Author Topic: Choosing a shoku  (Read 43034 times)

akeppler

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Choosing a shoku
« on: June 19, 2009, 08:20 PM »
What is a shoku?
A shoku is a bonsai display table.

Choosing a Bonsai Table

The ability to create art from plants is a very complicated craft. It takes many years of education and constant practice to develop art from something as horticulturaly diverse as a living tree. Our tools are designed by bonsai artists, with horticultural and functional ideas in mind. These tools are works of art and we strive to have every one produced in as many sizes as the pocketbook will allow.

Our pots come from every corner of the world. Hand made, pressed into homemade molds and thrown on the wheel. Glazes cover the entire color spectrum and the breadth of color is breathtaking. Drips, fissures and crackled textures have elevated bonsai pottery into a collectable pastime.

Our bonsai has been finely crafted from some of the most beautiful tools and planted into richly embellished and beautifully crafted bonsai pots. The bonsai is placed on the table for the photograph. The photograph registers the mistakes of the artist. The imagery has been lost on the improper stand. The stand may be too large or too small. The gender is wrong and now it glares for all to see. This short primer may shed new light on how to display a bonsai properly.

Form follows function

Obviously, the top of a table must have a flat surface to hold the bonsai on the table. The structure holding this flat surface can be almost any configuration possible and it’s only limitation is the craftsmen’s vision. Curved legs or straight, carved legs, stretchers and loops. Racks and bi-level configurations round out the display persons arsenal. Display tables for bonsai can be grouped just like the forms associated with the plants or pots.

Japanese
Chinese
Freeform
Formal
Informal
Masculine
Feminine

These terms again can be combined to narrow the scope of the table to just what the artist is thinking while placing the Bonsai on the table. The table could be a Formal Japanese with masculine lines. Or a Chinese Informal with feminine lines. There are clues, which can help us to determine what makes a table Japanese or Chinese. First, the legs are the first things that give away the country of origin. Most Japanese legs turn outward, while Chinese legs turn inward. These legs may be connected or braced with a stretcher or be left alone. Simple lines tend to be Japanese while intricate carving and garish lines tend to follow Chinese origins. Chinese stands also tend to me more polished while the Japanese counterparts will be more subtle in finish.

Some general rules about choosing a table

·   The table should be of adequate size for the potted plant. The top of most tables will have a centerboard surrounded by a border. This border may me firmly attached or attached by a mechanical form of attachment that allows expansion. This expansion joint is critical to the life of the table allowing the top to expand and contract in differing humidic conditions. Since trees may display over a period of days, this moisture can transfer through the pot to the wood. Expansion with no place to go can cause mitered joints to expand and crack.

·   The tree should have at least a good proportion of border around the pot to the expansion joint on top of the tale. The pot should be contained within the border and not cross over it. Crossing over the border is considered a fault in an exhibit.

·   The height of the table should be proportionate with the tree and pot together. Compensation for Shitakusa should also be considered when ordering a commissioned table for a specific plant.

·   The wood is also a consideration when choosing a stand as well as the type of wood. Some wood will have a busy pattern of grain and may deter from the composition. Color of the table is also important due to the harmony between tree, pot and table. The color of the trunk should be considered with pot selection as well as the color of the table. All three should harmonize and not detract from the over all image being presented.

·   Keep it simple. Garish or over intricate stands deter from the overall image. Many times a good compositional image will be spoiled by a stand that overpowers the composition.

Lose the stand when in doubt

There are times when the stand should just be put away and the tree placed on a slab or other suitable arrangement. Grass mats are to be used in spring and summer while wood slabs are used for fall and winter. Trees should always be held in reverence and placed on a suitable table. Be smart in the selection of your first stand and buy simple and a little larger than needed to help make use of the stand for other trees. Of course the best scenario is to have a stand for each of your prized trees making sure that each compliments the tree for it’s life. In Japan, black lacquer boards are often used to display bonsai. While these can cost hundreds of dollars to import, thy can be constructed from suitable boards and painted or coated with multiple coats of clear lacquer to simulate what is in Japan. Similarly, rough boards removed from a fence or old building can be arranged in an offset pattern and used to display bonsai. These type stands are often used to display Literati trees when a rustic appearance is desirable. Remember to keep it simple and don’t over do.

Why is that upright tree on a cascade stand?

A cascade stand can be used to elevate a tree to much higher proportions. It does not have to be a cascade or semi-cascade tree that is displayed on a cascade stand. Many times when a vertical element is needed or a fine tree needs a higher platform, a cascade stand can be used to do the job. It using the cascade stand for an upright tree many times a thin slab will be used and the stand placed on the slab and then the tree placed on the stand. Many times this is an ancillary arrangement using a small tree as a companion tree in a four-point display.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2009, 08:58 PM by akeppler »
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2009, 08:37 PM »
My opinions of some stands that work and don't work.

