Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Tired of Topiary!

Although I am the self confessed “Cotoneaster King”, unlike the Cooler King Steve McQueen I’m not as versatile (in Bonsai terms at least) so this year will see me turning my back on my roots and looking to follow a different path. This is not to say that I’ll be dumping my shrubbery friends but I’m looking to learn how to make proper Bonsai. The previous comment my sound strange but there is a certain amount of snobbery within the hobby and I’d like to prove to myself (and others) that I’m not a one trick pony and I can style proper trees. I was told recently that I “have a lot of Cotoneasters*” and I think that this was a polite way of nudging me onto other things. With this is mind this Winter has seen a radical overhaul and re-think for 2012.
(*I’ve got another one on the way but don’t tell anyone!)

I don’t care what anyone says, unless of course you are some stellar artist, decent trees need decent material so out went some of the better duplicates from my garden so that I had less distractions from my goal. I have a bad habit of flitting from one project to another and I need to structure myself more but sometimes that’s easier said than done. With that done I moved onto laying down a “tuition foundation” which includes a class with Peter Warren in the Spring and attending Burrs in November. I feel that this gives me a more than good starting point and I also hope to attend some more workshops during the year to help me on my quest. Don’t get me wrong I know I’m a Bonsaist and not a Bonsai Artist.

I’m not hoping to be the next Marc Nolanders or Kevin Wilson but I was told “if you aim for the moon and fall short, you are still up there with the stars” so my “moon” is to have my trees recognised as my own work in their own right that would not look out of place at a top Exhibition. The “stars” would just be acceptance to afore mentioned Show and seen as a person who understands Bonsai and his limitations. Has the Ego Landed? – No, I just wanna be the best that I can be. Not too much to ask is it?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

And there it was gone (with the wind!)

It was a tad windy in my neck of the woods yesterday and upon leaving for work I had a feeling something might end up a miss at home but I wasn’t expecting my poly-greenhouse becoming a kite! Here’s the damage and all I can say is that I was a very lucky boy. I’ll explain.

Only the framework remains - the cover is long gone!

I was using it for some Winter protection for my larger Bonsai and some Accent plants. Knowing that my garden can be a bit of a “wind tunnel” at times I took the precautions of weighting the base down coupled with guy ropes attached to the house and ground anchors. It seems that the covering split and then took off but fortunately took the top set of poles with it (mostly). As most of my trees were at ground level they were unaffected but a few bits that were on the large, heavy bench (see photo) did go for a bit of a walk.

So apart for some minor branch and pot damage the contents came out mostly unscathed, thankfully, I came out OK (unlike next doors fence!). This has unfortunately left me with a bit of a problem with storage but I’m more than happy to “donate” my potting shed for a few months rather than have to start again with new material!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Slapped by a Slab!

When God was handing out the “Silly Ideas” gene, I wasn’t down the pub with my mates having a beer and playing pool, I was camped out like an expectant January Sales shopper. This eagerness came back to bite me other evening. “Let’s make some different pot shapes” says the heart, “OK” says the brain so what do I attempt, a Hexagon! (it ended up as a Pentagon - I can’t count either).

I’ve made some “non-round” pots in the past - wobbly squares, rectangles & triangles – but never tried anything too complex by hand. After some frustration I thought I’d slab build some as I also had a larger rectangle to do as a commission. I’d done this once before at Willowbog under the guiding eye of Mr Stone Monkey himself but was confident that I could nail it on my own. I carefully rolled out my slabs and let them dry. Once I was happy I attempted my first Hexagon(sic), it seemed to work. OK, rectangle time. All was going well and I tucked my pots up to sleep as the night was getting on and the wife was getting angry.

Bright and early the next morning (unfortunately a school day) I watered my Bonsai and thought I’d check the workshop. Don’t know why, maybe I’d been burgled by slugs or something but DISASTER; I was greeted with my own Clay Lego pieces! Never before in the field of SUTEKI Accents has so much carnage be created with such little clay but there they were 4 pre-fab pots. But low, what survived the battle between the skill of the maker (or lack of in my case) and the evilness that is Terracotta? The Hexagons!! Knowing my luck they will probably blow up in the kiln taking out half of Kent with them but that’s the way my luck runs. What do they say? “If you didn’t have bad luck, you’d have no luck at all!”

So here they are, still in a green state, my first ever slab built Accent pots. OK, not quite as good as I hoped (the number of sides missing was a bit of a giveaway for starters) but hopefully a few lessons learnt. Before I start on the next ones I must a) learn to count to 6 and above, b) learn my basic shapes (do they do a “Shapes for Dummies” book?) and c) pray to the Gods of Clay for guidance and a sign. In other words concentrate on what I’m doing, understand my limitations and stop living in cloud cuckoo land!!

The Girl is Mine

Today is an odd but special day. Although Sally & I always remember the first time that we became a “couple” this special date now takes a different meaning as it now means that we have spent 19 years together – more than the time she spent with her parents! It might seem “odd” to commemorate this anomaly but for me it’s a milestone in our journey through life. Poor Ole Sal ahs had to put up with many of my faults and hobbies (golf, bonsai, model making) but she’s always been there for me and I’d like to say a heat felt “Thank You”. Here’s an early picture of Sally and her cradle snatcher!!

Love, Peace & Bananas,
Doug (You’ll have to ask her for the answer to this one!)

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year to One & All!

I would like to wish all the people that take have taken to the time to read my Blog over the last year (OK, Andy P & Ian Y!). 2011 was a very difficult year and although it had some highs (including the launch of SUTEKI Accent pots) it did unfortunately have some very low points. Although I’m not saying that due to a change in digit things will suddenly be OK, I am approaching the New Year with a sense of optimism. 

Even though I’m unable to attend Noelanders this year there are plenty of things on the horizon. Thanks to the generosity of Andy P (aka Stone Monkey Ceramics) and the Swindon Club I will be selling my pots at this excellent Show along with exhibiting a small Shohin display. In March it will be my annual trip to the BSA Show at Willowbog to hopefully show a couple of compositions followed by my first ever Bonsai Club talk at the Middlesex Club later in the month. Add this to the organisation of the Celebrating Kent Bonsai Show in May I’m gunna be a busy boy!

It’s not all Bonsai though. I’m in the process of producing an exciting model car montage that I hope to have completed in time for the British GP (notice I didn’t say which year!) and I will post my progress as I go. As you may be aware I love my motorsport and have also been lucky enough to make some models for current F1 driver Mark Webber and below is the group of figures that I made for him last Christmas. Each of the figures is no larger than a matchbox and hand painted. Quite a few hours work but well worth it – well, it made Mark’s New Years Eve when I prestented it to him last year!

Well that’s me for now, just gunna kick back and listen to some Jaguar Skills and polish of this bottle of Merlot. Best wishes to one and all and let’s hope that I keep the Blog a bit more up to date than last year!!