Friday 28 October 2011

Clay Crusader!

I’ve got a friend called Andy. By day he’s a mild mannered man ensuring the safety of commuters on London Underground but by night he is an Oxide Crazed Ceramics Freak! Last night Sally and I attended a Private Viewing of the 2011 London Potters Show at Morley Gallery.

Rammed to the rafters with ceramics, artists and putters alike we had a lovely time – even if we didn’t get to see too much due to the numbers there. This was Andy’s debut (although he does have his ceramics at the Singing Soul Gallery in Cranbrook) and we were pleased to be able to support him.

So if, at the dead of night you think you see a shadowy figure lurking in the moonlight it could well be our one and only Clay Crusader creating fine art in his own unique way!!

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Time to talk with Mr Tickle

I’ve been really lucky over the past few years to meet some fantastic people in Bonsai and none more fun than Tony Tickle. Tony has been there, read the book, worn the T-Shirt and unfortunately sometimes killed the cast in Bonsai and I’m honoured to call him my friend (not too sure what he thinks about that though!). A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of his company for the evening, whilst he split his outward journey to Saulieu in France, at Chez Monkey.

We, my family included, had a super time with a man with an infectious enthusiasm, witty humour and boundless stupidity. For a Bonsai contact topics of conversation covered subjects from canoeing to Charles Rene Macintosh, Yamadori to You Tube, Bonsai talent past and up and coming (that doesn’t include me BTW) and, it seemed everything else in between. I couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining and forthright guest.

I know when it comes to discussing all things Bonsai I can be a bit intense (OK, a right royal pain in the arse) but my enquiries were met with good humour and, at times, bluntness but I now feel that I’m at the stage where I need this. Tony kindly let me know roughly where I am and, more importantly, where I need to go to improve my trees and understanding of the art. Some people I know would blow smoke up your arse or tell you what you wanted to hear not always what you needed to hear (for good or ill) which I found refreshingly honest.

Bonsai is a small business world and there are many egos out there. Tony could well have told me “buy some of MY yamadori – it’s what you need and will be a winner” but he didn’t. Yes, he would like me to attend the Burrs Workshop that he holds but when I could – no pressure. I do understand the longer I delay in clearing out the chaff and getting good tuition and material the further away my ambitions will be but to be believed in by someone I admire is a real tonic.

Thanks Tony for being a mate, teacher and all round good egg –
Bonsai needs people like you!!

Perfect Performer!!

As some of you are aware, my good lady Sally has been using Pole as a means to keep fit. Well the other weekend the company she learns with and a birthday bash for students, partners, hangers on and the like. There were to be poles there for a few demos during the evening so Sally, not to turn down a challenge, choreographed her own routine to perform on the night.

Although I might be biased, she did a fab job and was recognised with an Award for Most Artist Student. Bearing in mind Sally is one of the few students not to either have a pole at home OR go to multiple classes in a week this was a just reward for her hard work and determination.

Well done m’dear and I can’t wait for the video on Facebook!!

Dead & Decomposing – The rebirth of “King C”

I brought this tree from Kaizen Bonsai at Noelanders this year after seeing it in the “Bargain Basement” section. As many of you know I have a bit of a fetish for Cotoneasters and this one was far larger than any I had seen. My original vision for this tree took a bit of a setback for 2 reasons. The first was that my initial front was rotated about 120 degrees to the right and the second, and most importantly, there was a scruffy nebari. It was advised by the “great & good” that I graft some new roots, far too complex for my basic Bonsai skills, but it was worth bearing in mind. Any-ho, the tree grew strongly(ish) and the foliage turned a nice shade of British Racing Green so I was happy with its overall health.

Recently, whilst babysitting whilst my good lady was at a Pole Class, I thought that I would take a poke around at the surface roots to see how the land lied for the following years re-pot. Some of the bark was a bit wet so I had a little rub and the bark came off. I carried on with the scratch, (brown), scratch (brown) until I couldn’t take it anymore. Out came the mini drill and “soft” wire brush – let’s explore!! Before long, and suffering from a bad case of bark dandruff, I realised that there was only one area of live vein and a shed load of additional deadwood to play with (yes I can already hear Will Baddeley’s Makita revving up in the background!) As I’m by no means a Carving God I thought I’d have a go at blending the new with the old existing deadwood to at least give me a better picture of where the tree is going.

As can be seen, I didn’t go to crazy with the block carving as I tried to keep the movement of the old root/trunk but blend it with the centre section. There is a large straight(ish) section to the left that had been carved by Kaizen so I think the next job will be to lighten up the centre section. I have joined the two areas by means of a hole but that probably needs some more refinement.