These trees have thick trunks and are masculine in nature requireing larger stands that add heft to the feel without being overpowering. These are nice choices.
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2009, 08:39 PM »
These two trees have a heavy feel but have been displayed on tables that are too feminine or exhibit legs not in proportion to the image.

The formal upright cedar looks out of place with the thin stand with curved legs. Too informal for this very formal, classical tree.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2009, 09:11 PM by akeppler »
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2009, 08:46 PM »
This tree is powerful and has a huge trunk...6 inches across. I can't seem to get past the ornate Chinese stand.


Maybe a very nice slab would do better for this squat powerful image?
« Last Edit: June 19, 2009, 09:09 PM by akeppler »
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2009, 08:48 PM »
Literati should not be elevated by a stand. They should be exhibited on a slab whenever possible.
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2009, 08:49 PM »
This fine literati is exhibited very nicly on a thin wooden burl slice. A very fine exhibit.
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2009, 08:52 PM »
Some nice examples of upright trees on cascade stands for visual effect. Very nice displays.

This seems to be employed more with shohin groupings than larger trees.
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2009, 08:53 PM »
Formal black pine....
Formal shoku...

sublime...



Discussion?
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2009, 08:16 PM »
Al,

Great post.  I'm still digesting most of it. 



I remember this tree, and the attempt to find an appropriate stand.  The stand was switched out at least 3 or 4 times before the owner finally settled on this one.  I'm ok with the height of the stand, but agree that the legs/weight/appearance is just not right.  If I remember correctly this seemed the best of the choices.

I have more photos to share as well, but can't find them at the moment.  There were a ton of unused stands "backstage" that members brought.  That's the great thing about a good club is the willingness of it's members to help one another create the best display.

I'm sure I'll have more comments as I continue to digest this post.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2009, 08:20 PM by MatsuBonsai »
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2009, 10:41 PM »
Al,

Great post.  I'm still digesting most of it. 



I remember this tree, and the attempt to find an appropriate stand.  The stand was switched out at least 3 or 4 times before the owner finally settled on this one.  I'm ok with the height of the stand, but agree that the legs/weight/appearance is just not right.  If I remember correctly this seemed the best of the choices.

I have more photos to share as well, but can't find them at the moment.  There were a ton of unused stands "backstage" that members brought.  That's the great thing about a good club is the willingness of it's members to help one another create the best display.

I'm sure I'll have more comments as I continue to digest this post.

At our recent Toko-Kazari, (which by the way Boon has already penciled us in for next year) it was heard of Hideko Metaxis that when "one wishes to enter the art of bonsai display, then you have to have 200 stands and 200 scrolls, at that point you may be able to make one good display". Man is she correct on that one.
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2009, 11:54 AM »
Irene, I will try to include some photo's of what designates some of the more easy to determine styles. This is by no means a really conclusive list nor does it mean that just by includeing the appropriate stand your display will win. It will go along ways towards keeping points being deducted and that may be all that is necessary.

In a artist profile done a few years back at AoB I talked about the need to improve how we choose the right table for a tree and the need to get it tree appropriate. I think we are moving in that direction as I see tree table matches improve every year.

First the Japanese stand. Mostly subdued and simple. Feet will usually turn outwards. Like bonsai pots, stands started in China. Japan took off with the idea and improved as well as simplified the lines. Sometimes  Japanese stands will carry a sumari or fuedal flavor which can be very powerful with the right tree.

Most antique stands were Chinese or Japanese writing tables. Much like the small plastic table we give our kids while sick in bed to take their supper. Japanese children would sit on the floor and place this writing desk over their legs to study. Many of the tables became bonsai stands from necessity since they did not have tree specific tables. Many would just cut the legs down to make a lower table.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2009, 12:29 PM by akeppler »
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2009, 11:56 AM »
The Chinese stand will have more inturned legs. The table will have carving or lace effects or carved designs. High polish on the finish will make the stand more "in your face" at a display.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2009, 12:10 PM by akeppler »
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2009, 12:04 PM »
Freeform stands do not have any real qualifiers as to country of origin. They allow a little freedom of expression and can really allow plants to shine when the table is done right.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2009, 12:29 PM by akeppler »
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2009, 12:09 PM »
A formal type stand will be of such simplistic ideals and smooth lines. It will have very rigid lines and square corners. It will be the stand that goes unoticed in the display. It is there for only one purpose...To give a solid platform for admiring all the tree has to show.
 

akeppler

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Re: Choosing a shoku
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2009, 12:14 PM »
The informal stand will have soft curving legs and unlike the masculinity of the formal stand the informal stand will have an air of femininity.