Sunday, July 13, 2014

Don’t give up your day job …

I believe anyone who pursued bonsai as a hobby, at some point asked oneself: “What if it was my job?” To many of us it’s a rhetorical question with a regretful aftertaste. However, I recently read something that softened my regret.

It was a collection of anecdotes about practitioners of the tea ceremony (Cha-no-yu) in the 17th century Japan. I should explain that, a lot of them were professional soldiers and Cha-no-yu was their pastime. However, some of them got so involved in it, that it was detrimental to their career and family (Cha-no-yu was and still is a very expensive hobby).

Anyway, one of the stories was about Hosokawa Tadaoki, a prominent military commander and a renowned Tea Master. After his retirement, he was a highly sought teacher of Cha-no-yu as he was the only remaining disciple of Sen no Rikyu. He often urged his samurai students:

You must remember that it is your military prowess that has obtained your fiefs and honors. Do not then neglect your main business. It may be well enough to occupy any spare time you may have with Cha-no-yu, but never let a diversion take the place of the work of life.”

He knew that he was able to learn Cha-no-yu from the best and become a master himself only because he served as a soldier till the shōgun allowed him to retire. Somehow, this quote made me feel more respectful of my day-time occupation.

This story also has a connection to bonsai. Hosokawa Tadaoki was a close associate of shōgun Tokugawa Iemitsu, the one ruler of Japan who was crazy about bonsai (for more info see:

Was it enough talk about Cha-no-yu for one post? Not yet. I’d like to show here some ‘non-bonsai-pot’ things I make out of clay. Image on the left shows an Ido style raku tea bowl and the one on the right shows a wood-fired katatsuki type tea caddy. No matter where and how someone drinks tea, one has got to have a cup and a container for the tea leaves.

Friday, July 11, 2014


I have been growing bonsai in the same area of Sydney for the past 7 years, but I’ve never seen my trees to be exposed to sub-zero temperatures. This morning I found frost on some of the leaves and ice in the drip trays. The lowest night temperature for my area was reported to be 6°C and at the time of taking the photos shown above the temperature was reported to be 18°C. A disparity of 20 degrees! No wonder everybody thinks there is global warming.

Monday, July 07, 2014

This year’s bonsai pots

I haven’t posted anything about bonsai pots made by me this year. There is only a handfull and they are not that impressive. Nevertheless, I would like to record some of them here. Few were fired in an electric kiln (see images below).

Images above:
1 – 9 x 6.5 cm, round, stoneware, rutile glaze
2 – 24 x 6 cm, round, stoneware, tenmoku over rutile grlaze
2a – close-up of the rim
2b – close-up of a glaze “tear”
3 – 17 x 8 cm, round, stoneware, white glaze
4 – 16.5 x 6.5 cm, round, stoneware, rutile glaze

I also had a couple of pots fired in a wood-fired kiln. To my surprise they were rather plain (see images below).

Image above left – 15 x 6 cm, round, stoneware, rutile glaze
Image above right – 14.5 x 5 cm, round, stoneware, white glaze

There was also something I’ve never done before. I put a bonsai pot though a raku firing. As you can see form the images below it ended up “in tears”, happy tears in this particular case (see the close-up below). The pot is 17 x 5 cm, round, decorated with white crackle glaze. 

You may say raku firing is useless for bonsai pots. The clay is not fully vitrified and the pots will not be durable. You are right, but such pots can be waterproofed with one of the products available on the market and used only for the duration of an exhibition. I think it was still worth it!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Ray Nesci technique: 5 years later

Five years ago, I published a blog post about a technique shown by Ray Nesci at "Bonsai by the Harbour 2009" (left image above, for details see: Last month, I got a chance to see this Azalea after a five-year period (image above left). I think the technique works and the resulting tree has the potential. The technique allows to achieve thick trunk and fully formed branches in a relatively short period of time.