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Author Topic: Can Shohin Compete  (Read 4988 times)
JRob
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« on: December 08, 2011, 06:53 PM »

Good Evening All,

Most of you know I have only been at this a short time and my experience is limited. So for those of you who have been at this a while - Can and do shohin compete equitably at judged shows against larger specimen bonsai? Or does their smaller size place them at a disadvantage?

In advance, Thanks for your thoughts.

JRob
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John Kirby
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« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2011, 08:08 PM »

sadly, as someone who love shohin, the little guys typically don't have the complexity to beat the big girl and boy bonsai. In US local shows, US great shohin Bonsai can win, but typically because the big trees are mediocre.
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Jay
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« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2011, 08:39 PM »

First let me make it clear my experience and knowledge is closer (and possible less than) JRob and nowhere near Johns. That said I must ask....So what?

Most of us 'do' Bonsai for the love and enjoyment. Our trees (OK my trees) will probably never reach the level of others here. But I doubt that any of you love/enjoy your trees more than I. JRob I can certainly understand the question, I can agree with John's answer but I still don't care. I want my trees to be the best  'I'  can make them.... whether they are show stoppers or not. I enjoy the journey and love the view.

my two cents
Jay
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JRob
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« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2011, 06:27 AM »

Thanks for the responses guys.

For me there is a - so what. Let me explain myself this way.

When my children were young I proudly displayed their art work either done at home or school on the walls in our house. They hung next to the other artwork that I display throughout our home. Those other prints, oils and watercolors are from some pretty well know artist. My sons' art was displayed for exactly the reason Jay stated - I loved and enjoyed them and over the years have kept them and still appreciate them today. But I love and appreciate the other art that I select just as much. But lets be honest my kids pieces will never measure up when judged against the others work. It's not a question of love or appreciate. Its about a comparison to established criteria for what makes something exceptional.

I have a few trees in my collection that remain for purely sentimental reasons and I will love and enjoy them, care for them and nurture them till I die. I will continually work on improving them to established norms. Others which I equally love and enjoy I believe have the possibility of becoming great trees recognized in the wider bonsai community. The judging of bonsai at shows allows me the opportunity to have the "experts/master" critique my work and affirm as artist I am on the right path. I view it as an extremely valuable experience in my bonsai education.

You all know my love of Shohin. I am fortunate because my club has a Shohin Convention here in St. Louis every other year. It is a great venue to exhibit my tress and get valuable comments from well respected Japanese masters on the pieces I am exhibiting. And by their judging see out of a given population which they deem worthy of a ribbon and what I need to strive towards. Most of the shows I've either been to or exhibited in are not shohin specific and therefore the trees are being compared to their larger cousins. I have seen some exceptional shohin not place. The public rarely stops to even appreciate them because they are drawn to the larger trees which I am sure from their perspective have greater presence. The world of Dog shows does not seem to have this issue small sized breeds take Best in Show regularly. The same does not hold true in Bonsai and my question was to probe the reasons as to why.

JRob
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Jay
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« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2011, 06:37 AM »

JRob,
Very well said. I can see, and respect, your point(s) and understand. I guess it is why there are sooo many flavors of ice cream and sooo many different beers, we just see somethings differently.

Jay
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Adair M
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« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2011, 11:07 AM »

JRob,

Judging anything "artistic" is totally subjective. It is impossible for any judge not to have biases or prejustices that influence their decisions.  Right or wrong, it's just part of the game.

I have been away from the Bonsai world for 20 years, and haven't been showing, so I cannot give specific examples, but I can identify with the frustration you are experiencing.

Totally unrelated to Bonsai:  My daughter got into showing horses.  First local shows, then 4H, then big time 4H, then in the big AQHA (Quarter Horse) shows.  As we moved up, the competition got tougher, and the importance of 1) knowing the Judges and what each looks for; 2) having the correct style and color of saddle; 3) having the right show clothing;, 4) having horses of a certain bloodline, etc., mattered.

Sometimes, you would have to show in front of a particular judge several times before they would "really look at you".  If they had seen you ride in previous shows, then they knew you were serious, and would therefore look at you more, which meant you were more likely to get placed than a rookie.

