Yamadori Discussion

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Attila posted a very interesting quote concerning stock from Peter Warren's AoB Profile recently, since the discussion on that has died down, I thought it might be a good time to follow up with another interesting quote from Dan Barton's recently posted profile at AoB on the subject of Yamadori.

"In any case, collected material is by no means the only source of material that will result in good bonsai. Many of the finest classical bonsai have been created from cultivated material. Notably, some of the great broom style zelkovas, some of the mountain and trident maples and a host of other examples can easily be seen if one refers to some of the earlier copies of the Japanese exhibition souvenir books. After all, where in the wild would one stumble across a yamadori zelkova or maple worth collecting? Do not allow yourself to be seduced by the current international trend that considers yamadori material to be, the be all and end all, of good bonsai. That is rubbish and has only arisen because we in the west tend to be in such a hurry and at the same time we mustn’t discount the quick and lucrative turnover that can be obtained from the sale of bonsai created from collected trees. This latter point is, I think, getting closer to the real motivation behind creating bonsai from yamadori material. It sells well! The bone fide bonsai enthusiast who has neither the financial means to buy trees nor the ability to acquire collected material is quite content to bimble along enjoying the hobby without getting caught up in the ‘you know what!

Enormous pressures by the yamadori boffins is being directed at the whole of the bonsai scene and it is very difficult for ‘Mr Ordinary Bonsai Man’ to enjoy any credibility. This fact is doing so much damage to our hobby as its practice only caters for a very small minority of enthusiasts who have the financial means to pursue it. It is also setting such impossibly high standards of attainment that many aspiring bonsai enthusiasts are being driven away from the hobby because they are finding it too difficult to keep up and are often ashamed of their humble efforts. This really hurts me!

There are of course very many advantages in using yamadori material but remember it is mostly the quality of the trunk and mature bark or natural shari that is the prime attraction. If nebari (root ramification) and branching is to be considered this often falls short of ideal and some pretty ugly, over-heavy roots can exist and badly placed branches can too. With bonsai created from non-yamadori sources one can often gain far better control of the nebari and branch structure than is possible with collected material. There are of course exceptions to this!

Remember too that Mother Nature is mostly responsible for the design and quality of trunk character with yamadori material and not the bonsai artist."



Will
 
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Vance Wood

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I received this post in my email as a continuation of the thread started by Attila. It seems that there are still some problems with the sight, but I'm glad I found it because it is spot on the money. This is one of the best responses to the Yamadori question I have seen.
 

Rick Moquin

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OK Will, where did you dig this guy up from Michigan? ;)

You know which corner I stand on this. WTG Dan :D
 

Bill S

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Boy Will, I started to put down a smart alek Yes, but as the grey matter kicked in.........

Can't say as I find anything there that I want to disagree terribly with. Maybe the part about damage to the hobby, I have seen a bunch of pretty high priced trees, dug up with no real work done to them, and not potted for very long so survival could be questionable. So.......

I'm not sure that 1) the trees are worth the ching being asked for them (just because the were fat and wild). A lot of the yamadori trees you see still need many years of work to make a decent tree, I feel that yamadori should be the closest thing to instant bonsai that you can get, after all you collect for trunks and deadwood interest so typically there isn't a lot of foliage involved, so why should yamadori take many years. Unless it is used for huge trunks and you don't want to spend the years, then good stock from a nursery with good roots, branch placement, etc. should be as desirable as yamadori.

2) If selling at those prices damages the bonsai hobby ( maybe as a hobby it does price many/most out of buying such material), as I believe that those purchasing the expensive yamadori are more likely, more than just hobbiest(ie Walter -bonsai is not my hobby).

3) Americans tend to be (yes I am an American) cheap, in a hurry, and lack patience, ie. wanting instant gratification, so if we have to continue paying thru the nose for collected material( because its not available in our area, or we are too fat and lazy to go hike and dig) then I am not sure that an "expensive" Yamadori market will continue to thrive for very long. Right now its a supply and demand thing, (getting sick of that overused excuse) and Yamadori is the way to go, as the fad is in that direction right now.

