Welcome to All in One Bonsa

Bitten by the Bug

Welcome to All in One Bonsai...a blog that aims to remind me of what I have forgotten. Over the years I have been finding out as much as I can about the art of bonsai. I hope the information in this blog will shed some light to the beginning bonsai enthusiast out there.

I saw some bonsai trees at a corner market one night in Taipei and asked the guy if he was willing to teach me how to create these miniature trees. He directed me to a night school where all the instruction was in Chinese. My Chinese ability is very ordinary at the least so although I was learning bits and pieces, I really wasn't getting all I wanted from the course. The best parts were when the teacher would start pruning a beautiful tree or when he showed us how to repot a bonsai. The mystery was still out there but my interest wasn't waning, if anything it fueled my motivation to find out more. And so I did.

Let the adventure begin...

Recently I have discovered the joy of pottery. Bonsai and pottery are close friends so it was only a matter of time before I was introduced to her. Welcome to All in One Bonsai...and pottery.

Feel free to visit my site where you can purchase some of my handmade pottery. Quite a few pieces have been wood fired as it is the prefered method here in Taiwan:

Esty Shop: AllinoneCeramics

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Air Layering

One Can Become Many

Air layering a bonsai tree is a technique that you can use to create 'new' trees from the parent tree in a relatively short period of time.  I must admit, when I was first learning about bonsai, I had no idea that you could do this!  I have tried a few since that time and am amazed by how well it works.  Below is one example of a tree that I did air layer.  It is a Taiwan maple.  Below is the story.  I hope this post will demonstrate how to perform this bonsai technique and encourage you to try it out for yourself.

I bought this Taiwan maple at the local flower market in Taipei.  I actually forget exactly when I bought it but I know I didn't do anything with it for quite a while.   I initially shortnened both trunk lines to begin activating some more side branches further down the tree.  (If you cut a branch most tree species will fight to survive and begin budding branches further down the trunk).  It is a great way to reduce the size of your tree while creating new branches - WIN, WIN.  This photo was taken on March 8th 2015.

I bought this tree manly because I liked the strong base.  I tried to think about how to use the forked branches.  The extension of the trunk on the left was too straight - boring.  The second possible trunk line was the right branch.  I could have kept that and completely cut off the left trunk line.  That would have worked ok.  However, in the end I wanted to gain more experience in air layering. I was going to create 'new' trees from both of these trunk lines, while also improving the parent tree.  Three trees for the price of one!    

Here we go.  I began this work on March 8th 2015, which is close to the beginning of Spring here in Taiwan.   The first task is to decide where you want the base of each new tree.  I thought right about here would do.  You then remove a strip of bark off the tree about the thickness of the branch.  Try and clean it up as best you can.  If you leave this raw section a little wooly, then the tree will fight to survive and may repair itself without growing new roots.  Remove the cambium and get to the heart wood.

That's right!  You want this ringed section to grow new roots!  Crazy.  It can be done though.    
I have marked an arrow where the new roots will eventually grow from.  The black line indicates where I will sever the branch from the main tree after the roots have taken.  

To have roots grow from that position however, you need to create a moist environment.  Sphagnum moss is the key - along with some plastic wrap.  Wet your sphagnum moss in a tray, cut it up into smaller shreds, and wrap it reasonably tightly around the cut section. Some people mix some root growth liquid while wetting their moss but I didn't.  Maples are a variety that sprout roots quite easily.  If you try this with another deciduous tree maybe it wouldn't hurt.  
I used bonsai wire to secure the plastic wrap around the tree.  Try and leave a little opening at the top for water to come through.  

A close up.  Not too difficult right!

February 7th, 2016.
I left it for about a year - 11 months to be more accurate.  This is a long time for most people doing an air layer but I was in no rush and I really wanted to be confident I had roots to work with. 
Now we have lots of branches shooting up.  This is a great thing!  When we remove the air layer we will have many options for a new leader that will form a nice taper to the tree.  

I removed the plastic wrap and was happy to see healthy roots emerge.
I have already severed the other one.  I have drawn a black arrow to show you the new lead branch.  This small branch will be the main tree's new apex.  This way you can create taper.  A dramatic taper that will shorten the main tree, creating a more powerful bonsai.  

This is the right branch after I cut it off.  I left all the moss around the roots and repotted it in new free draining soil.  

Here is the little guy.  It was a little tricky securing the tree in the pot but we managed.  I think there may be a technique where you can use chopsticks?  I need to find out more.

This is the left branch from the main tree.  A challenging little sucker!

