Progression

Posted: September 26, 2013 in Aichi-en tree's, Bonsai, Bonsai styling, Japan
Tags: ,

Recently I was given three akamatsu (Japanese red pine) work on. The way it works here is we are assigned a tree to work on, given some very simple instructions eg. Wire this tree, cut this tree, etc and the rest is up to us.
Akamatsu can be tricky to work with because they can snap with no warning when you try to bend them, especially small finger thick branches. Also the needles can some times be slightly frail, even when hardened off (depending from tree to tree). Aside that I think they are very nice trees, they can have really good bark in time, delicate looking and respond with multiple buds when candle cut.

Here’s the first tree that I styled, before work.

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Here's Juan San getting in on the action giving scale (I'm sure I've seen that pose somewhere before?!?)

Here’s Juan San getting in on the action giving scale (I’m sure I’ve seen that pose somewhere before?!?)

It wasn’t a straight forward tree. It wasn’t going to be a normal informal upright and the front wasn’t obvious to me at the time, hence why the picture here is in fact ended up the back but, I thought this showed off the movement the best with all it’s needles.

I set about pulling the needles to tufts of about ten pairs. I then went about wiring the bottom branch whilst making my decision on what front to use. It was going to beone of two sides. After I’d wired it I decided that the original photo was going to be difficult to make the front and the trunk looked better from the other side.

I then wrapped the branches that need to be significantly bended (though there were no major bends were needed on this tree) with a kind of plastic tape we use here instead of raffia, which we get from the home centre here. I know their are professionals that swear by raffia and will use nothing else. My feeling after using this that using other material is fine, if it works well. Raffia does have it’s draw backs. You need to wet if before use and it needs to be still wet before bending. Also it can be a pain to remove at a later date sticking to the bark. That’s not such a problem if it’s a juniper but, pines are another matter. Where as the tape we use can go straight on and removes easily with just a cut and unwind. Raffia being breathable is utter tosh, since last time I checked tree’s certainly don’t breath through their bark/trunks.
In severe cases where the tree is growing strongly the tape can constrict the tree and may have to be removed and this needs to be monitored.

Here was the tree after initial styling by me.

Front

Front

Back

Back

Later Oyakata corrected my tree and here was the result.

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Notably he moved the first branch on the left to the left and upward, lowered the back branch and improved the branch structure over all. He told me that I needed to improve my branch structure. Some thing that I kept in mind for the next one.

Take two..

This was the second tree that I had to work on after the needles being pulled.

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Although I found the front easier this time it was obvious that this wasn’t a simple tree. The front I chose was roughly the first photo. I then set about wiring and wrapping anywhere that needed.
Here was the first branch after wiring.
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The second and third branches wired and the top compressed in.

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Here was the final result.

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I wasn’t entirely happy with top I felt I stuck out a little too far and I thought it would be what Oyakata would adjust.

Oyakata then set about correcting my tree. He said that the front I had chosen was good but, their was a straight section as the trunk came down past the main trunk and it wasn’t in-keeping with the nice movement of the tree. This was improved and the branches we’re adjust accordingly. He also compressed the top even more than I had done which, brought the apex in and improved from sticking out so much. Something I’m also learning is that Oyakata has no fear when bending (even with red pines)! Something I need to take on.
Here was the end result.

Front

Front

Side

Side

Other side

Other side

Back

Back

Ok, trying to take all this on board I set about trying to improve my performance on the next one. (Bare with me, on the home straight).

Take 3..

Here was the tree before styling.
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There was an obvious front (pic 1) but, looking at it from the side there was a potentially better front from the side (pic 2) although this isn’t visible in the photo. I preferred the new front but, I consulted Oyakata about this before hand to be sure. It seems the best policy with any major alterations. He said to use the original front as he wanted to sell the tree later in the fall/autumn. So I see to work prepping the tree with plastic and started wiring.
The tree needed the top half bending to improve the movement and make it look more natural. This would also bring down the tree as it was tall and very wide. I’m afraid I don’t have any photo’s with something for scale but, it was so wide it took up nearly the whole width of the screen to take a photo.
Other major work included removing the first left branch as it was too leggy and had bad structure. I then brought a branch from the back to take it’s place.

Here was the end result after working on it.

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It was then down to Oyakata as usual to adjust and correct. The main change he made was to compress the apex down even more than was already done. Doing this the branches then needed to be re-adjusted accordingly. I talked to him about this after and the reason he did this was to make the tree look more unique. If it was style as compressed as I did it, the tree would look more like many other tree’s you see. Something else to consider when styling in the future.
The bottom branches wer also adjusted. The left branch brought up a little, the back branch brought down to make it more visible and the right moved out a little to give the tree a little more direction.

The final result.

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Thanks for sticking with me, it was a hefty post but, I hope you enjoyed it.

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Comments
  1. Shah says:

    Great post John hard trees to work on I think you did a great job

  2. Dave Martin says:

    Certainly not the easiest of trees for you to work with.
    It seems you doing right as the alterations were quite minor. Glad to see you are progressing well.

  3. dangerousbry says:

    Reblogged this on DangerousBry's Blog and commented:
    Fantastic work… Definitely worth a REBLOG šŸ˜‰

  4. Elliott Farkas says:

    You are so lucky to get to work on one piece of material after another like that! Such a great way to quickly learn. I plan on doing an aprenticehip soon and my mouth is watering looking at these trees, but I’m already getting some jitters from the pressure there must be to get it right.
    I also commend you on showing your mistakes and corrections. It shows your confidence and helps us learn more also.
    Keep it up!
    Elliott

    • Thanks Elliott, I’m trying to keep it as realistic as possible by showing mistakes and corrections. I’ve got a long way to go but, that’s why I’m here to learn. Good luck with your bonsai apprenticeship adventure, I hope it lives up to everything you want and more.

  5. Brian McGrath says:

    Hi John
    Great tree but I think that pot has to go. What do you think.
    I’m probably wrong and it’s a very expensive pot from some famous potter.
    Qualicum Brian

    • Hi Brian,

      The pot isn’t very expensive, it’s a modern Japanese and not a famous maker. The pot isn’t too bad a match but, a better match could be made. I talked to Oyakata about it and he said that the tree used to be in an oval pot but, the feeling with it in that pot was a little bit too small so, it got changed. He prefers oval’s for Japanese maples and I have to agree. Pots of that size or bigger are difficult to come by, even in Japan and often need to be commissioned which is expensive. Tree’s are rarely kept in very expensive pot’s in Japan (too dangerous with earth quakes, huricane’s, snow, etc) and normally they are changed out for exhibitions. Quite often they are rented from professionals as pots can run into ten’s of thousand’s of dollar’s, for a potentially top prize at an exhibition.

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