Author Topic: Professional Bonsai Debate  (Read 4680 times)

Rkovo

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Professional Bonsai Debate
« on: November 25, 2012, 01:10 PM »
I am hoping to stir up a debate here on the forums,

Most people think in order to become a Bonsai professional, one must give up just about everything and move to the island country of Japan, and study under a "master". I follow many different blogs, some of professionals, some amateurs, and many apprentices.

My question to everyone is, Can someone become a professional without studying in Japan?


If any of you read any of the many blogs, Peter Tea was just told by Mr. Tanaka that his apprenticeship was nearing completion after just two years even though he was planning for a several more, while other bloggers I read are approaching year 7. Peter gives major credit to Boon for readying him for Japan.

I know that much of the apprenticeship is based on the knowledge of masters, masters, master passed down generationally for probably thousands of years, but with the technology we have today, sharing the information has never been been easier.
 

dre

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2012, 01:26 PM »
that an easy one you could become a master in the usa in this day an age by apprenticing under a master that live here in the usa there are many of them or you could just do as nick lenz has done made a name for himself and he and his work are known all round the work
 

cbobgo

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2012, 01:42 PM »
I think most would consider Brent Walston to have a master's level of bonsai knowledge, but he never apprenticed under anyone.

There's always more than 1 way to do everything.  Studying in Japan is certainly a great way to learn it, but there are certainly other ways.

- bob
 

dre

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2012, 01:44 PM »
if theres a will theres a way
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2012, 03:08 PM »
There are a lot of people out there that call themselves professionals and make the rounds in the teaching circuit giving out bad advice.  Unfortunately it's difficult to know who knows their stuff and who is just reciting from books.

I'm all for supporting bonsai professionals in the US.  It just so happens those that I believe to be good have been (or are being) trained in Japan.

 

William N. Valavanis

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2012, 03:59 PM »
This topic interest me, having attempted to become a professional bonsai artist, educator and scholar.

Drive, passion and exposure, are, perhaps more important than who one studies with in the bonsai world. But, it just so happens that if one has those three attributes, they end up in Japan to study with those who have excelled with bonsai. And, they too have drive, passion and exposure.

Remember, the bonsai artists in Japan ARE exposed to many more bonsai than those outside of Japan. They see lots of trees which they can study, they attend many exhibitions (usually with over one hundred quality bonsai which have been in training for longer than the artist has been alive) and they have the opportunity to work on trees with guidance from those with decades of first hand experience which have been handed down from their teachers.

It is also important to realize that there are different levels of bonsai in Japan. Although there are many professionals here, some Japanese bonsai artists are not as talented as some westerners. Exposure is important.

A Japanese bonsai scholar, who talented, skilled and well known as an award winner of masterpieces once said that to create a fine-quality bonsai requires only 20% talent and 80% is dependent on the plant material. I guess it's "garbage in, garbage out." However it requires real talent to determine what is garbage and what is not. Some can easily see a specimen and determine what they can do to the plant material, and that depends on their experience and what they have seen.

By the way, IF one is a professional bonsai artist in the west, can one make a living at the art on only in the bonsai world? Studying bonsai in Japan, mastering the Japanese language and having a horticultural degree does not guarantee that one can make a living at only bonsai...

By the way, Japanese bonsai are not the only style of bonsai to study. I wonder why there are not many westerners who travel to China to study…
 

dre

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2012, 08:15 PM »
William N. Valavanis what happened that you were not able to become a bonsai professional there the means of studying in japan. cause lets use you as an example you may have not completed a study in japan but your are a bonsai professional and it's been told to me that your japanese tour you do are one of the best as you know many people in japan and make it a very unique experience
 

Yenling83

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2012, 12:25 PM »
With anyone I study with, I’d make sure to see the quality of trees in their backyard and want to know that either they worked on them, or their students worked on them.  I’d also prefer to see what type of work the teachers students are putting out. 

I feel that to become a professional in the U.S. you should either put in some time apprenticing in Japan or learn from one of the small handful of people who have already studied in Japan.  If you don’t apprentice in Japan I feel you should start out charging less than someone who has apprenticed until your talent and reputation can surpass the other pros.  Either way it’s not just about apprenticing, but more so about the quality of work-with that said the people I would most want to study from right now who are currently in the U.S. would be Boon, Michael and Ryan.  Peter is also super talented and would be a fantastic person to learn from starting after June 2013.     
 

Rkovo

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2012, 04:03 PM »
Yenling

My plan is definetly take classes from Peter.
 

Jay

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2012, 05:23 PM »
Yenling, all those you mention would be good..... But may I add a couple of names to this 'wish' list of teachers.

Bill for sure. As well as Suthin and David Easterbrook. The quality of work that these individuals have is mind blowing. For many reasons I can not look for an apprenticeship but if one was available with one of the above and you could get it, you would be in very good hands

My two cents
Jay
With anyone I study with, I’d make sure to see the quality of trees in their backyard and want to know that either they worked on them, or their students worked on them.  I’d also prefer to see what type of work the teachers students are putting out. 

