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Sunday, June 22, 2014



I am willing to perform demonstrations in the standard way. I will work on all sorts of trees in all sorts of forms.

Please check out Material for Bonsai Demonstrations to see what one should offer. If in Europe, I can bring my own material. In North America I can sometimes find the right material for you. I can work on very complex trees in the standard two to four hours if I have one or two assistants. I try to make a demonstration educational and entertaining at the same time.

With assistant(s) it's even possible to work with several trees in parallel.

I normally need all kinds of wire, preferably copper wire from 1 to 6 mm. Power tools: a regular die grinder, like Makita, speed 20,000 to 25,000 turns per minute, preferably speed adjustable, opening for 1/4 inch or 6 mm bits; several bits for this grinder. Another Dremel like grinder with 3mm opening and bits. A small torch which is used for jewelry or glass work or also for the kitchen. Sometimes I need a large torch which is used for regular household or craft. It should have a long flexible shaft. This torch is available in any hardware store. In addition there should be an assortment of normal bonsai tools available. A turn table which really turns and which can be fixed is also a good idea.

Demonstration of new techniques

Lots of folks are quite interested to learn about new and often drastic techniques for bonsai styling. This can be exiting for the audience and the teacher. It should be assured though, that the audience is really advance and capable to grasp what is going on. An innocent audience will think this is terrible, although it is really quite professional. Such demonstrations are NOT a good idea for general club members and certainly not for the broad public. I will NOT do this on big conventions.

Extended Tree Inspiration (Tree Critique)

This is the starting segment of the International Bonsai Academy.

It is called 'tree critique', but I prefer the term 'Tree Inspiration' - it is more positive and tells what is really happening.

Instead of standard demonstrations or workshops I have developed another concept for a major lecture: People bring one or several trees to the public critique. The trees can be in all stages of development: outright raw material, intermediate and 'finished' bonsai. They can be in all variations of quality: very poor, normal, very good. I usually work on a stage in front of a seated audience.

Normally I get from 10 to 30 trees for such a lecture. I then thoroughly analyze every single tree and discuss it with the audience if there is interest. Make sure that everybody understands that a tree critique is about hearing the truth about a tree, as I see it. It is not so  much about what a student wants to do but what I would do personally if I had to work on this tree. Such a session can last from two hours to four hours. This can be extended to up to 50 trees for a full day. While I will definitely say what I would do nobody is forced to follow me. Everybody can make up their own mind about this and make their own conclusions. I only try hard to stat people think more than they often do.

I will mainly speak abut artistic concepts and stress point which go beyond the regular well known 'rules'. I will also speak in depth about horticultural aspects if necessary.

A Tree Inspiration is of value for the person who owns that tree, that's clear. It must be made understood that in addition it is of similar value to all others who are watching. Often others are more ready to accept change to a certain tree than the owner. It is like education your neighbors kids and having problems with your own.

The advantages over a regular demo: very educational, very entertaining, no cost to the club for demo trees, no killing of trees on stage, no problems of providing the right kind of demo material, interesting for all levels of experience, from outright novices to masters. Even people who do not practice bonsai for themselves find these sessions very educational and entertaining. It is like watching a cooking show on TV without ever cooking.The advantages over a regular workshop: more educational than a normal workshop, more participants possible, in fact, the number is almost unlimited, participants with all levels of experience find it interesting.

The advantage for clubs is that a real lot of people, like even 50 or more can be invited and asked to participate and pay a fee. Some clubs charge more for people who bring a tree. So many folks can watch an event which usually teaches more than a regular workshop and pay much less.

While an Extended Tree Inspiration can well be a stand-alone event it usually is followed by a workshop. Some or all participants who have watched the Tree Inspiration work on some or all of these trees afterwards. This could be in the afternoon of the same day or on following day. If I have one or two good assistants to help the advanced beginners or intermediate students I can handle from 12 up to 15 students per workshop. Again this can help to bring the cost per student down a lot.

Beginners can learn a real lot in the Tree Critique. I suggest that it would be better for beginners to listen to this rather than taking a workshop immediately. If there are many beginners in the following workshop the number can only be 6 to 8 folks.

It must be stressed that my way of running  workshops is different form what is often done: I make it clear what options are on each tree but I try to never touch it. The students work and I watch them - not the other way around. I only help when really necessary and when asked, but I will not style somebodies tree in a workshop. It must be clear that I am trying not to be a bonsai fundamentalist. While it  is made clear what I would do personally every student can do what they want to do in my workshops.

I think this concept can dramatically change the mainstream demonstrations and regular workshops. I have the strong feeling that something must be done here. The public obviously does not accept the old-fashioned way as it used to anymore.

One idea is to have several masters doing a critique on the same trees on stage. Like one hour master #1, one hour master #2 etc.. A very interesting way of doing it is that the same tree is critiqued by master #1 then master #2 adds to this. The next tree is started by master #2 and master #1 adds to it. etc..This could be quite interesting and entertaining. People in all stages of expertise should want to see this. We could get back the major part of the audience which we are loosing with standard demonstrations.

