Monday, 31 December 2012

Almost Famous!

Earlier this year I was interviewed by Tony Tickle, as part of his Bonsai Potters Showcase, and this has now gone live here.

Tony has been a friend and Bonsai mentor of mine for a quite a while now and I was very surprised to say the least when he asked me to take part.  Although it took part at Willowbog in early 2012 to be posted at all is a great honour indeed considering that he has interviewed some of the best Bonsai potters in Europe.  Kicked off by by my best bud Andy “Stone Monkey” Pearson after Swindon last year this series has grown into an interesting insight into European  Bonsai ceramics.  My latest creations can be found on my website

If you get a chance do checkout some of the previous interviews and please don’t laugh too much at my story.  Still a way to go but “almost famous”!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Burrs- the Trees Pt.1

Will & the Walrus
I decided to work on this tree first as I was also hoping that Capt’n Sawdust would have a look at the deadwood for me and I knew that he would be busy!  So Friday evening Will gave the tree the once over and commented on its good growth so I was well pleased.  Not so when he told me I had to strip all the leaves off as the tree had been stubbornly hanging onto them.  Pluck, pluck, pluck went the fingers but at least I can say that I was the first person to make a big mess at Burrs this year!

My "naked" Elm, with a little help from Mr Merlot!
So, Saturday morning dawned and after bacon butties and lashings of rosy-lea I was ready to rumble.  As anticipated I had to wait my turn before Mr B could cast his eye over my tree.  He kindly showed me where to cut the branch structure back to the primary lines.

The Capt'n hard at work
Some of the Deadwood detail
Finer detail that I need to extend
The bottom left area will be made to look like a old rotten stump
As expected the Capt’n was flat out carving most, if not all, of the weekend but he kindly found the time to make some inroads into the deadwood on the trunk.  He told me that I had “soft wood”* so I’ll have to watch that carefully in the future.  I’d like to think that this tree has a good future and look forward to the next stage – mainly clip’n’grow so I’m told.
Finished for now!
 (*not too sure if that’s a trip to Ann Summers or B&Q)

Friday – Let the games commence!

TV is a funny medium.  I dropped off to sleep listening to a report from the US about a murderer who stole a jet plane from an airport to make his getaway (CCTV footage was unreal) and woke to an Aussie bride to be trying to drop umpteen ponds to fit into her dream wedding dress just 6 weeks before the big day.  Silly o’clock TV does make you wonder!

Any-ho, breakfast was to be at Tony’s place at 9.30am but Will and I were on the road by 8.00am which in hindsight proved a bit of a mistake.  Firstly, being half asleep, I nearly lost the parking permit and then got shafted.  Tony asked “Si, can you help with breakfast?”, showed me the kitchen and then promptly disappeared – could sell snow to Eskimos that guy!  So with my trusty Italian “toaster”, the Lovely Rita, we cooked up some rather splendid Suffolk Black Bacon sarnies.

Tony starts work on his Yew - before the heavens opened, as usual!
The general plan for the day was for Tony’s large Yew to be styled.  Well, Han’s Will, Mikey and I “hid” in the greenhouse to escape the cold but ended up stripping a White Pine.  We were regularly visited by Tony Trump-pants (his arse was still no better!) and in the end we finally admitted defeat – the smell was rancid – and sort the safety of the house.
Hans & I give the start of the event the "thumbs up"

Before we knew it we were at the venue greeting our chums along with the new faces.  Whilst everyone went to the Brown Cow for dinner Mikey suggested that we get a curry.  Cracking idea so Will, myself and Mikey ordered one up and shot the breeze until the drunkards returned.  Not to say that we didn’t partake in any of the falling down water but we were in a better state than some!  Some work, but plenty of drinking, was done late into the evening with the “serious” work to start the following morn.  Time for sleep!

Sleep-o-meter 5.5hrs

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Belissimo Burrs

4 wonderful days in the company of Enrico (I need good coffee) Savini, Hans (vibrating eggs) van Meer, Pavel (Pine God) Slovak, Terry (too humble) Foster, Will (Capt’n Sawdust) Baddeley and the Ticklemeister himself – who could ask for more?  Burrs 2012 was just awesome, a weekend filled with wine, women and song but above all else terrific trees!  Here’s my sideways slant on the weekend.
Thursday – I’ve had better days!
I was to be the chauffer of the Makita Magician (aka Mr B) for the weekend so off to sunny Suffolk I went.  After an unexpected “falling out” with Mrs Sat-Nav   (she didn’t talk to me all weekend!) and getting a wee bit lost I arrived.  Much to Will’s relief
I don't drive like in a pursuit from a video game like Need for Speed but although I might not kill him on the journey throughout the rest of the day  I  severely tested the sanity of him agreeing to the lift.  Thursday, for me, was a catalogue of disaster including leaving my bag at the services where Will kindly treated me to lunch, non-working key cards at the hotel, accidently turning all the instrument lights off in the car, the list is endless.  That said we did make light of the situation and found it rather funny all in all.
The evening for me was, well, heaven.  Sitting down to have drinks, then dinner, then more drinks with some of the leading lights in European Bonsai was something money can’t buy.  Ok, there were bumps in the road on the way (never, ever ask Tickle for a postcode – he’ll get you sooooo lost!) but a fantastic experience all the same.  By the time we were booted out of Tony’s place it was already Friday and as his arse had moved up to Defcon 1 on the toxic scale the trip back to the hotel was a relief to our poor eyes & noses.  The problem is that when you are wired sleep don’t come easy so at 2.20am Will and I are still talking! 
A 21hour day – time for some shut eye.  Sleep-o-meter – 4.5hrs

