2nd Art of Bonsai class with Master Liew. (２回のアートオブ盆栽クラス、リウ先生。）
Lesson 2 of "Art of Bonsai".
Lesson 2 was a lecture on the "Definition and Composition of Bonsai". Again it was held at the beautiful Windward Community College Campus in the Hale Kuhina Building #115. The class room is pictured above on the left. I didn't realize how white the sky looked when I took the picture! The picture on the right is Bonsai Master Liew.
Bonsai defined... Container Plant. But the "Art of Bonsai" must have these factors in consdiration in order of importance: style, color, bark, pot and stand. We went over an introductory of how to look for "style" in a tree when selecting. With style, "color" and "bark" of the tree also must be analyzed. We should be looking for nice curves and branches in the tree. When that is found, examine the color of the bark and leaves. It should be a healthy color so it makes the person working with it or viewing it feel happy and healthy. If the colors of the leaves aren't perfect, it's possible to correct the health of the tree by working with the soil pH levels. The bark should have character. The preferred tree trunk bark should look old or have some story to it. Again, it's also possible to manipulate the bark with some effort to make it look like it's been aged with some stories behind it. Then the pot has to be paired well with the tree in order for it to be artistically correct. (I know artists will argue about no correct way to do art, but this is for the "Formal" or "Model" style of Bonsai.) The last important factor that defines the bonsai as art is the selection of the stand. With all these properly teamed together, the "tree in a pot" will have potential to be a "bonsai with style" rather than a "junk tree in a pot".
We briefed over a few styles of bonsai. The "Model" which Master Liew calls the traditional way. The "Slant", "Semi-Cascade", "Full-Cascade" and "Umbrella" stlyes are some of his other art forms. Anyway, those will be discussed further another time. This is just a review of the class.
We also spent a few minutes on pot selection because a student wanted to have him discuss pot selection. This is scheduled for later in the course, but Master Liew worked in about 15 minutes of pot selection lecture.
When selecting your tree, you want a tree with nice character, soft trunk, nice bark and most importantly a good root system. There should be 4-5 nice roots spreading in all directions above the soil to provide a healthy, sturdy base for your bonsai. The trunk should be tapering to the top. Try to find sharp turns in the trunk. The 1st branch should be thinner than the trunk and the 2nd branch thinner than the 1st branch, so on and so forth. The species of trees that are recommended for beginners are Ficus and Elm because of their softer trunk that allows for easier manipulation to obtain the style you want. Banyan, bougainvillea, juniper, and many others are also good to use, but some may irritate your skin so Master Liew doesn't recommend it for beginners. A student asked about rose. Master Liew said you can make a rose look nice, but it's not ideal to be worked with for bonsai because the branches are rigid so they will crack and the thorns will no feel good! Bougainvilia has thorns, but I guess that's why it's a more expert type of tree to work with.
Some other trivial things we learned are the meanings of Honolulu and Kampai. Honolulu is the name of the Capitol City of Hawaii. According to Master Liew, Honolulu is known as Sandalwood Mountain in China because of the literal translation. Back when the voyagers first colonized in Hawaii, they began harvesting Hawaii's Sandalwood. A lot of it was shipped to places like China where they really loved the wood and made beautiful tables and stands with this wood. Sandalwood is now very rare and no longer harvested. Another word we discussed was kampai (Japanese) or gambei (Mandarin Chinese) 乾杯 is the Chinese character. It is the word used like "toast" or "cheers" when one raises their glass. In Chinese it means "dry your cup"!
Master Liew continues to educate and entertain us. It's very good when you can learn history, art, philosophy, international culture, science, language and just "Art of Bonsai" while remaining constantly intrigued. I have never had a course instructor that could provide so much discussion on things that most would consider boring, package it in an interesting story, speak about it for about 5-10 minutes and at the end realize he just gave you a 10 minute history lecture, but you still want to hear more about it!! This class and Master Liew is great. Again, any of you reading should take this course in the future.
We're excited for next Tuesday's class because it's going to be at his nursery in Waimanalo. We'll try to get there early so we can stroll through his private art work of 700+ "bonsai with style". We'll also be receiving our first bonsai trees hand selected by Master Liew.