If doing this for a whole day or even for two consecutive days it is advisable to include some additional presentation. It could be about 'Bonsai Styles', 'Development of Broadleaved Trees', Development of Conifers', 'Fairy Tale Bonsai Style', 'Bonsai Photography' and similar. l Usually I do not only speak about a specific tree only but add some subjects whenever appropriate. This could be bonsai philosophy, general design and art concepts applied to bonsai etc..

BTW: in case you are worried about the general tone of such a critique, I do know about the cultural differences. A critique in Europe will be much more direct than in America. An obvious amateurish tree will get moderate critique to not hurt a beginner too much. But I call a spade a spade in the end.

Tree critique (which I call Tree Inspiration)

This is the normal procedure as handled in North America. It can be public or private. I walk through an exhibit or a collection and speak about all or most trees. I analyze the tree as I see it and give constructive criticism. I say what I would do if it were my tree.

It must be understood that to be of value a tree critique is not an exercise in diplomacy. It is not about being nice to trees or people. it is about analyzing trees and giving workable advice. Sometimes people misunderstand this. It is more about what the artist thinks and not so much about what the student thinks.

The number of participants for a tree critique is almost unlimited. It can be one person; it can be a dozen to twenty if in an exhibit area where there is only so much room for the audience; it can be hundreds if the critique is on stage in a big hall and the trees are delivered on stage.

If you worry about the tone, see above.


I offer regular workshops too. Every workshop begins with a thorough tree critique of all trees. This is interesting not only to the owner of the tree, but also to the other workshop participants and possibly a silent observing public. It can take an hour or more. Then people should start working on their tree themselves.

I do not touch people's trees normally, I do not make the decision for them, I give them several options, I do not style the tree for them. I inspire people to do what they really can do for themselves. I want people to walk away with the strong feeling that they have done it themselves and they can do it again. If you want people to have a good tree in the end which really the master has styled, then take another artist. If you want people to really learn something in a workshop, you can take me.

The maximum number of participants varies:

5 or 6 beginners. They must have a basic understanding of bonsai and they must have had some introductory courses.
8 intermediate.
10 advanced to very advanced.
The material used is totally up to the organizers. I work with anything. It is a good idea to provide material which is challenging for the level of the participants. It is not a good idea to bring a tree which the owner knows exactly what to do with. It is perfectly OK to bring several trees to choose from. 'Impossible' trees are OK. Often they are possible, sometimes not; bring an extra one for this case.

For more reading about material please check out: Garbage for Dinner at Bonsai Talk

Silent observers are welcome if the workshop participants agree.

Powerpoint (slide) presentations

I need a regular PC with Windows an MS Power Point installed. It can be a desk-top. If the audience is small, I can present right from the monitor screen. If the audience is larger there should be a connection between the PC and a large TV set or a projector.

Presentations available:

Development of conifers: from the tree on the mountain to a 'masterpiece' in several examples. Detailed explanation what to do and what not. See some examples in the gallery of what to expect. From one hour to 90 minutes.
Development of non-conifers: similar to above.
Trees in nature and what we can learn from them. America: 45 to 90 minutes.
Trees in nature and what we can learn from them. Europe: 45 to 90 minutes.
Bonsai styling seminar, naturalistic style: 45 to 90 minutes.
Any other general subject that you agree with me well in advance. I will try to prepare a professional presentation.

Unfortunately I cannot do old-fashioned slide presentations with 32/24 mm slides anymore.


I have developed the concept of moderating several artists who work in parallel on stage.

A single standard demonstration often can be quite boring. Either the artist is not a good entertainer although being a good artist. Or there comes the time of endless carving or wiring and everybody falls asleep or leaves the room.

When several artists are working in parallel there is always something going on which is of interest. A moderator makes sure that there is not a boring moment, that all artists can speak when they have something to say, that the public can ask questions or even participate in a discussion if feasible, that everything runs smoothly. A moderator can even be translator at the same time. We all were bored before by poor translations on stage. It is very helpful if the moderator knows what he speaks about.

A good moderator makes sure that the work of the artist is shown in the best light and that the audience gets the best possible show at the same time.

This concept can also make the sometimes outrageous costs of demonstrations obsolete. It is a good idea to bring several new artists on stage in parallel. They will be happy to do it for nothing. A good moderator still makes a remarkable event out of this. It is quite possible to have a big star and one or several much smaller stars on stage at the same time. In Munich in spring of 2004 Kimura was on stage with several second liners at the same time, moderated by myself.

Development of collections

I am willing to work on trees of individuals and collections. These can be raw material and also 'finished' trees. It can be an outright new styling or an enhancement of an existing styling. I will also do re-styling. The trees can be good to very good and even world class. I will work on almost all species.

One-to-one workshops

This can be anything. The client decides what he/she wants me to do.

Podium discussion

In front of small to very large public I can discuss anything with the public or with several other competent participants.

Bonsai Academy

On a regular basis visits to your club to run a succession of coherent courses. These sessions could include all of the above.

The aim is to get away from these one off workshops or lectures which don't contribute all that much. Only successive lectures will make sure that the students really progress.

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