I feel that to become a professional in the U.S. you should either put in some time apprenticing in Japan or learn from one of the sall handful of people who have already studied in Japan.  If you don’t apprentice in Japan I feel you should start out charging less than someone who has apprenticed until your talent and reputation can surpass the other pros.  Either way it’s not just about apprenticing, but more so about the quality of work-with that said the people I would most want to study from right now who are currently in the U.S. would be Boon, Michael and Ryan.  Peter is also super talented and would be a fantastic person to learn from starting after June 2013.     

 

thuan L.

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2012, 07:11 PM »
"My question to everyone is, Can someone become a professional without studying in Japan?"

YES!

Great thread! Here are my thoughts, would you not agree bonsai is a combination of horticultural skills and artistic talent? One can learn all the "secret" bonsai techniques of the Japanese masters and gain valuable experience from Japan but artistic talent cannot be taught. Also someone can have all the bonsai knowledge and artistic talent but lack the ability to teach which renders them less efficient. I commend all the artists that have gone and studied in Japan but like the old saying "theres more than one way to skin a cat" Just my two cents!
 

William N. Valavanis

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2012, 08:08 PM »
What IS a professional?

All "professional" means is that someone is charging or selling for their services. It does NOT have anything to do with quality. I believe there are professional athletes which are not good. And that also applies to school teachers and college professors, which I'm sure people have encountered their lives.

I know several amateur bonsai hobbyists who can run circles around many of the professional bonsai teachers now teaching and selling bonsai.

Bill
 

John Kirby

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2012, 08:21 PM »
Shall we revisit the art vs craft conversations again?

Anyone who doesn't think that Bill V is a professional bonsai artist is, well, confused.

i think the salient point from Bill's initial post is the difficulty in making a living solely from professional bonsai activities. Hence the old adage, "How do you end up with a Million Dollars from Bonsai? Start with $2million."

The Japanese trained guys (no gals yet?) have the opportunity to learn and master profound technical tools, that when coupled with artistic vision, can give them profound skills. Those of us who have been around for a while have seen Japanese trained Americans who come back with no discernible bonsai skills, and some come back and erode.

Anyway, in the US we are stuck with traveling artists/professionals who are asked to hack some poor piece of material up and then watch as it is raffled of to someone who may or may not be able to do whatever next step that needs to be done.

Off my soapbox.
 

Elliott

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2012, 10:28 PM »
I think first you have to define what a bonsai pro is. Lets say for the sake of argument, that a bonsai pro is someone who is getting by making a living by teaching bonsai.
 I think that for the moment, it's very hard to make a living just teaching bonsai if you have not done an apprenticeship. Although there are some who are able to do it currently.
 In the future, if and when bonsai gets more popular and the demand for information surpasses what the people who studied in Japan can offer (there are only so many hours in a day) than those who have completed an apprenticeship under an American "master" such as Ryan and the others coming out of Japan. May be able to also make a living without study time in Japan.
 But we need to start spending our $ on the current pros and creating higher standards for what we allow to go on our show bench. I think the current trend with the Rochester show, the Artisan's cup and the Golden state bonsai association's addition of a Judged show at there convention's are a good way to step up our game and create a need for the bonsai pro.                                                    
 Also. before we can start supporting more bonsai pros, we need to look at the Japanese and European model. Over in Japan and Europe, it is very common for someone to exhibit a tree that they did not create. It is not a stigma to show somebody Else's work. It's like buying an expensive painting and showing it in an art gallery. The tag will say artist and owner. Most cases in Japan, artist and owner are not the same. Some people over there own many famous trees and don't even water them. They are kept at nurseries tended to by the pros and there students.
 Over here, I have noticed it's very common for somebody to buy a tree, do some light work on it, put in a show and take all the credit for it. THAT, I don't agree with and it's not what I'm talking about.
 Probably rite now the easiest way to make a living off of bonsai is through a bonsai related business, such as a nursery, but does not make you a pro.
 On a club level, paying the people you ask to come out and do a demo as much as the club can afford, will also incease the general economy of bonsai and encourage more people to invest in an education in bonsai. Many clubs are still paying what they paid for a demo 30 years ago and have not even considered a cost of living increase. Such shortsightedness keeps bonsai as a mom n pop Hobie and not the wonderful art form it is.
 

Owen Reich

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Re: Professional Bonsai Debate
« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2012, 05:38 AM »
I feel John's point about material quality is important.  Yengling's statement about seeing a given pro's work is too. 

The whole business of demonstrations I feel needs to be re-evaluated; not saying I can't / won't do them.  It is unfair to the pro and plant at times.  Going from rough stock to a presentable bonsai takes longer than 4-6 hours. 

Do you need to study in Japan to be a pro?  No.  It certainly doesn't hurt though for the reasons Bill V. mentioned (exposure to 1000's of bonsai and instruction by a skilled sensei).   Just studying in Japan doesn't make you "good".   

Does the given person enjoy teaching and have good communication skills?  Are they full of $#!¥ when answering scientific questions?  Are they striving for artistic expression no matter the form?  What of their reputation for keeping bonsai not just alive, but healthy?   I say all this as a pro in the making without a long track record of teaching yet.  These are things I wanted from pros or opinions I held when I was still a "civilian"  :)

Looking forward to proving myself worthy of the mantle of pro.  One final thought is the matter of specialization.  One way I feel the quality bar can be raised is by focused work on a given realm of bonsai, and teaching it.  To some extent this is already happening.  Hopefully it will continue.