This year’s US National Bonsai Exhibition included a special treat for suiseki enthusiasts – the Invitational Suiseki Exhibition. Fifty stones from around the world were displayed with accents and bonsai.
It was quite a bonus to see such great stones so well displayed.
Three-point suiseki display
Daiza by John Naka
Formal display with scroll
The stone on a pillow
Each stone warranted attention for its shape, color and texture.
A very special small-sized bonsai display at the 4th US National Bonsai Exhibition featured the work of Tsukinowa Yusen. Yusen pots are precious – a display comprised solely of trees in Yusen pots is a rare thing. The composition was beautiful.
Shohin bonsai display in Yusen pots
Porcelain berry and accent
From the top – red pine, little gem dwarf spruce, shimpaku, Japanese flowering quince ‘chojubai’
The curator’s note provided good context and history:
Tsukinowa Yusen – 月之輪湧泉
1908 – 1998
Kato Goichi (加藤護) or better known to bonsai pot collectors as Tsukinowa Yusen lived from 1908 to 1998. He lived in Tagimi-city of Gifu Prefecture and was a gifted painter having studied in Kyoto.
His profession was that of a ceramics painter but unrelated to bonsai. In 1960-61 he started to make pottery for himslef and as he gained an interest in bonsai he began to hand paint his own pots.
Sometime around 1971-74 he lived with Sei-fu Yohei and developed a partnership where Yusen would make the ceramics and Sei-fu would peint them. Sei-fu didn’t always bare his signature on Yusen pots but his painting style is different and recognizable.
Yusen normally created small porcelain pots which he painted red, blue or a mix of colors. Infrequently he would glaze his pots with a yellow frame but this is quite rare. Before Yusen there were almost no painted bonsai pots in Japan.
One of Yusen’s famous series of pots is his version of Ando’s “53 Stations of the Tokaido Road.” Other well-known motifs include the famous anthropomorphic animals, mountain landscape scenes, water scenes featuring birds, pictorial scenes of famous poetry and even one with bats!
Without question, Yusen’s pots rank the highest in terms of hand-painted pots. They are highly valued in and beyond Japan. To own one is a treasure, to own more than one is considered a highly valuable collection of the best hand painted bonsai pots in the world.
Here are some close-ups.
Pine and mountain – Yusen
On a boat – Yusen
Birds – Yusen
Mantis – Yusen
Nature scene – Yusen
Shohin bonsai were well represented at the 4th US National Bonsai Exhibition.
In all, 120 shohin appeared in 40 displays.
To fully appreciate these trees as they were displayed, I recommend getting a copy of the Exhibition Album. Joe Noga does a fantastic job with the photography, and you’re not likely to find more accurate color in any bonsai publication. I’m now caught up with albums from previous events and am looking forward to this year’s installment. Special pricing is in effect if you order before December 15th.
Here are some of the individual shohin and small to medium-sized bonsai on display.
It would be difficult to visit the US National Bonsai Exhibition without bumping into, or at least spotting, the man who made it all happen, William N. Valavanis.
William N. Valavanis
Valavanis’ contributions to bonsai in the US are beyond impressive. In addition to birthing the US National Exhibition, Valavanis established the International Bonsai Arboretum, publishes International Bonsai Magazine, leads at least two tours to Japan every year, sells trees, and travels the US as a teacher and guide (see more at International Bonsai). He’s a super guy and I greatly appreciate the work he’s done for bonsai. I also appreciate the hospitality during my visit to the exhibition – thanks Bill!
Robinson Contorted Bradford Pear – William N. Valavanis
Is that a bird in there?
In addition to seeing super trees from around the country, one can also see a number of super people at the National. It was a great opportunity to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in years and to meet people with whom I’d corresponded but not met in person. I was also excited to meet so many readers of this site for the first time – thanks for saying hi!
Bjorn Bjorholm, Bjorvala Bonsai Studio
Brussel Martin, Brussel’s Bonsai Nursery
Sean Smith, Custom Oriental Wood-Craft
Innovative display of procumbens juniper – Sean Smith
Suthin Sukosolvisit, Suthin Bonsai Studio
Stainless steel tools – American Bonsai Tool & Supply Co.
As I can only go so long without posting photos of trees, here are more highlights from the exhibit.
Gyoten satsuki azalea
Brazilian rain tree
Kiyohime Japanese maple