only just now can I get my head around all the positivity and friendship that I experienced at Burrs and write about! But even so, it will be quite impossible to put it all into words! I arrived early on Thursday were my dear friend Tony was waiting for me with a smile, it felt like seeing my (older ) brother again after a long time and from that moment on my mindset went from gloominess into a bright feeling of belonging and happiness, I was home! The first thing he proudly showed me was his new allotment were his young student and friend Mikey had to spend all morning laying large and heavy concrete tiles in the mud so that we and all the other later visitors of Burrs could walk among the amazing yamadori material that Tony had gathered over the last couple of years. Poor Mickey was soaking wet and there was not a clean spot left on his clothes! Over the next two days, Tony took groups of Burr’s visitors up there and understandable many off this unique yamadori later ended up on the working tables at Burrs to receive their first preparations or styling! After my visit to his place Tony took Mickey and me to his home for some needed refreshments (B.L.T’s) and then we made our way to the back of his garden to look at his collection and to work on some of them. Together we wired and worked/styled his small yew that naturally grows in/from a massive and very heavy rock, this made the Bonsai juices in my body go faster than they already did! But on Friday the real deal started big time, Tony had placed his enormous and mind-blowing yew on a large and solid stone table in the middle of his back garden and while the teachers and guests slowly dripped in Ofer, all the way from Israel, started to pre wirer the largest branches of this monster. Mean while inside his glasshouse Will and I started to work on Tony his white pine and not much later it’s old needles were plucked by 4 pairs of hands!
Below: The pine before we started to work.
This all happened with the sound of classic FM in the background and was all professionally filmed! And I am really glad about that because the styling of this tree is something to be seen by all bonsai enthusiast around the world! After Tony and Enrico (Italy) discussed the possibilities and what to do next, and just before the inevitable English rain started to fall big time, Tony performed a daring technique on one of the thick and almost on bendable branches. At the base of a section of about 6 cm, this branch was halved, leaving it half as thick as it was! Then holes were drilled in both the thick sections above and under the now thinner section. In those holes, thick wires were inserted to protect the branch from breaking when it was placed in its desired place.
Bellow: Tony drilling the holes while Enrico and Ofer hold it in place. You can see Will holding his breath!
Below: Enrico applying the next layer of wire.
About that time the garden was already filled with new arrivals from all over Europe, among them was Pavel and Eric the pot magician! Pavel and I embraced for the first time, but for me, it felt like meeting an old friend! We both, as I found out later from Pavel himself, were both great fans of each other’s work and approach and had been waiting to meet each other to work together! Bonsai can do this among far away unknown friends! Later that day the gazebo was built over the large yew and the classical music was changed to pumping house music! To much culture could kill you after a while! This day was already great but it would only get better!!!! The (very) late dinner that evening was like always with Tony and me at one table a madhouse and a lot off the many glasses of wine and other spirits we sampled came out off our noses from laughing! Like I said, it felt like being home, even for the new ones that had joyed us! A warm bad is the best word…the whole world should be doing Bonsai! But the best part that night was meeting my old buddy and confident Terry Foster and Charlotte his lovely wife who, just like Tony and Carolyn, kindly opened up their home again and even let me use their own bed so that I could sleep alright with my bad back! How humbling is that?!
Friday at Burrs almost all guests were pressed and Tony drove groups back and ford to his garden and allotment. It was a happy day full of meeting old and new friends! The pub dinner with almost all the guests, across the road, was one to remember! Especially my seriously talks with Ofer were enlightening for me, but the (mostly improper) jokes from the both of us are way out there and some of the best we ever heard and told! Humor has no boundaries!
Saturday morning, the real start of Burrs, was for us teachers like we had worked together for years! Enrico found his way to the better trees that needed to be designed and Pavel and Terry found their way to the somewhat lesser trees that needed to be designed. I mostly helped the students with their techniques and questions: like how to select a front, back and total design. I must have made 8 or 9 design drawings that helped them on their way. I showed them how to select the branches, how to wire them, how to bend (some extremely) heavy branches and all the rest you need to know to design and make your future Bonsai. And a lot of the student’s trees that I worked on or helped on, just started their lives as a Bonsai and only needed a good start and could not be finished this weekend. That is why there are not too many pictures of finished trees that I worked or helped on! A lot of the students had a question that needed to be answered and needed help with their techniques and this time it was me to (gladly) take that role! Working this way together meant that everybody was helped this weekend! And wood chip Will helped almost everybody with their death woodwork, this meant (because off the dust) that he unselfishly spend and worked most of this weekend hidden away in the disabled toilet while the tree’s owner looked over his shoulder. The only times we saw him was when he covered with wood chips and dust came out too quickly eat and drink! Now that’s dedication for you!
