Friday, August 20, 2010

Again, it's been a long time since my last update but I have a good excuse. I've been busy in the shop building stands for my bonsai teacher to display his trees on at the Midwest Bonsai Show this weekend. Last year he showed 5 trees, this year he narrowed it down to 3. All 3 trees are Kaedes or Trident Maples however only one has been shown before. The full display is below.
Last year the tree below (far right in the picture above) won 1st place in the professional division which was a huge honor for him. This year it is displayed on a different stand from last year. This is a stand I designed for a different tree of his but knowing how things can change I brought up 5 stands and a slab just in case he decided to change things out. The stand below is just a little too big for this tree but a much better fit than the stand he had in mind. It is made entirely of walnut.

This next tree is a very large Trident Maple. The stand measures 24 inches wide by 18 inches deep and 9 inches tall and made of cherry.

This is just a beautiful tree with one of the best bases I have ever seen. To me the surface roots look just like fingers grabbing on to the soil.

The last tree is one of my favorite trees in his collection. He had never shown it before even though I kept telling him it needed to be shown. It is a root over rock Trident. The tree is potted up in a very old antique Chinese pot that is very heavy and very well suited for the tree. One of the major reasons he has never shown this tree before is because he never had a suitable stand to display it on. Well, I'm a little bias but I think we nailed it with this stand. This stand is a very delicate shohin sized stand that is made entirely of walnut. I haven't been able to find a company that makes walnut dowels this small so I have been turning them myself and they come in at 9/64 of an inch thick. These dowels support a raised top (as on the first stand) and really add to the delicate feel.

Below is the companion or accent plant to the root over rock Kaede. The accent is sitting on a slab of mine that is made from a Manzanita burl cap. It was re-sawn to just under a 1/4 inch thick, sanded smooth and finished in a satin polyurethane.

I am still waiting to hear if he defended his title from last year as the judging is still going on but I think we've got a few contenders out there.


~ Jay

Well I'm a few days late getting the update in but last years winner ended up with 2nd place in the Professional Division.
Not a bad showing considering the competition. The winning tree was a Yamadori (collected) Eastern White Pine belonging to Jim Doyle. I know Matt was really hoping to repeat his 1st place finish but there were really some stunning trees in the show so a 2nd place finish wasn't too bad. Watch out next year though, we are already planning on a few new trees to show and of course they will all need new stands. I'll make sure to keep this page updated as the work begins.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Ok, it’s been a few weeks since my last update but I NEED to get a few things up. When I first started bonsai I never gave much thought to the accent plants that people displayed alongside their trees. A few years back I saw a post on the Internet Bonsai Club by Wolfgang Puts showing off his accents or Kusamono. I have never been much of a “flower guy” but I was really drawn to these plants. I think it was mostly due to the incredible pots he had them displayed in and the unusual plant varieties he used and often mixed. Last year was the first year I tried growing potted flowers and had a little success but could never find suitable pots.

This year while I was searching American potters I came across a site for Iker Bonsai. I was really impressed with his pottery which was a bit of a change for me. Almost all of the pots I seem to like are all out of the Tokoname catalog. I bit the bullet and ordered 5 pots from Chuck and I couldn’t be happier! I would like to thank Chuck for his work; I will definitely be back for many more pots! Keep in mind my accents are nothing to write home about but I feel the combination of plants in his pots look fantastic. Side note, the slabs and display stands are from 2 new burls I got recently. They are both Manzanita and will be sanded and covered in a satin top coat… but that’s another post.

This first picture is of one of Chuck Iker’s round rustic accent pots. I planted two varieties of sedum with a dwarf goose grass (miniature daisy).

Next is another one of Iker Bonsai’s rustic accent pots. It has the same two varieties of sedum in it.

This is probably one of my favorites. It’s a grass I found and the only name on the pot was “spirals”. Again in its new home in an Iker accent pot.

This is a cool flower I found; the only tag on it said it was “Thrift”. It is not in an Iker pot, its sitting in a VERY inexpensive round pot I had sitting on my pot shelf but I thought the two suited each other well.

This picture is a terrible quality shot of a pot I got at the Midwest Bonsai show back in 09. I got it from Jim Doyle’s booth but I haven’t been able to figure out who the potter is. The plant is another variety of sedum called Blue Balls. I think the combination work really well together.

Last but not least is another miniature flower that I do not know the name for. The pot was an accent pot belonging to a friend of mine that no longer wanted it. Not a high end pot by any means but I like the glaze.

That's it for now.

~ Jay

Monday, May 3, 2010

1 down 1 to go...

Well I finally finished up the cascade stand for my friend Neil... I'm still working on another shohin stand for one of his trident maples. I'll get some pictures of that up soon. I finished the box for the stand, packed them up along with the Jarrah slab I'd been working on and a few other odds and ends and sent them out last week. I got a call two days after shipping them and he was ecstatic!!! Below are the pictures of slab, stand and box in their new home with Neils tree proudly displayed. Neil took these pictures and was kind enough to let me post them on my blog so I cant take credit for the photography.

First up is the detail of the top of the stand sitting snug in its box.

Next is a little detail of the top of the stand. Originally the frame was a simple design but another friend suggested I add a little detail to the top. He suggested a thin line on the frame pieces around the center panel. I'm glad I took his advice.

Here you can see the stand in its box. The lid slides in from the top and holds the stand firmly in place. The stand and box are sitting on the Jarrah slab.

Here is the profile of the stand. It is made entirely of walnut including the dowels that support the top. Those were a treat to make!

