonsai master.

So, who gets to call themselves a bonsai master and who doesn't? Is there a sanctioning body which makes this decission and gives someone a licence to become a Bonsai Master®? Do you have to be approved by a certain number of established masters? Do you train under a master for a certain amount of time and then get handed a bonsai master diploma? Or is it as simple as the best person at doing bonsai in the room at the time gets to be the master?

From what I can make out, it used to be strictly an master/apprentice system like in feudal times with many crafts and trades, but currently it seems to be based more on a general concensus of one's peers - though maybe I'm missing something.

Will's right on this one. There seems to be a bonsai "master" around every bend. Clubs around the U.S. have been having "Master Weekends" for years, and spawned a bit of a cottage industry in the roving bands of feral "masters" that travel around the country and sometimes the world.

And it is the results that make someone a master of their craft or their art. But it's also a matter of heart or spirit. It's kind of like politics and running for president...anyone who wants the job should automatically be disqualified for it. So, too, those who strive to be known as master betray what's in them and should automatically be disqualified for the position.

Chris
 

cquinn

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Will's right on this one. There seems to be a bonsai "master" around every bend. Clubs around the U.S. have been having "Master Weekends" for years, and spawned a bit of a cottage industry in the roving bands of feral "masters" that travel around the country and sometimes the world.

And it is the results that make someone a master of their craft or their art. But it's also a matter of heart or spirit. It's kind of like politics and running for president...anyone who wants the job should automatically be disqualified for it. So, too, those who strive to be known as master betray what's in them and should automatically be disqualified for the position.

Chris

I totally agree with that. In my young Bonsai career, I'm astonished at the folks calling themselves Masters, but have no personal collection of their own. I guess there are stylists and then there are plant guys/gals who do bonsai in it's entirety. I think those folks have a better shot at the title than the divas. A Japanese master of Aikido at a seminar (similar to a bonsai workshop) said to my fellow students and I "Seminar good, but daily practice much better". I think having a collection and doing the daily requirements of having such a collection should be a prerequisite.
 

irene_b

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The odd thing is that when asked "When looking in the mirror, Do you see yourself as a Master?
The answer is "No"....
Irene
 

milehigh_7

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This is a good discussion. Let me put this out for your consideration. One would the title of master be one likely bestowed by others? Also, how important would it be for a "master" to be one who makes a unique contribution to the art they are involved in?
 
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This is a good discussion. Let me put this out for your consideration. One would the title of master be one likely bestowed by others? Also, how important would it be for a "master" to be one who makes a unique contribution to the art they are involved in?

I do not feel that innovation alone is enough to qualify one as a master and I also believe that one can not become a master simply because they claim to be, so yes, it is a title that must come from others, more importantly, it must come from others who are masters.



Will
 

Mojosan

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".......it must come from others who are masters."

Amen, to that.
 

Graydon

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So here we are again, discussing amongst ourselves what it takes to be a master. Lots of good replies I suppose but there is not a master among us now to tell us how they became a master. We are but minions discussing masters. I suppose we could all discuss how we became minions.

Why don't we find a master and ask them? That's what I do when I have a question. Or would that be to simple? Will pointed out two of them who frequent online. I would start there. I bet the answer is simple.
 
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LoL, no one listens to them on the subject of bonsai, in fact most will argue with them, so why in the world would they bother to ask them about this? ;)


Will
 

greerhw

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I know I'm going to hate myself in the morning, but here goes anyway. Please read the training Marco went through to be able to call himself a master. he explains on his website under his profile and see if you would do what he did. He is truly a master in the traditional Japanese style, as my trees will attest to.

Peace,
Harry

http://www.marcoinvernizzi.com/index_us.html
 
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milehigh_7

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I know I'm going to hate myself in the morning, but here goes anyway. Please read the training Marco went through to be able to call himself a master. he explains on his website under his profile and see if you would do what he did. He is truly a master in the traditional Japanese style, as my trees will attest to.

Peace,
Harry

http://www.marcoinvernizzi.com/index_us.html

Excellent input Harry!
 

bretts

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Walter seems to have masterd this craft and from what I know he was fully self taught. I wonder if he ever went to a workshop that he did not instruct at?
Just a bit of a thought :)
 

meushi

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I have never encountered any formal definition. You would first need a universal governing body of "bonsai craftsmen" to establish standards and award titles - and prevent unqualified people from using titles they haven't earned. In general, from other trades, the title of "master" is typically awarded after:

(1) A lengthy period of theoretical and practical study (often including active apprenticeship).
(2) A period of active employment as a craft journeyman.
(3) Additional study or work at the pre-mastery level - this may include related experience in crafts, history, research, business, education, etc.
(4) The satisfactory completion of exams/tests to demonstrate craft mastery. This may include the creation of a craft "masterpiece" or the development of a body of work that demonstrates comprehensive craft knowledge.

In general, I had always thought that you had to be a master in order to train apprentices, though now perhaps in bonsai people have started to use the term to mean "instructor" in a much looser sense.

From a Japanese traditional crafts and trades point of view, it is:

(1) A university degree in the relevant field followed by
(2) An active apprenticeship of a minimum of 3 years followed by
(3) Placing well in a major exhibition organized by the relevant organization followed by
(4) A few years working on your own trying to improve the art while scoring high in the contests in major exhibitions organized by the relevant organization.
 

Glider

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These usually aren't. Only with humility can there be mastery.
I'm not sure this is true. It would require a direct correspondence between a dimension of personality and a level of skill and experience. I'm sure it's possible to be percieved as an arrogant git and still be truly outstanding in some area of expertise.
 

Vance Wood

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I'm not sure this is true. It would require a direct correspondence between a dimension of personality and a level of skill and experience. I'm sure it's possible to be percieved as an arrogant git and still be truly outstanding in some area of expertise.

I have to agree here, not because I disagree with Steve's ideal of the humble master teaching and practicing bonsai like Dr. Switzer in Africa; most are more like Dr. House.

The reality is that this often is not the case. Frank Lloyd Wright is reported to have been the biggest, most arrogant, unfaithful, morally corrupt bastard to ever walk the planet. It's too bad that we do not have prerequisites for individuals reaching "Master Status" where by they have had to at least master them selves and master compassion for the rest of us Low-life-Oedipal idiots.
 

cquinn

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Warren Hill told me this: It's a title you certainly don't give yourself. Some people will look at your trees and say "he is a master", and some people won't. Either way, you keep growing plants.
 

king kong

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It's too bad that we do not have prerequisites for individuals reaching "Master Status" where by they have had to at least master them selves and master compassion for the rest of us Low-life-Oedipal idiots.

Speak for yourself Vance. Oedipus idiots? Way out there even for me.
 

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