Below: Here are some pictures I made. And please forgive me that I can’t remember names!
Mikey’s amazing yew.
Below: Hawthorn. This is one off the trees for which I made a design drawing as a guideline for the owner.
Below: Simon “Bonsai Monkey” concentrated and in the zone. I find it a pleasant and wonderful sight when people are one with their trees! It makes me smile because this must be just how I look to others when I am in my tree! 🙂
Below: Enrico going: YOUR WHAT?!
Below: Eric the concrete pot magician wiring his big pine.
Terry and I discussed this difficult tree with the owner together, it needed big decisions!
Below: And this is what they both made! Amazing isn’t it?!
Below: YOU WHAT ???? WHOOO HAHAHA !!!!
Below: The magic off Eric’s pots! His presentation about his work on Friday night was mind blowing!!! By the way: he and the others in his group drove 2000 km to get to Burrs !!! Again the devotion of some Bonsai artist is heartwarming!
Below: Will all alone in his element! What a great guy!
Eric still at work just before the Saturday night lectures/presentations started.
Below: The real deal found by Terry Foster.
Below: One off the best Hawthorns ever again by Terry Foster!
Below: Good friend and great artist Enrico still working late on Jerry’s unique yew, now that’s devotion for you!
After a great meal the real Burrs party started! There must have been 40 different kinds of treats and special medicine from all over Europe on the tables and I and the rest must have tasted most of them. So you can imagine that it did not take to long before someone started to sing!
Below: Pavel and friends proudly and loudly singing their national anthem!
I must admit that I was a bit nervous (after all that tasting in large quantities) about my Saturday night lecture, but it turned out to be my finest hour! For the last 17 years, I have been working on a simple but mostly unknown technique that hides and masks different large wounds on trees. With the help off progressing drawings I tried to explain this (as far as we know) unique technique and the many positives reaction and all the questions I got during my presentation proved that my nervousness was not necessary at all! The many OOOOS and AAAAAS that I got when I showed the drawings and the pictures off the final end result of my technique on my own trees made me really proud and very happy, because it means that I created and developed a technique that can help every Bonsai enthusiast, be it pro or beginner, to improve there work and their Bonsai! During and at the end of my lecture I got a lot off new ideas and possibilities back from the audience and that shows that there is really no end to all the possibilities of this simple technique! So I am already looking forward to the next edition of Burrs so that I and the rest of the gang can hear the outcome of everybody that was here and is about to use my technique on their own trees in many different ways!! In a few weeks time, as promised a while ago, my technique will first be published by The Art of Bonsai Project forum, I will place a link here and on my blog and on my own Karamotto Bonsai website as soon as AoB Forum has posted it online! After that first publication is don and it had enough time to be red by their visitors, well then it will be posted on my own Karamotto Bonsai website for all to see and use as they please!!! And I really hope that my technique will open much more possibilities for all Bonsai artist that will use it in the future! That same evening Tony made a great presentation about the styling of his big Escallonia and his trip that he made to Pavel and to Israel with Ofer! And Mikey finished off the evening with his story in picture and words of his trip trough Bonsai wonderland in Japan!
What an amazing night we all had! And boy (burp) did the light snacks and refreshments tasted good!!!
Below: Same night. Left Side one of the trees that I did style to the finish and on the right Tony’s new tree !!!!
Below: Even later that same night! I was asked to comment on the styling off this Picea by Rob. It is shot here from the right so the little mistakes that were made are hard to see from this angles!