Here is a detailed shot of the slab. One of the most interesting things about this slab is the live edge that circles the entire piece. Re sawing and sanding these wasn't easy and very time consuming but the final product made it all worth while!

And finally, Neils amazing Itoigawa Juniper in place with a nice accent. When Neil and I originally talked on the phone about the design of his stand I couldn't help but think the two would work very well together. Once I had the stand finished and placed it on the slab, I sent Neil a picture and we both agreed it made for an amazing composition.

Here is a view from the top.

Many thanks to Neil for the stunning pictures and for allowing me to post pictures of his work. That's it for now.


Friday, March 26, 2010

A few tree updates.

Today I woke up to a chilly 26 degrees with a wind chill of 13... Hard to believe last week we were in the mid 60's. The temps over the last month have been climbing gradually and it’s been enough that almost all of my trees have swollen buds or are getting their first flush of leaves. I am growing 7 flats of seeds of Kaede's, Japanese Maples, Japanese Black Pines & Japanese Crab Apples, all but 1 flat has begun growing. Given that warmer weather is on its way I took some time over the last 2 weeks to repot most of my trees and get them all in their new pots or into gallon containers ready to be put in the ground in my grow plot. The two trees below are two of my favorite shohin trees, the only down side to them is that they were in need of new pots.
First up is my Chinese Elm. This tree could have stayed in the unglazed pot, I would prefer to see it in a nice glazed Tokoname pot but the unglazed pot really isn't that bad. This picture was taken September 23, 2009.
Here you can see the tree in its fall color. This picture was taken November 2, 2009.
I hadn’t had a chance to look/shop for a suitable pot because I had planned on putting it back in the unglazed pot for one more year. I stumbled on this very inexpensive pot laying around on my pot shelf and the glaze really compliments the color of the tree and the bark. I am still planning on looking around for a nicer pot for it but this will definitely do the trick for the next year. Picture taken March 24th, 2010.

The planting angle was adjusted slightly forward to bring the apex toward the viewer a little more. There are a few other issues to sort out with this tree this year but I'm much happier with it's new home. All in all, the branch placement is pretty good but the entire tree will be rewired and branches refined to open it up a little more.
Next up is my shohin Kaede (Trident Maple).
This tree has been in this unglazed oval pot for who knows how long and was extremely root bound. The pot is also cracked and was beginning to fall apart. This picture was taken July 17th which is definitely not the time you want to repot a kaede!
Being that repotting the tree was out of the question, I slip potted the tree into a slightly larger pot and filled it in with turface. The pot is pretty ugly but it will do the trick until the tree finds a new home.
I had picked out a very nice blue Japanese rectangular pot for this tree but never pulled the trigger on it so when it came time to repot I was stuck for a new pot. I got a very nice antique Japanese pot a few years back from my friend Matt and had never planned on putting a tree in it... until I saw the possibility of putting this kaede in it.
I'm very happy with this pairing and even thought this tree will need allot of refining it's quickly becoming one of my favorite trees in my collection. The tree is very leggy & the plan for the tree this year is to wire up and thin out the branches. My goal is to get the tree to back bud and really start working the secondary & tertiary branches.

That's all for now, but I'll have more soon.
~ Jay

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A new stand for my friend Neil.

My good friend Neil recently asked me to build him a stand for a great little juniper he has on his benches. He really liked the stand below that I had made for our friend and bonsai teacher Matt but it wouldn't be a good match for his tree.
Below is Neil's juniper.

After a few phone calls with Neil and a few sketches we came up with the final design. The design for this stand will be similar to the stand I made for Matt in that the top of this stand will be "floating". I will support the top to the frame base with dowels and I decided to add movement to the lower part of the stand with arched stretchers in the base. Here are a few progression shots of the stand as I was building it. In this picture all the parts have been rough cut & sanded. The lower frame has been glued and the top frame has had the groove cut that will hold the top of the stand.

Here the top frame of the stand has been glued & the stretchers have all been hand shaped.

With all the parts sanded the glue up began. Below is a picture of the arched stretchers glued into the stand legs.

The last picture is of the lower frame with the top sitting on it. The dowels will raise the top by roughly 1/2" and will be added after the first coat of stain has been applied. The staining will be done over the next few days so updated pictures will be posted soon.

Thanks for looking.

~ Jay

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jarrah Burl Slabs are finally done!

It's been a while since I posted anything but I've been busy working in the shop. I've just finished up 3 of the burl slabs I had been making and still have 2 more in the works. This was the original shot of one of the slabs after it was resawn.
Here is a shot showing the thickness of each slab. Once they were resawn the sanding began. I started with 80 grit and went all the way up to 320 grit.
Another shot after the sanding was finished.
Lastly 2 shots showing the finish coats applied.

Thanks for looking.
~ Jay

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fall Color and some other projects...

Here are a few of my shohin trees showing their fall color. First up is my Chinese Elm. Height of the tree is 8" from the base of the pot.Another shot showing the color.Here is one of my shohin Trident Maples. Not much color came through this year, it just dropped its leaves before any of my other trees.I had a chance to help my bonsai teacher Matt defoliate all of his trees and move everything into the garage which is where they will wait out winter.

A shot of the specimen trees. These are almost all trident maples. Needless to say, if I never see another leaf again it's gonna be too soon!

Lastly one of my latest projects. This is a Tasmanian Jarrah burl slab. I got the original slab that was almost 3 inches thick. I re-sawed these to 1/4" thick slices and have sanded them from 60-220 grit. It's almost time for the finish. The picture below shows the slab after a wipe with water to show the rich tones that will come out in the finish.
Here's a detailed shot showing the character in this burl.That's all for now.