Here we have the main tree - the real reason I bought this tree!  I hope one day this tree will become a very nice bonsai.  It definitely has an interesting base.  Now I repot this little beast.

I have cut the soil and roots in half.  Where I have numbered 1, is the cleaned up scar after cutting the air layered branch off.  Numbers 2 and 3 are nobly areas that I want to cut into and remove.  I decide this will be the front of the tree.  The tree slightly inclines towards the viewer.

You can bare root maples.  This means you can totally remove all old dirt from the roots and wash them clean!  (Never do this with a juniper or pine).  I cut away some thick roots and leave the fine ones to suck up all the water.  I will repot again in about 2 years.  When I do I will remove some of the other thicker roots, especially if they are above other roots.  The ones that are a nice size and are positioned further down the trunk, I will cut in half to create root taper. You do want strong roots showing at the base of your trees.  It adds age and strength.   

And we are in!  What I am hopeful of now, is a lot of side branches budding back.  I'm not sure how many I'll get but 3 or four would be nice.

3 trees!  Now we place the trees in semi shade, water well, and encourage lots of roots to grow!  I will not fertilize for at least a few months.  Fertilizing now may burn the new baby roots trying to grow beneath the soil.
August 25th, 2017

This is the air layered tree a year and a half later.  I let it settle and grow.  I wired a few branches during that time to create some movement in them.  

I now want to work on the tree's new design a little.  I want to cut some unwanted branches.  I want to remove thicker ones and leave thinner ones.  

Can you tell which one I removed?  I cut it because it made the tree look too juvenile.  I possibly could have reduced the length by trimming it about an inch from the juncture but I decided to remove it altogether.  I think when you are cutting and designing your tree consider the future growth for a moment and then just decide.  If you are still unsure leave it and look at it the next day.  That is some advice I received from a bonsai grower here in Taiwan.  It is simple advice, but try it and you will be amazed how you see things that you missed the day before.

A possible new leader.  I ended up wiring the other branch as the leader that you see in the distance.

Well, here he is for the time being.  I will let the tree rest and recover for a while.  Again I hope to get some new side branches growing that will add more ramification to this little guy.  

The second tree was a lot harder.  I removed some branches to see what we had.

You can see that I tried to make a new leader a while back by cutting off the ugly flat section - I angled the cut so it would look a little more natural.  I think with time it will.  Wasn't really sure what to do with that section growing up from the left of the trunk.

I cut it!  I think I made a mistake.  Looking now, I would have left that second truck.  I could have had a twin trunk bonsai.  Never mind.  We will see what becomes of this one.  I probably should have used that sound advice I mention previously!

September 9th, 2017 - Only about 2 weeks later we see shoots extend.

  These new shoots can result in new branches.  The hope is that new shoots grow in desirable positions.

A close up of a new branch growing .  Tree will push to survive.  By removing some longer, top growing branches, new smaller branches can grow.  

And the mother tree doing well. A year and 6 months later.  We had two side branches grow which was nice.  On the left of this tree, I have left a branch growing upwards - can you see it?  I will leave this for a while because it is helping the side branch get thicker.  That first left side branch is still a little too thin compared to the thickness of the trunk.  We call the upward growing branch a sacrificial branch.  

2 weeks later - September 25th, 2017

More branches growing adding to the age of the tree.

September 25th, 2017

No one ever said bonsai is a fast man's game, however, air layering is one way to speed up the process.  I probably could have done it quicker than 2 and a half years but I wasn't in a hurry and wanted to get it right.  These trees are on their way.  Give air layering a try - do it during Spring when the roots will grow quicker.  Don't be afraid to buy big bulky trees and then air layer as many branches as you can!  Remember One can become Many.

Take care out there.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi?

I first heard about Wabi Sabi reading bonsai magazines from Japan years ago.  The definition of wabi sabi is said to be very difficult to explain.  It is believed to be more of a feeling than anything else.  The feeling is centered around the beauty of  imperfection or beauty in something of age.  There are many interesting articles written about Wabi Sabi but I'm not going to attempt another one here....mainly because I do not have the skill.  Do a search in your own time, it's a worth a read.

Japanese Tea Bowls

A potter from Japan named Tanaka Chojiro is the founding father of the tea bowl shape.  He, alongside a tea master called Rikyu were responsible for bringing wabi sabi into the tea ceremony.  Chojiro formed and carved the classic tea bowl we still see replicated to this day.  Before Chojiro and Riku the tea ceremony in Japan used predominately Chinese style pottery, which were often formed in the Chinese aesthetic.  People during that time saw this 'new' style as a revolution, a change in thinking that has remained in the Japanese culture to this day. 