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Best Foot Forward!

They say that time seems to speed up as you get older and this seems to be the case for me.  The Blog has taken a back seat recently due to family commitments (school visits for Wednesday, holidays etc) but I didn’t realise that it had been that long!  Time to make amends me thinks.
When you start a new journey the learning curve can be very steep and this was the case with SUTEKI Accent pots.  This year for the business has been fantastic, for a number of reasons, but I now find myself at a crossroads in my “mudslinging” adventure.  Although I’m no spring chicken, in pottery terms I’m just out of nappies but this doesn’t stop me aspiring to something better.  They say that “children are the future” and I hope that I will be part of this.  Gone are the days of throwing glazes at my pots to see what sticks (well sort of!) as I feel I need to find a more measured approach to the art as my inspiration and imagination may be boundless, my pockets are not as deep as my dreams.  Deep stuff for a wee little froggie eh?
I did had a minor “eureka” moment at Willowbog earlier in the year in understanding what the end user looks for in a good pot which lead me to try and “lift” the pot base from the deck.  Foot designs is now taking up a lot of my mental capacity and as my understanding of clay and the improvements in my (primitive) techniques have allowed me to explore more avenues.  I am hoping that my next release of pots will lift them to the next level of refinement and appeal.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Beer, Bonsai & BBQ - what can go wrong?

I'll be hosting the Annual MBS Chairman's Garden Party again this year on Sundy.  Last year was quite well attended and the weather was fair so I'm hoping for mor of the same this year, well, I know that the weather should be stonking!!  Refresments will also be available throughout the day with Lunch also being served which is an excuse for me to dust of m'pinny and have another bash at the Ole BBQ lark.

I always try and do some unusal  veggies and salads (along with the customary “man-food”) but this time around I thought I'd add some extra bits to my Menu.  I’ve been thinking about trying some of these dishes for a while and as I know that there will be at least 1 Vegetarian with us on the day it was a good enough excuse to experiment.  It's like your trees, try something new out on someone else's FIRST before you carry it out on your own (only joking fellow MBS Members - honest!)

Dishes will include:- Minted Cucumber & Cherry Tomato salad, char-roasted New Potatoes with sweet peppers (I do some wrapped in bacon with mushrooms as well!), Sweet grilled onions with balsamic splash, Mediterranean Fire Tomatoes with oregano and black olives, Carrot, Cumin & Lemon salad, garlic Pitta fingers and Spinach & Blue Cheese Mushroom cups. I’m also thinking of doing Fire roasted Red Pepper & Nectarine salad.

The event is a Social day as well as a Workshop.  Everyone is welcome to pop-in at any time, for as long as they like and of course partners are more than welcome to attend.  I even hope to get some Bonsai work done this year!!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

No Ant-i Climax

As many of you know we take a family trip every year to the Silverstone Classic motor racing event.  Due to a mix-up on the holiday front we were only able to go for the Saturday rather than camping for the whole 3 days of the event.  Every year on the Saturday evening they put on a music event and we’ve seen Blue, The Pussy Cat Dolls and plenty of tribute acts but the best we have seen so far was the last act of the night this year – Adam Ant!

Our kids have been brought up listening to his music (well sort of!) and even they loved it although it was at the end of a very tiring day.  By the time we got “home” (back to the outlaws that is) is had been over a 20 hour day for Sal & I but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  It seems that “Old Ants” never die – and I mean me not Adam.  Viva la Rock!!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Memories of Mac Mac

Today is a really hard day as our we lost our our dearest friend and loving dog Macintosh.  At 14 years of age he had a long and comfortable life and will be missed by friends and family alike.  From the first day when we got him and he "got me drunk" at our local (only to be found asleep with his owner on the sofa by a not too pleased wife) to the many, many happy days that we, as a family, enjoyed with him.  Of late he has not been his usual self but he was still "our Mac, Mac".

