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Bonsai Techniques by Stan Holroyd
of Hare-Yama Ryu
27 February 2010
Bonsai owners and enthusiasts are invited to visit the next craft market on 27 February 2010 with their treasured bonsai to get advice, help and guidance from Stan Holroyd of Hare-Yama Ryu, long-time bonsai grower from Somerset West. Stan plans to demonstrate some of the finer aspects of bonsai that make simple potted plants, into fine bonsai.
Stan's Hare-Yama Ryu is a home for a number of oriental arts, including some that have been a lifelong passion of his. Gathered together under this umbrella are such arts as karate-do, tai-chi, sumi-e, sui-seki and ceramics. Stan is a karate and tai chi instructor, and offers classes and workshops in bonsai and other Japanese arts.
Bonsai is one of his main interests and he covers all aspects of this art form from propagation of new plants, ceramic pot making, to developing aged specimens. Stan claims this much misunderstood and often over-commercialised art has spawned all manner of imitations that distract from the true nobility of this respected Japanese art form. Even the name Bonsai is interpreted in many incorrect ways, yet the true meaning of the name defines the essence of the art.
Bon (tray or container) Sai (planting) may sound like it simply means planting something in a pot, yet it is the act of planting and what that planting represents that captures the spirit of Bonsai.
It can be said with pride by bonsai growers that bonsai is an art of illusion, the aim being to create a small scene that conveys a believable and natural looking image of immensity and age. While bnosai can include virtually any planted scene using live plants, trees are the most popular plantings. And in this case, with any good bonsai, it should be possible to write the tree's life story from the characteristics the grower builds into the tree's design.
Many techniques are used by bonsai artists to convey images of age, exaggerated size, an interactions with nature. Good growers using these techniques well will make a 5 year old tree look like a huge, healthy 20 year old survivor. Poor application of the techniques might well make a 20 year old tree look like a dwarfed, 5 years old struggler.
When the craft is good, bonsai will carry the scars of the interaction of the plants with the natural elements, showing the plants' fight back from disasters, searching out a new balance with nature. Poor craft on the other hand, looks clumsy, threatens the plants well being, and in simply unconvincing.
The illusion of size is key to the success of a good bonsai. Stan hopes to show at his demonstration how correct bonsai trimming is used as a key technique that develops the apparent hugeness of these small trees.
Stan has studied many aspects of Japanese arts and culture and finds that respect underlines all aspects of their lives and arts. He tells that Japanese do not see man as apart from nature, but a part of nature. He stresses, "We would do well to understand this as well so that we see that what harm we do to nature, is actually harm done to ourselves."
"All their art forms," he observes, "are guided by this respect and in bonsai, this is all too important as well - and sadly all too often neglected." Stan believes that if we choose to use the Japanese names of their art forms, we should at least try to understand and respect the essence behind them as originally envisaged by their inventors.
Just as with bonsai, good craft is the key to good craftwork, and the Country Craft Market prides itself in applying this standard to all its crafters, thereby maintaining the highest standards. The first step towards achieving this is through the careful selection of new members that ensures both variety and quality. The season for applications for new crafters is now upon us and the organisers will be starting to receive applications at the next market. Full details are at
or call at the Information stall at the market.
So that is just another reason to be at the craft market on 27 February, where you can also share some bonsai ideas with Stan. Bring your bonsai along to brag about, ask Stan's advice and opinions on them, get then trimmed, or just for whatever other reason there may be. Stan looks forward to meeting your trees and you. He will also be performing various bonsai techniques throughout the morning.
Last Updated 29 September 2013 11:11