So the plan for next year – pot up into a larger pot, feed like crazy and it could well be a trip to Suffolk. Watch out Will, were coming to see you!!

Thursday 15 September 2011

Flat-Out Frog Finally Catches Up!!

Where gas the Summer gone?? Last time I wrote we were getting ready to head off to Silverstone and now here we are mid September and staring down the barrel of Autumn. So here’s a short overview of what’s been happening on the Frog’s lily pad.

Silverstone was a real blast, great weather, superb atmosphere with plenty to see & do. To be able to see all the vintage racing cars up so close and have free access to the pit and paddock area (including the new Silverstone “wing”) was fabulous. Being the F1 nerd that I am I had to check out the Red Bull pit from the GP held earlier in the month. Red Bull are one of the few teams to decorate the floor of their pit so it was great to see Mark Webber’s “box” and have our pictures taken. The whole weekend was top notch from the racing to the fun fair, the areo displays to the open air concerts and of course being ferried around on old routemaster buses - Priceless!

With the school summer holidays upon us we shipped the kids off to the outlaws (well for most of the time but that’s a different story!) so Sal & I could get some domestic chores done. I was lucky enough to be left Home Alone for a week which was a perfect opportunity to work on my Accent pot business. SUTEKI Accents was born out of interest and encouragement from my Bonsai and now Pottery mentor Andy. After a toe in the water I dove straight in and got a trade space at the Bonsai World Show in Crawley. I’ll post this story later..............

Well, that about brings me up to date. Still busy on the Bonsai and pot front and I’ll also be babysitting a fellow MBS Members trees (aka The Grown Up Baby!) next month for a few weeks so I’ll have to be uber careful with my watering. I don’t want him to come home to firewood for a dolls house!!

Tuesday 19 July 2011

The lights are on, 1 light, 2 lights............

It’s nearly time to forget about Bonsai and pots, dust off the leaky tent, dig out the wellies (it is British Summertime after all!) and make our way to the Silverstone Classic 3 day weekend. The Haddon Clan has been twice before and had a total blast (from the past) as the Classic event is “Flat Out Fun for all the Family”. The weekend is the World’s biggest Classic Motor Racing Festival, with around 800 fabulous and exotic race cars competing – yeah I mean RACING plus 1,000’s of Classic cars to droll over. The fantastic thing about this event is the ‘Access All Areas’ policy which means you can get up close (and sometimes sit in if you’re young and cute – counts me out) sit in the cars hot off of the track. The total openness of the weekend allows you to meet great drivers like Stirling Moss and top motorsport celebrities like my mate Muddy Talker!!

There is also FREE musical entertainment, aerobatic displays (including The Parachute Regiment Freefall Team – The Red Devils), a Period Fun Fair, Go-Karting, Shopping……..… I can feel my wallet screaming already!! Friday night should be a real blast with music from Legend (the Bob Marley experience), Queen On Fire and The Rolling Stoned, with legendary 70s acts Suzi Quatro, 10cc and Wishbone Ash on Saturday night. Now, where are m’flares!!

What I am really looking forward to though, apart from seeing the new Silverstone Wing and GP layout, is getting away with the family for a few stress free days (hopefully). This will be the start of the kids Summer Holidays and here’s hoping for good weather, well behaved children and loads and loads of FUN!!

The Frog getting Funky or The music behind my madness!!

It’s funny how thoughts pop into your mind when you’re Clay-dreaming. Whilst checking on the condition of my latest batch of pots that were drying, I notice subtle differences in them and then looked at the CD’s pilled in the corner of my workshop. Mmmm, could this be the answer? Now don’t get me wrong the Frog isn’t trying to get all philosophical here but there does appear to be music in my madness!!

To me clay seems to be a living, breathing creature that needs nurturing to bring out the best (or the best I can do) in it. Casting an eye over what I have produced and the pots in various stages on my benches a musical theme seems to run through them. The more Chilled & Psychedelic music I listen to the more at peace I am and the more “formal” and involved the designs, the more upbeat and frantic the music the looser the design and finish. Strange but true. I can almost now look at a pot and tell you whether it was made listening to The Velvet Underground or Green Day!!

Glazing, to me, seems to be the opposite. The more “crazed” I get the more fluid and funky the finish. Although I’m inspired by Japanese pots my “style” is more eclectic getting inspiration from the internet and even the TV. I was watching a programme on Formula 1 the other evening and got the idea and colour for a glaze splash from the shape of an old ripped sticker on the lens of a F1 snapper!! I really love messing with colours but sometimes have to leave the Sex Plimsolls behind and go for something a bit softer to get that formal finish to one of my “chilled” pots.

So there you have it, for what it’s worth. Music is the food of love and it appears pots. Am I strange or just misguide, I’ll let you be the judge of that but what’s the worst “noise” to create to............... the sound of silence!!