The other part of Yamadori is that these days yamadori sticks in a pot are cropping up quite often, eeew!! Thats not better or a good idea in my book, just a cheap way out, not that it's wrong some can't afford the nursery prices, so it's thier shot, just take more years than most understand.

Taking a step back to a thought above, it seems that more and more that bonsai, like anything else is affected by current "hot ideas"/fads, you don't have to jump off the bridge because everyone else is, it's OK to take the path that gets you there without peril, and you shouldn't catch grief for taking the path instead of jumping off the bridge. Bonsai is bonsai, is one better than the next just because it was created by one method instead of another?

I will also add that I have seen Yamadori to die for, and if I could, would buy in a heartbeat.
 

grouper52

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Attila posted a very interesting quote concerning stock from Peter Warren's AoB Profile recently, since the discussion on that has died down, I thought it might be a good time to follow up with another interesting quote from Dan Barton's recently posted profile at AoB on the subject of Yamadori.

"The bone fide bonsai enthusiast who has neither the financial means to buy trees nor the ability to acquire collected material is quite content to bimble along enjoying the hobby without getting caught up in the ‘you know what!"

Didn't quite know I was actually bimbling along - bumbling, yes, but bimbling? :D I think the difference is that someone who's serious about bonsai can bumble, but bimbling more accurately decribes us frivolous folks who merely enjoy the hobby. Something like that. Great post, Will. Thanks.

grouper52
 

Attila Soos

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In any case, collected material is by no means the only source of material that will result in good bonsai. Many of the finest classical bonsai have been created from cultivated material. Notably, some of the great broom style zelkovas, some of the mountain and trident maples

I agree. I have many trees started from seed, and now they are close to being finished. But it took 15years. If you want to have something ready in 5 years, yamadori is a better choice.


...the west tend to be in such a hurry ...

I disagree. This is a stereotype, and totally false. The West is in no more hurry than the East. In fact, the East seems to be in such a hurry to catch up with the West, that they are rapidly destroying their own environment. Just look at China: they are creating cities of millions of inhabitants overnight, creating an environmental disaster. What it took the West hundreds of years (to create major cities), they are doing it in a decade.
Same with creating industries: Japan, China, and other Asian countries, as a society, are in a mad rush that we've never seen here in the West. So, who is hurrying here?

Of course, in Japan, there are countless bonsai of several hundreds of years old. If you want to catch up with them, would you grow all bonsai from seed and wait hundreds of years, or rather start with yamadori and save a few hundred years?
By the way, if anyone read The History of Shimpaku Juniper at the site of the World Bonsai Federation, one can see that the Japanese loved yamadori just as much as we do, they collected them into EXTINCTION. So much for crediting them for growing little seedlings.

One more thing. Remember that wonderful book by Saburo Kato: Forest planting & Ezo Spruce Bonsai. Mr. Saburo talks about the best times of his life, going on collecting trips with his father on some island (that now I think it belongs to Russia) that had the most fabulous ezo spruce yamadori. Well, that forest on the cover of the book, did he grow those trees from nursery stock? Sorry Mr. Saburo, what you did was WRONG, you set some impossible standard there. The whole reason that you came out with that book is to make us drool. This is NOT the true spirit of bonsai, when you know damn well that we will never ever be able to obtain material of that caliber!

...and at the same time we mustn’t discount the quick and lucrative turnover that can be obtained from the sale of bonsai created from collected trees. This latter point is, I think, getting closer to the real motivation behind creating bonsai from yamadori material. It sells well!

False.
Nothing wrong in saving time. If I had a means to finish a bonsai in half of the time, I wouldn't hesitate to do it. But this statement is not true for everybody, therefore I call it false. There are many people working on yamadori who don't plan to sell their trees. So, the real motivation for them is not a quick turnover, but the love of working with ancient trees.

The bone fide bonsai enthusiast who has neither the financial means to buy trees nor the ability to acquire collected material is quite content to bimble along enjoying the hobby without getting caught up in the ‘you know what!

Good for them. Yamadori is not for everyone. Yamadori is only for those who can really appreciate it, and who are capable of creating outstanding bonsai out of them.