Good night buddy we miss you so much.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Formula Fun

With the F1 season now lurching into a regular fortnightly routine, and certain aspect of Bonsai driving me crazy, I thought I’d have a little play around with some die-cast model cars.  As you may know I get quite a kick out of creating one offs and as a way of increasing my Bonsai revenue I often “upgrade” a car that I have to (hopefully) increase its value.

As die-cast models are toys they quite rightly do not carry logos for any kind of cigarette advertising.   I have been doing “toys to Rothmans liveried toys” for quite a while mainly for my own collection.  Whilst fishing around my scraps box I notice I had some spare decals that would enable me to update a 1998 Williams F1 car into a “Winfield” liveired car.  Not the usual that a lot of collectors produce but a fully, 100% race version from the Australian GP.  Below are the 2 different versions for comparison. 


OK, nothing to get too excited about to the casual eye but “night & day” to a collector.  Added to this all my cars have special bespoke inlay cards making then all unique.  Really good fun and sad to see them go in a way but with over 60 “real” models to make I really need the room.

Monday, 28 May 2012

I Survived CKB - but only just!!

Sunday’s Show was a hot and exhausting day (erecting road signage at 4.50am!) but well worth it.  Here’s a couple of “snaps” and I’ll get a better selection posted over the following days as this little froggie is all tuckered out!
Overview of part of the venue
All set-up, just getting the sight off from the Mrs!!
Good fun, great company and blinding sales – what more could a man want?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Accents for CKB

With the Celebrating Kent Bonsai Show only a few days away here's a selection of some of the 50+ plantings that I will have for sale at the event.  They may not be of the standard that will be at the Magical Bonsai Accents Show in Bristol the same day but I hope that some of them will find a good home - if not, I'm more than happy to keep them!!
Typical Japanese - Grass & Moss planting
Small Hosta


Mixed Planting

A close up of the flowers - a bit of colour!

Hosta in a tiny Primitive pot

Mini Cyclamen

Large Hosta with white tipped leaves from a Chelsea exhibitor

Hosta flower ready to burst, just in time!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Student to Speaker in the blink of an eye

After hot footing it back from Les’s place it was a quick car dump and re-load as I was “booked” to do a talk on Accents and Show preparation at the Maidstone Club.  Fortunately I didn’t need to worry about eating as I was still feeling quite full from the stew that I’d had earlier and this was a godsend as my feet hardly touched the ground when I got home.

Realistically, what I know about Accents plants can be written on the head of a pin so the plan of attack for the evening was to try and look like I know what I’m talking about & blag it!  I managed to get quite a bit of set-up done before too many members arrived but then it was a bit manic catching up with people etc.  As the May meeting had to be changed to a Friday because of the Bank Holiday I wasn’t too sure on numbers but I was pleased with the attendance.  Mind you, some things don’t change with Les “moaning” that I hadn’t made him a coffee after all the cups of tea he had made for me.  Blooming cheek, I made him one at the previous meeting and he didn’t even drink it.  OK, he was in the Wirral at the time, but I didn’t forget him!

Close up of one of my Primulas
Wild Strawberry flowers
Well the result was a very interactive and fun meeting which seemed to be enjoyed by all.  I don’t know if they will ever invite me back again although I did get 1 commission planting to make for CKB so I must have impressed at least someone!

A day with Trev & the Cyclops

On Friday I was lucky enough to have a fantastic “Bonsai day” with Trev’n’Cyclops (aka Peter Warren & Les Storey) in sunny Ashford.  Les had invited Peter along to help him with preparation of his trees for Celebrating Kent Bonsai at the end of the month and I was kindly invited along.  As is the norm when I’m working I didn’t take too many photos (even though I intended to) but here’s a few of the benches and the boys getting stuck in.

With Peter doing most of the work, Les put his Issac Hayes* hat on and treated us to Bacon Butties and a fantastic Beef Stew with cobblers – that’s the dumplings, not Les’s banter! – and lashings of tea throughout the day (more on that later). Unfortunately the day passed too quickly and for me it was time to disappear, do a Wonder Woman twirl (not a pretty site!) and prepare for the evening’s entertainment.

Overall I did manage to learn a hell of a lot, either working on the 3 trees of my own that I took along or the various trees that Trev worked on.  Thanks again Les and Peter for a fun day!

(*check out South Park)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Who do you think you are – Stirling Moss?

No, Stirling Haddon actually!!
Stirling does take after daddy when it comes to racing cars.  Hooked, along with his sister, at a very young age he always seemed to have quite a good aptitude for karting.  Well this year as a birthday present we got him a day’s training and practice at Buckmore Park near Chatham.  Over the years it has had many a future Formula 1 star grace the circuit including current British stars Jenson Button & Lewis Hamilton.  Time for the next generation to have a stab!