I looked it over and actually for the first time in my teaching years I did it like I always wanted to do, but never really did! Must be all the alcohol! Don’t get me wrong though, I always do tell what I think, but I am always very cautious not to hurt some one’s feelings! But this time I tried to explain it in my own way, with the help of my arms and legs and imaginary friends! First, we discussed the top that was styled in a way that it grew to the backside leaning away from the viewer. To show why this was wrong I sad something like this: Do you guy remembers the Hulk when he was angry and made his most muscular pose leaning right in your face? They all sad yes, so then I turned my back to the listeners, leaned forward (away from them) and made that angry Hulk pose. Then I turned around leaning toward the listeners and made that same pose and then asked: looks quite different, doesn’t it??? Then there was the small but significant problem with the branch in the middle of the tree that pointed right into the viewers face and blocked out the rest off the top off the tree! So I stood close to Rob and raised my stretched arm right in his face with open hand (like a stop sign) and asked: what are the colours of my eyes? He said: I cant see them this way! I replied: annoying, isn’t it?! We went on like this until all small points that could be improved were covered! We had a lot of fun this way, but would it be effective? Later the next day big Rob came to get me, red face and all excited of anticipation. Hans can you come and have a look at my tree again, I rework it?! I followed him and this amazing result of his hard work is what I saw:
Amazingly he got the message from my little role play pantomime and had perfectly corrected all the little mistakes himself! I congratulated him and he was really proud and so was I!
PS: Later that Sunday Rob asked me to see if one of the amazing pots that Erik Križovenský brought along would fit his beautiful tree?! He placed the tree on the food service counter and the pot in front of it on a lower table. And after some shoving to the left and right we both came to the conclusion that it was if they both were specially made for each other! So he immediately bought it! I am sure that it will be a stunning combo that in just a few more years would not be out of place in any big show! Well, don Rob! You are the man!!!
Below: I lent this combo picture from Erik Križovenský who made this amazing pot, it shows Rob’s exciting tree together with Erik’s one of a kind pot, dont they look like they were just made for each other?! And you can see me in 3 off them, being all excited about the combo off pot and tree! Looks simply great!!! If you like to see more of Erik Križovenský work go to “Atelier Bonsai Element“.
Below: New friend Mikey with his yamadori juniper that he acquired last year from me when he visited my house with Tony the day after the Noelanders in Belgium. Mikey wanted the foliage, that is still hidden behind the trunk in this picture, in front of that same trunk! Now, this was an almost straight tree when I got it many years ago and I had bent, purposely broken and twisted it severely over the course off 8 years, so although the wood was very hard and there even was deadwood running along it, I knew that it would bend again! And when Enrico told Mikey that it would not be possible to get into his desired space without splitting it…well then I was, even more, determent to do it! So when Mikey was a way to help Tony I secretly applied wed raffia and then placed 2 pieces off thick copper wire lengthwise along the outside off the future curve and then that was covered again with a layer of tightly wrapped raffia. And then a thick copper wire was tightly applied over that all in the usual way. Then I slowly and carefully started to bring the top underneath and then in front of the trunk, while all the time praying it would not break!
Below: And TADAAA here is the result! I oiled up the live part and treated the deadwood with lime sulphur for good measures! And needless to say that Mickey was over the moon! And when I showed the result to Enrico, he mumbled something like Bastardo!! HIHI! 🙂
Below: The exciting end result of Jerry his yew! For those who have questions about this new angle off this Yew and the lose off that amazing root base when it will be placed in a pot this way? Well, a special, one-off, pot will be commissioned from Erik Križovenský and he will create a pot that makes it possible and believable for this tree to be growing on a slanting mountainside! So that root base will not be lost, but emphasizes, because now it is really holding that massive tree from disappearing in the depth below! Isn’t that exciting, two Bonsai enthusiast working close to getter to create a unique Bonsai…that’s the magic of Burrs!
Below: Smithy’s beautiful Ulmus in Autumn colours.
Below: Trying to hypnotise the poor tree those not help guys ! 🙂
Below: Terry working hard on a difficult pine!
Below: Terry and Dave’s amazing work.
Well, these are all the pictures I have and it took me the whole day to post this all so I hope you all like it and that you guy’s who missed out on this Bonsai extravaganza got some off the positive vibes that we, who were all there took home with us! Thanks to all students for trusting us teachers and thanks Tony for organizing this Bonsai heaven every year! I had a blast and am fired up for the next weeks! I’ll be back!!!! Long live the “Burrs Turkey Cats” !!!! And don’t miss the next edition, I know that I’ll be there again!
Hans van Meer (Dutchy).
PS: This is all written from (very clouded) memories so it might, here and there, differ somewhat from the actual events!
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