Enormous pressures by the yamadori boffins is being directed at the whole of the bonsai scene and it is very difficult for ‘Mr Ordinary Bonsai Man’ to enjoy any credibility. This fact is doing so much damage to our hobby as its practice only caters for a very small minority of enthusiasts who have the financial means to pursue it. It is also setting such impossibly high standards of attainment that many aspiring bonsai enthusiasts are being driven away from the hobby because they are finding it too difficult to keep up and are often ashamed of their humble efforts. This really hurts me!

I am sorry, but this doesn't make sense to me.
First, what pressure are we talking about? If someone is doing bonsai as a mild hobby, there is no pressure of any kind. I play tennis for pleasure. Do I feel enormous pressure to become world champion? No, I am happy just to hit the ball over the net, and between the lines. It's a lot of fun.

Setting impossible high standards of attainment? In other words, the trees just are too good.
Well, let's lower the standards and aim for mediocrity. Let our best trees be something that anyone can achieve as long as there is a Home Depot arount. Just to make the beginner feel better about himself, the poor thing.

Too difficult to keep up? With whom? Kimura? Walter Pall?
Well, I don't think that I will try to keep up with him. And I am NOT ashamed of that.:)
On the other hand, if I grow stiks in a pot and I am ashamed of myself that my trees don't look like Kimura's, I beg Dan Barton not to be hurt! It's not his fault, but my stupidity.

There are of course very many advantages in using yamadori material but remember it is mostly the quality of the trunk and mature bark or natural shari that is the prime attraction.

Well, duh.. I can surely see those advantages. That's why I love yamadori.

If nebari (root ramification) and branching is to be considered this often falls short of ideal and some pretty ugly, over-heavy roots can exist..

Sure, there is good yamadori and bad yamadori.
I like the good ones.

Disclaimer:

I made the above comments in good fun. They are my personal feelings, and i don't expect the rest of us to agree with them. I like and respect Dan Barton tremendously, and I also recognize that I see some of the issues differently from the way he sees them.
We are very thrilled that he agreed to the interview, it's a fun and educational read, about a great artist and ambassador of bonsai.
 
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OK Will, where did you dig this guy up from Michigan? ;)

Man, I sure wish Dan lived in Michigan. ;)

It is well worth the time to read Dan's entire interview, it is certainly interesting and it also gives us insight as to how such icons of bonsai view such things as Internet forums, the all too common fights on them, new innovations, and, lest we forget, bonsai.

I found it inspiring that he thinks very highly of the work Nick Lenz has done as well.

I find myself in agreement with most of what he said about yamadori, namely that it has a valid place in bonsai, but it is not the has all and be all that many people make it out to be.

The worth of a bonsai is in the end presentation, not the beginning.


Will
 
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Rick Moquin

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;) ;) ;)

Good comeback Will.

Anyway I have taken the time to read Dan's interview in it's entirety and once again find extremely candid and refreshing.

Because this topic was discussed at length merely 2 weeks ago, I have no intention of getting into the long debates, that transpired from those particular threads. However, I will leave you folks with this:

I firmly believe that there are a number of attributes other than the usual practical ones of aesthetics and horticulture that are essential if we are to truly benefit from all that is available from bonsai and I am referring here to the spirituality of the art. For maximum gain from bonsai I believe we need the following: A love of life; a love of people; a love of nature (especially of trees); we need patience, we need tolerance, commitment and dedication; we need the ability to give as well as to receive and we need to be able to accept the differences in others practicing the art; we need love and we need to be able to give love, but above all, we need humility.

AoB: What would you say was the most important factors to consider when creating a bonsai?

Dan Barton: To find the ‘soul’ in the tree and then do whatever is necessary to release it. This will give it its individuality and unique position in the world of bonsai. Everything else should enhance and support this objective.


... and IMO the source is irrelevant!
 

Tachigi

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The worth of a bonsai is in the end presentation, not the beginning.

I'd have to disagree with you here Will. My personal belief is that the worth of bonsai is the beginning, middle and end. Its the journey we take with each of our trees that provides the worth and equity in them.
 
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I'd have to disagree with you here Will. My personal belief is that the worth of bonsai is the beginning, middle and end. Its the journey we take with each of our trees that provides the worth and equity in them.