Also, the big horses seemed to place higher.  Don't know exactly why.  It was first apparant to us when we bought our daughter's show horse.  She had shown another horse successfully at local and 4H, but we realized if she were to really compete, she needed a better mount.  And we found one, trained by a successful trainer who took horses to the World Quarter Horse show, and placed well there.  And, when we walked in her barn, we noticed that the horses were all "big" and much taller than the horses most folks have.  Or, should I say, much bigger and taller than the horses WE had, and bigger and taller than the horses we had been competing against at our local shows.

The horse we bought was past his prime, but still extremely talented.  He took my daughter on a great ride:  She was State Champion in 4H, placed 7th in the Southeast 4H championships, and she competed in large and small AQHA shows.  She could do well in the small AQHA shows, but the big AQHA shows would attract the Million dollar horses, and well, when the horse was 6 he could compete against those guys, but not at 16.

But I digress... the point I'm trying to make is judging horse shows is 100% totally subjective, similiar to showing bonsai.  Styles come and go.  Sometimes conifers are preferred to deciduous.  Sometimes you have to have to have an antique Chinese pot, or a hanging scroll, or the perfect accent plant, or whatever, to win.

If I may give one more example:  Some Quarter Horse shows would have two judges.  You could earn double points by showing at a "Combined" show.  In one event my daughter won the Blue Ribbon, under one judge, and did not place under the other.  Go figure.

JRob,  I think your shohin are incredible, and I wish I had your talent for it.  It is unusual that you started off directly into shohin, I think most start with larger trees, then migrate to the minimalist shohin after they have mastered the art.  Congratulations to you for your ability to "skip a step"!


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John Kirby
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« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2011, 12:14 PM »

I think the points about prejudice are fine, politics as well. However, when I have seen well judged shows, the critiques and the rationale are usually quite easy to follow, and believe it or not quite uniform. Go watch the video of Ryan Neal critiquing bonsai in Chicago. The critique as in judging is done against a standard, a theoretical standard, for nebari, for trunk, for branching, for matching of the tree and container and for the impression that the composition gives you. Thus while I understand there are difficulties in judging art, there is an opportunity to get input for optimizing how a tree is presented thru judged shows. If you get hack judges, you will get hack results. You want to see a fun and informative critique? Follow Walter Pall orBill Valvanis or Boon around. Three very different approaches, but they all have consistent and effective approaches.

John
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JRob
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« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2011, 01:10 PM »

Jay, Adiar & John,

Thanks for the feedback everyone. Just to be clear I am not frustrated. Several of my shohin have placed in shows, both shohin specific and not. I feel very fortunate that I have a great job and could afford to jump right in with some quality specimens. I am also very excited that some of my on creations are  coming along nicely. I owe a great deal to others who have taken an interest in my son and myself and we are forever grateful. We have come far quickly. Studying with a professional multiple times a year has helped as well.

My reason for the post is that my observations tell me in my limited experience shohin tend to get overlooked by the general public and I have seen few place in mixed shows. As I said since we've only been at this for three short years I was curious to hear feedback from others. So keep the comments coming.

Thanks all,

JRob
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Don Blackmond
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« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2011, 08:03 PM »

Small trees have done well at the Mid-America Bonsai Exhibit in Chicago.  Matt Ouwinga has placed with shohin trees each of the last several years as I recall (please correct me if I'm wrong).  There are quite a few large trees exhibited in that show so the small stuff has stiff competition.  The judges are good and can tell quality, big or small.
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Leo in NE Illinois
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« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2012, 06:58 PM »

My personal experience with show judges is from the Orchid Show circuit. I have a few national awards for my orchids under my belt. All these shows have a lot of problems in common. The 'Rules' for orchids are very detailed and fine grained, almost to the point of being 'cookie cutter', as a result, anything that doesn't fit the 'rules' gets passed on. New styles or trends in orchid breeding, or methods of display are regularly passed over, because the judges don't know what to do with them. Even if they like what they see, if it doesn't fit the 'rules' they are reluctant to award it. A fate similar to this will be what happens to Bonsai, if they go down the road the orchid people did. More rules, and more categories for exhibition, will mean the more likely something that 'doesn't fit' an easy classification will get ignored. And of course, the orchid people go so far as to do their judging by committee, which really helps in that what rule one judge doesn't know, the other judges might. The 'committee' effect prevents creative and artistic aspects from being truly appreciated, unless it knocks the socks off all the members of the committee.