Friday 1 July 2011

“Surfs Up!” the cut-price Cornish Tamarisk

This tree is fast becoming one of my favourites, although it’s a pig to work on, so I would like to share it with you. In the Autumn of 2008 this was the ugly duckling of our Club auction so I thought I’d give it a home. It came via Cornwall to Stone Monkey Mansions via a pot trade. Warned by many knowing(?) members that I would be taking on a bush I stuck by my guns and I’m glad I did.

For 18 months this tree lived in a washing up bowl but survived, unlike Andy’s, so last April I felt brave enough to have a crack at it. As you can see not too much to get the bloody pumping. As I had never really taken on any carving before I thought I’d have a go at the first block carving. Happy with the initial result I attempted, badly, at putting some shape and structure into the tree. Later that year at a Club workshop Andy & I got into trouble as he brought out the heavy guns to tackle the larger deadwood areas that my little dermal couldn’t handle. After a few “breaks” to let the tea and biscuit brigade have a natter the work was done.

Fast forward to 2010. More work was done on the structure with all sorts of contraptions to try and get the braches to weep. She’s coming on nicely but desperately needed a re-pot the following Spring.

Summer 2010
Re-pot and new planting angle complete, well almost, here’s where we are as of today. Still a long way to go but the more I’m understanding this tree the more it is improving. The deadwood needs refinement, which I’m hoping to tackle soon but I love the forward movement that we have got into it already making it look like waves crashing on the beach or the horses from the Guinness advert. For those non-UK residents, google it!!

Summer 2011
I’m going to take it to our next Club meeting just to show what can be done for a fiver with patience, determination and a few power tools!! Thanks for looking,

Wednesday 22 June 2011

The Glazing and firing is all done on all my pots so it's "T-6 Days" to Blast Off for my Website.

Some of the results are really exciting so lets hope that I can compliment the Pots with some interesting Plantings. The proof will be in the pudding but not too long to wait now!!

Monday 13 June 2011

Sunshine, Showers & Hawthorn Handbags!

The MBS Club display 2011
Whilst Andy was preparing my priceless pots (yeah, right – get a grip!) it was time to move my thoughts from clay & glazes back to Bonsai – at least for a short while. Last weekend was the joint Show by Kent and Maidstone Bonsai Clubs at the Kent Bonsai & Azalea Show at Yorkletts, near Whitstable. As Chairman of t’Committee I, along with other MBS Club members, were there to support the event, showcase our trees and maybe pick up a few new members along the way. Personally though it was a chance to escape the kids and have a snoop around the nursery for a bargain!! I actually went to the nursery on the Friday before, as I wasn’t too sure what time I could get there on Saturday, as I had the Club show box etc. Any-ho, I found a lovely yamadori Hawthorn (see below) for a song and left it there to “reduce” the following day.
Shohin Hawthorn

Chuhin Lonicera

Saturday dawned and due to a change of chores by Mrs Wife overnight I was able to leave bright and early to help with set-up (keep telling yourself that Simon – you know you only wanted to play with your new tree!!). We were really lucky as the sun was out and the wind was slight so in two shakes we were ready to rumble. There were some lovely trees on show and I think the MBS did themselves proud as although we were a bit thin on the ground people and tree wise the overall display looked very good – even if one of our own was seen batting for the other side – LOL.

All cut down and ready to go!!
After plenty of banter, snooping, bartering over purchases, and all round light hearted fun I finally got around to decapitating my latest purchase. Shock and horror from some of the visitors as my saw made short work of the trunk but all agreed that the tree is better for it. It was very strange to have strangers watch, and photographing, me work. I like to think I’ve got a reasonably handle on what I’m doing and although I come from Bearsted for sure Kevin Wilson I ain’t!! After a while it was if I was on my own so when Marc and his good lady wife (sorry I’m rubbish with names) produced her latest “handbag” I was quite shocked. They had just brought an old Literati Hawthorn with its own built-in carrying handle and asked me to cast my eye over it. The price was good and the tree had potential so I gave Marc a few pointers on where I thought he could go with styling the tree, little knowing that they were actually asking me to style it for them!! Stainless snipped and shimmered in the sunshine and showers (oh, get me all poetic) making me and my un-kept hair at the moment, look like a cross between Edward Scissorhands and a very short lumberjack. After much chatter, laughter and explanation, along hundreds* of photos taken by a nervous owner, the tree was ready for a few chores for Marc to complete before our next Club meeting.
(*OK, could be slightly less but she seemed to be “clicking” for ages!!)

I’m sorry that I can post any images at the moment as I’ve not quite mastered the art of walking and talking yet let alone photos and pruning. As soon as I get some from the happy owners of the tree (I hope) I’ll post them here but in the interim just let your imagination run riot – Chanel meets yamadori!!