A journey to Hell is a wasted one, no matter how much you enjoyed yourself getting there. ;)

A journey without direction is one with many wrong turns, dead ends, wasted time and more often than not, leads to a unwanted destination.

The journey we all undertake is one toward artistic bonsai, even if we don't admit it. Why else we we prune, trim, wired, carve, and so on? Would not pleasure be easier obtained by simply enjoying the growth of a tree? Yes, bonsai is a journey, but it is one toward a measurable end, visually pleasing bonsai. In this sense, the success of the journey and the decisions made during it is measured only by the destination.

Start out going to New York and end up in Michigan, you may claim that the journey is all that matters, but in the end, you're still lost.

In short, you can and should enjoy the journey, but let's not delude ourselves by saying the destination doesn't matter. Our actions speak otherwise.


Will
 

Smoke

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A journey to Hell is a wasted one, no matter how much you enjoyed yourself getting there. ;)

A journey without direction is one with many wrong turns, dead ends, wasted time and more often than not, leads to a unwanted destination.

The journey we all undertake is one toward artistic bonsai, even if we don't admit it. Why else we we prune, trim, wired, carve, and so on? Would not pleasure be easier obtained by simply enjoying the growth of a tree? Yes, bonsai is a journey, but it is one toward a measurable end, visually pleasing bonsai. In this sense, the success of the journey and the decisions made during it is measured only by the destination.

Start out going to New York and end up in Michigan, you may claim that the journey is all that matters, but in the end, you're still lost.

In short, you can and should enjoy the journey, but let's not delude ourselves by saying the destination doesn't matter. Our actions speak otherwise.


Will


Damn this is quite a start to a good year. I agree again.
 

john schacherer

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to me the down side of collecting from the wild is that is that the beautiful masterpiece of mother nature is gone from its home forever. for people who enjoy hiking in the forests and mountains will miss a opportunity to reflect on that masterpiece of nature growing in its natural enviorment. john (new kid on the block)
 
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to me the down side of collecting from the wild is that is that the beautiful masterpiece of mother nature is gone from its home forever. for people who enjoy hiking in the forests and mountains will miss a opportunity to reflect on that masterpiece of nature growing in its natural enviorment. john (new kid on the block)

Excellent reflection on how we can change our environment, John. When we remove a two hundred year old tree from nature, it is gone, for all intents and purposes, forever. This is a subject not often brought up by bonsaists, maybe it should be.

Along the same line of thought....

Is it the purpose of bonsai to create a tree that looks like a tree that has been growing in nature for two hundred years, or is the purpose to pot up a tree that has been growing in nature for two hundred years?

I think we all know the answer.



Will
 

john schacherer

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maybe bonsai shows should have trees that are collected in a seperate section. i sometimes wonder how many junipers are growing in the mountains of japan. john
 

Tachigi

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A journey to Hell is a wasted one, no matter how much you enjoyed yourself getting there.
The fires of hell is what has forged most artistic concepts.
A journey without direction is one with many wrong turns, dead ends, wasted time and more often than not, leads to a unwanted destination.
That is very true and don't believe I suggested it.
Yes, bonsai is a journey, but it is one toward a measurable end, visually pleasing bonsai. In this sense, the success of the journey and the decisions made during it is measured only by the destination.
I agree that the ultimate goal is the finished image, we all aspire to that. However, those decisions may not be realised in our life time. As the ultimate vision may take many years. A fractional amount of time in the trees life. This may not be said about us. So if you don't smell the roses along the way and enjoy the journey towards that goal you may be robbed. Something I believe Dan eluded to.
 
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john schacherer

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is a bonasi ever finished?? its always changing. the joy for me is bringing out the beauty in those changes(or at least trying to) its a journey with a tree for a sidekick.
 

johng

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Tom... I agree with you that the journey is the most valuable part of "growing" bonsai. If it were not, none of us would be doing this...instead we would just acquire finished trees, freeze dry them and hang them on a wall like a painting. IMO there is nothing "wasted" during this journey as long as we are constantly learning and receiving personal satisfaction from the experience.
John
 

AndyWilson

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Great find Will.

That about sums it up better then i ever could. Thank you Dan Barton!
 

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