Bay Island Bonsai’s 17th annual exhibit featured small, kifu, and medium-sized bonsai. The larger trees got a break this year.
Here, then, are the largest trees on display – the medium-sized bonsai.
Shimpaku grafted on Sierra juniper displayed with Boston Ivy
Shimpaku grafted on Sierra juniper – great character
Dwarf Sawara cypress
Accent – selaginella with (anyone?)
Shimpaku – check out the pot
Atlas cedar – the stand looks great (see Phutu for more about both tree and stand)
Suiseki art by Mas Nakajima
And to end the 2016 Bay Island Bonsai exhibit review, here is one of my favorite trees in the Bay Area – a medium-sized shore juniper.
Kifu bonsai don’t get a lot of attention. They are the trees that are a bit larger than shohin, but shorter than the medium sized bonsai. They are generally between 8 and 12 inches tall.
The increased size allows for a bit more character and complexity than shohin trees, but they still work on a fairly small scale compared with the slightly larger chuhin bonsai.
Here’s why they are worth a second look – some highlights from Bay Island Bonsai’s recent exhibit.
Sierra juniper – one of my favorites in the exhibit, see its history at Yenling Bonsai
Shimpaku – always a crowd favorite
Root over rock satsuki azalea
Accent – anyone know the name?
Moss accent – as simple as it gets
Exposed root black pine
The focus of this year’s Bay Island Bonsai exhibit was on smaller trees – shohin, kifu and chuhin, or medium-sized bonsai. This meant a couple of things for members: there would be no lifting of heavy trees (easy), but we’d need far more trees than normal to fill the exhibit hall (tricky). Altogether, BIB members displayed 114 trees in 51 displays.
Much to my surprise, the set-up went very smoothly. Even with more complex displays, the exhibit came together quickly – enough so that we had time to relax a bit before calling it a night.
I’ll share highlights from each of the three size groups, beginning, today, with the shohin bonsai – trees that are up to 8″ tall.
Shimpaku – note unusual pot
Last week, the Artisans Cup launched a novel exhibit retrospective – a multi-media website that lets visitors take a closer look at the exhibited bonsai and hear, in the words of the judges, what makes each composition special.
The Artisans Cup
The retrospective is available for a $65 membership at the Cup website. Membership includes access to photos and audio critiques of the 71 trees on display, as well as video from the panel discussions featuring the judges, the creative team, and the Neils.
I received temporary access to the site for review purposes. Getting started was easy as once the log-in was accomplished, the retrospective simply presented itself on-screen. The main page – itself a visual index of the exhibit and useful navigation tool – is beautifully laid out. Thumbnail photos of all exhibit trees are arranged in a grid with quotes and links to external video content inserted throughout.
A small section of the membership page
Clicking on any tree brings you to a large photo of the selected tree with exhibit information from the catalog including tree variety, make of pot and stand, as well as owner statements, when present.
Sample exhibit tree page – Greg Brenden’s awesome Southwestern white pine
Clicking on the image reveals a larger version of the display for closer inspection. And just below the catalog information is the real highlight of the retrospective – the judges’ critiques.
Navigation for the judges’ critiques
While I found it fun to scroll through and zoom in on the trees I appreciated at the event, the real fun kicked in when I fired up the critiques. I still can’t quite believe that each of the five judges – Colin Lewis, Boon Manakitivipart, Peter Warren, Walter Pall and David DeGroot – successfully completed 1 – 5 minute critiques of each tree in the exhibit.
I love critiquing exhibits, but I can’t tell you how impressed I am at what a good job the judges did critiquing 71 trees in a row.
Spoiler alert: you’ll hear the judges use the word “Powerful” a lot. This, of course, speaks more to the quality of the trees than it does to the judges’ predilections. The frankness with which the judges evaluated the trees makes for easy listening, and the judges scores, which aren’t available on the retrospective site, are still available to the public on a different part of the site (see “The Results Are In!“).
Apart from the trees themselves, the panels too merit attention. I was only able to catch one of the three live at the event so it was nice to go back and catch up on the sessions I missed. I’d recommend the judges’ panel to anyone who is interested in the topic of evaluating bonsai, and I’d recommend the creatives’ panel for those who are interested in learning more about what went into an exhibit of this magnitude. It’s also fun to hear artistic non-bonsai folk think about bonsai.
My favorite panel features Ryan and Chelsea Neil. The Neil’s talk on a variety of topics from their personal road to the Cup, to standards in bonsai and where the Cup might go from here.
The bottom line:
Who the online retrospective is for: Anyone wanting to see photos and hear critiques of the trees on exhibit. Not interested in the (English-only) critiques? Maybe the book is a better option. Come for the critiques, stay for the panels.
Who the online retrospective is not for: Anyone looking for bonsai how-to won’t find it here. Instead they’ll find really good examples of different varieties of bonsai and hear how prominent judges think about them.
Is it worth $65? Only you can answer that. If you want an online window to the exhibit and think you’ll actually listen to a good number of critiques and/or panels, then definitely, yes. If $65 is a non-trivial amount of money, ask a friend to splurge for it.
Learn more at the Artisans Cup website.
Taking a closer look at Randy Knight’s prize-winning Rocky Mountain juniper
The Artisans Cup: Behind the Scenes video