Something Brewing - and it ain't Tea!!

Apologies for not posting for a while, where has all the time, and the weather, gone? “Shohin Off” at Willowbog and the Best of British Bonsai in Birmingham, amongst other events, have all been and gone and not a peap (or should that be “plop”) from the Suteki frog!! Well, there have been stirrings in the Suteki Shed (and not all of them curry or Bonsai related) and the time is almost nigh to let the Ribbit out of the bag (terrible pun I know – it’s been a busy few months!!)

Following a conversation with Mr Stone Monkey, a seed was sown which is now starting to sprout. A mutual friend of our used to create Accent plantings but gave up on it so it was suggested that as a way to maybe earn a few bob it was something that I could turn my hand to. Not long after this I was sitting there, clay in my hands ready for the off. After much trial and error (and wine) my 1st ever batch of pots were ready to be fired. Now we wait with baited breath.....................

All being fair in love & war my “efforts” should be available from all good retailers, OK my website (see link) and m’shed, at the end of this month but I’ll do my best Gordon the Gofer and announce when they are “Going Live” as soon as the Stone One tips me the wink.

On the the left some of the pots drying out before they were bisk fired.  Not a bad first stab at it but there is plenty of room for improvement!!  Admittely my pots won’t have the Panache of Pitt, the Brilliance of Barton or the Sexiness of Stone Monkey but they will have a little bit of me in them (weather you like it or not!) and when I’m dead and gone my froggy pots will still be around - I hope!

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Why I didn’t make the Swindon Winter Image Show!

My son Stirling had been promised to have his room decorated for his 7th birthday and as this coincided with half term and he and his sister were off to stay with the outlaws it was a perfect opportunity to surprise him. In the preceding weeks we had been asking him what he would like and it ended up after being themed on one of his favourite toys – Lego but not just any Lego but Star Wars Lego.

After hours of trawling on the internet we drew a complete blank. No wallpaper, borders, nothing. So it was left to Sally and I to paint a mural containing some of his favourite characters. Hours of scaled up drawings onto tracing paper consumed most of our free time but eventually we were ready. My dad and I striped the old Noddy mural that we had painted a few years ago and got the blank canvas ready for when Sally returned from dropping the kids off. After hours upon hours of hand painting and detailing here’s the results!

Although his room is very small we still managed to get C3-P0, R2-D2, Obiwan, 2 Ewoks and a Naboo Starfighter. We did luck in to 1 finishing touch, a colour changing lightsaber as a night light with a remote and “on/off” noises for our Jedi to hold.

Much of the credit for this creation should go to Sally as at times I was more the gofer and chief paint mixer. Still working in miniature but not quite Bonsai!!!!

Thursday 10 March 2011

I'm not all about miniture trees!!

When I’m not working on Bonsai trees (usually in the Winter) I have time to work on special 1 off motorsport models and I’ve had the chance to create gifts for current Formula 1 driver Mark Webber over the last few years. Here’s a car commerorating 10 years of the Mark Webber Supporters Club depicting liveries from all the teams that Mark had driven for. Many of the transfers used were not commercially available so I had to design and print them myself.  This was given to him as a Christmas gift and the last I heard it was still sitting in his office!!

I sometimes make things for my own collection and get the man himself to sign them. I’m now know by Mark as “The Car Man” and he’s always intereseted in my work. 

I’ve been lucky enough to “race” against him on a few occasions (all be it only in Go-Karts) and as you can see my son Stirling is offering me advice before my next stint . It didn’t help much but at least I can say that I was taken out by a Grand Prix driver!!

Simon goes Cyber

The time has finally come for me to chart my life’s journey, for good or ill, so welcome to my Blog! It could be happy, it could be sad or just downright silly but with these entries I hope to share with you my version of Top Gear’s “Cool Wall”.

My two main passions, F1 Motor Racing & Bonsai, couldn’t be more opposite. One requires outright speed at the cutting edge of technology and the other is slow and uses age old horticultural and styling techniques. Having worked all my life in the printing trade, design and aesthetics have played a major part so both of these hobbies, although very dissimilar, hold similar artistic qualities.

My passion for Formula 1 started from a very early age and I have been lucky enough to have some totally unique experiences over the years. Bonsai was a later, but no less passionate, interest and I have also had many chances to visit premier Bonsai events thanks to the generosity of my good friend Andy “Stone Monkey” Pearson. In both my “worlds” I have been lucky enough to make many lasting friendships and am using this Blog as a way to celebrate everything that I hold dear.

I hope you enjoy reading my ramblings!!
Love, Peace & Bananas, Simon