Start Finish "Straight"
Safety equipment and briefing complete it was time to walk the track and try and learn the racing line.  Before too long his time had come to taste the speed of a 30mph kart for the very first time.  The sessions were fast and furious, sometimes too furious, but Stirling gradually improved to set a best lap time of the day of 41.03sec.  This compares to the best of the day by anybody (his group included drivers up to 13 years old) of 36.54sec.  Not quite the Senna pace but he was 11th out of 18 students so we were pretty happy!

Learning the Racing Line
Stirling had his first ever “Rookie Races” over the Bank Holiday weekend and although he was nowhere near the standard of the other drivers there he learnt a lot.  One think he did pick up really quickly was the waving to the crowd on the rundown lap after the Final.  Better luck next time son.

Back in the Saddle

I can’t believe that it’s been a full six weeks since I posted anything here. This time of year is always a bit busy with birthdays, Easter Holidays and the like but this year has been even more chaotic with all the work involved with CKB later this month. Suffice to say all seems to be progressing well and let’s hope for some good weather and plenty of punters through the door.

Of late the SUTEKI Accents side of things has been taking up as much, if not more, of my time as CKB. Making new pots, sourcing interesting plants and all round stockpiling of material is being to make “my” part of the garden resemble a commercial nursery! Let’s hope that some of my new creations find a new home later in the month. Not so much later in the month, Friday to be exact, I’ve got a Bonsai “double header” with a day’s workshop with Les under the guidance of “Our Trev” (Peter Warren for the non-BSA readers) followed by a talk at the Maidstone Bonsai Club about Accents and Show preparation. Should be an interesting evening as what I know about either could be written on the back of a postage stamp.

Any-ho, lots to report (and hopefully show you) over the next few weeks if I’ve not had a nervous breakdown by then. Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Shhhh, you ain’t seen me, right?

Following a chance conversation with one of my customers it emerged that her husband Shows and cultivates his own Alpine plants. The subject of Bonsai Accent plantings came up and I was kindly invited to see where the magic happens at their home not too far from where I live. Although my friend is still seen as a novice on the local Show circuit some of his tiny little plants took my breath away.

During our discussion about what and where I’m hoping to go with my SUTEKI! Accents business the subject of plant size and availability was raised. At this point I was gifted some very small Saxifraga seedlings that were a perfect size for some of my smaller pots. I planted one of them up and including the pot is smaller than a matchbox in height, a real stunner.

I’m now hoping to introduce some of my new found “additions” to my portfolio at CKB in May but here are a few pictures to tease you with in the meantime - Enjoy!

The time is nearly upon us!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Let's talk about Pots.

I spent an enjoyable evening last night as a guest of Middlesex Bonsai Society discussing tree and pot combinations. It was my first visit to their friendly Club and was made instantly made to feel welcome. We discussed the basics of selecting the correct pot to enhance the beauty of your Bonsai with the aid of a presentation I put together. Opinions and banter was rife but a fun evening and informative was had by all (well I hope so!). I hope that I helped to demystify the “dark art” of tree & pot combos and look forward to seeing their trees in Show at a later date.

Thanks again to the Middlesex Club for kindly inviting me to talk to them and I hope to see some of the members again at the Celebrating Kent Bonsai Show that I’m organising in May this year.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Blown Away at the BSA

As is the norm these days in March it was my trip up to Willowbog for the British Shohin Association’s Show and one I won’t forget in a hurry.  Along with myself was Andy Pearson & Les Storey making the not too insignificant journey to Warrrrrrk (as the locals like to pronounce it) in Northumberland.  Fantastic trees and a warm and friendly atmosphere make this one of the best events in the UK – and probably the most isolated!
Saturday dawned fresh but bright and for me and Andy it got even better when we entered the Exhibition as we found no less than 10 Stone Monkey pots in use along with 9 Suteki Accents or Accent pots.  For me making, and being able to sell on, my pots is a real buzz but to see them being used for the reason that they have been created was exhilarating.  Added to that to have 4 of them published by Bonsai Eejit (a talented artist form Northern Ireland and prolific Blogger) as “fantastic” did bring a tear to this frogs eye.

Saturday sales and banter drifted into the evening meal and for me at least another Tale from the Unexpected as I, well not me exactly but my tree, managed to pick up my first ever award at a BSA Show.  Although not a top prize to win a Certificate of Merit (for trees of a European Origin) against stiff competition was unbelievable as Andy’s photo below might show!  Congratulations must also go to the other MBS winner on the night my good friend Les.  Although not in the best of health he still managed to keep his spirits up and give Andy & I merry hell over the 3 days – well done mate for you 2 awards!

Here’s me and my tree on the Sunday after Fiona (and her monkey Wee Jinky) bullied me into having my picture taken with my tree although I think it was more another chance to rib me about my 70’s throwback purple velvet coat!