So bonsai people please, don't let your judging system become like the "Orchid People"

I should make this clear, because typing doesn't catch tone of voice, I do say this light-heartedly and some irony. The orchid system works for orchids. Really not too bad, though what I said is often true. In the case where a new trend in breeding for certain colors, or a new species not seen before, is being shown, I have literally heard judging teams say, "lets not award this, we'll wait and see what other judging centers elsewhere in the country do with it first". That is when you want to choke the whole committee. Especially when the comments were largely positive.

On the other hand, no national award is issued unless 3 or more accredited judges submit scores within 5 points of each other and the average for the group is above the threshold for the award involved. This means if one judge is being "cranky" or just doesn't see it, the other two ask for explanation from the third, then they will argue and re-score the plant until all agree within 5 points on a 100 point scale. This does help eliminate "sweetheart" awards and "cranky old crumudgeons" from killing awards.

I like the freedom I see in the US bonsai shows for the Judge, usually a single judge, to award or not award in accordance with their artistic taste. Its sort of the wild west, anything can happen, beyond the land of "RULES".

We all grow our bonsai, and other plants for a number of different reasons and purposes. Getting a show trophy of some sort really is a great way to validate that your own artistic sense is one that is shared by others, including the Judge. It really says something. It is a tangible acknowledgement of the skills of the exhibitor. (lets not discuss when the owner, exhibitor, artist and grower are all different people) The dialog needs to continue, talk to your local show chairmen and show committees. See if there are ways to tweak the system. But please keep in mind, too many rules and too many categories can actually work against the encouragement of artistic talent.
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Firefighter
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« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2012, 02:35 PM »

Sure they can I have several shohin trees and have won several shows including a Japanese show with shohin . I think it's how you really set your trees up . And I have caught my self sitting everything to far back pull it to the front of the table most of the time we have six feet tables use all of it . A friend and myself were talking about this not long ago . I have had my stuff set up and here comes me on the next weekend because I love big trees to and he slams it down in front of my little trees. My stuff look like a mashed grass so I go to pulling it all to the front and it looks good so pull it to the front

Thanks and have fun
Mike blanton
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MatsuBonsai
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« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2012, 08:43 PM »

Hey Mike. Good to see you posting here.  I hope you're doing well.  I've seen some of your wonderful shohin at the Nashville show, and if memory serves you've got at least one killer big tree. Wink

As I'm sitting here with a pulled muscle or pinched nerve or whatever in my back, shohin is gaining a special place in my heart.
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Dirk
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« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2013, 02:20 PM »

Personally I think that a good shohin is a lot more difficult to create the  a larger bonsai. It can be quicker though.
Dirk
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AlexV
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« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2013, 06:18 PM »

Stick to shows that are judged by professionals, by which I mean those trained in Japan or have other wise proven themselves masters such as Walter Pall.  As others have said, they see quality in whatever size or package it is in because they are trained to do so.  They will give consistent feedback that will improve your trees.  Even better is having a professional work with you on a regular basis.

The real difference in size is that with shohin you have no margin for error, because of how few branches you have.  It means every twig has to be right.  On a larger tree, you have a lot more room for out of place branches or other flaws that can be hidden.  Shohin have no room to conceal flaws, they jump right out at you.  It means shohin get judged equally overall, but per twig, they are graded much harder.

It also means, that a world class shohin is often more valuable than it's larger cousin, because it is harder to make.  A bonsai professional from Japan told me the really wealthy live in the city and have all sizes of trees, the wealthy live in cities and tend to have small trees, because they don't have space for larger trees.  Those that live in the country and have space often have many more large trees than they would if they lived in the city.  I thought it was an interesting perspective. 

He concluded that people's preference for trees is often dictated by the amount of space they have available and their level of commitment to bonsai.
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