This is one of Tanaka Chojiro's tea bowl made in the late 16oo's.  It is considered one of his best bowls.  This style epitomizes the wabi sabi aesthetics.

Chojiro was a potter whose father immigrated from China in the late 1600's.  Chojiro's tea bowls are in museums around Japan.  I would urge you to check them out as they are simple but evoke a feeling of beauty - I guess they are the classic and original wabi sabi tea bowls.  They are raku tea bowls that are either black or red in colour, unadorned and simple.  I love them and have been attempting to make my own wabi sabi style tea bowls.  There is a Raku museum in Kyoto that traces 16 generations of potters originating from Chojiro that specialize in making tea bowls.  The family is still active today!  We went there last year and it was brilliant.
This is my attempt at a wabi sabi tea bowl.  This is one of my favorites.

I have always enjoyed the Japanese tea bowl.  I love the humble shape and idea that on a cold day you can wrap your hands around the bowl and feel a little warmer while you drink either tea or soup.
Most of the pots I made in this post are larger tea bowls, however, there are a few tiny ones that you would only have to use your thumb and index finger to make short work of the contents.   

It is important to mention that making tea bowls that have uneven rims, finger dents in the side, and splashes of uneven glazes are all intentional.  It is part of the wabi sabi deal.  And it is a whole lot of fun to make!

I must admit that most of my recent posts have been showing my latest pots and not bonsai related.  Sorry about that but it's where my head is right at the moment.  I still water my bonsai trees daily and want to write more bonsai posts soon. 

Please enjoy some new pots that have all been wood fired here in Taiwan. 

Here is a very small tea bowl.  I used a meat mallet to add some interest.

A larger one.  9 cm in height, 11 cm in width, and weighs 434 grams.

I glazed the inside and also used Japanese black clay slip.

A few different colours.  I glazed the inside and lip because it will be easier to wash and more comfortable to drink from.

This pot has an interesting story.  I originally gas fired this tea bowl but the glaze ran due to the pot not being that well cleaned off.  I liked the shape so in our next wood firing I threw this guy in to see what would happen.  The sections where the glaze ran (didn't cover the surface) were filled in with natural wood ash from the firing.  I like the effect.  This pot has been through a lot and come out the better man.

This tea bowl has two finger indents on either side.

I tried to be creative with this one.  It is different and possibly one too many moons present.

Perhaps the small inside moon would have been enough.

I got aggressive with the opposite end of my throwing stick...creating a fairy deep groove (baby).

A brush with that Japanese black clay...which was very groggy...contained a lot of sand and a bit prickly.

Another angle of the indentation. 

I decided not to alter this tea bowl too much.  I wanted to use glaze in a way that showed some appearance of movement. 

I actually don't like it.  I find this part not easy to look at.

I prefer this side. 

I think this is a more decisive glaze application.

I painted with black clay slip...trying to get a mountain range going. 

Another aggressive swipe with a stick.

This is a quiter pot.  It is a good idea to make different types of pots...it becomes more fun and eventually I guess you can decide which type to make more of depending on what feels best for you.

I didn't apply much glaze to this one, just letting the wood do it's work.

A good mix.

Went a little crazy here.  Different feel.

This guy was an experiment.  New white clay from America.

A slight crack in the lip.  I want to fill it in with gold leaf.  I have seen this done before and I hope to do the same with this small pot.

Nice clay.  Slightly groggy...only slightly.  I like it.

Tried some pattern carving.  The important aspect of doing something like this is that the cuts need to be fluent and decisive...it is not easy to do.

A little bamboo plant growing at the base.

This pot was fired in a wood kiln once but the result was very bland.  It didn't receive enough heat which left the cup matte white.  I decided to fire it again and this time the result was so much better.  I think in the future if I have a pot that I like the shape of and it fails in one firing I will give it a second chance. 

A twisted wire was used to create this surface.

Not sure about this one myself. 

For this fellow I used a cooking wooden spoon found in my kitchen.  The spoon had little drainage holes in it, hence the small buttons formed around the pot.  I slapped the spoon against the sides of the bowl when wet.

This one was thrown a touch wider at the base and I left a narrow foot ring when trimming.  The result is that when looking at the pot, it is hard to see the foot ring.  Most people value the foot ring and like to see it when the bowl is on a table.

The Tanaka Chorjiro tea bowls were all hand carved and hand molded, a pottery wheel was not used.  The foot rings of the hand carved bowls always have more character compared to a trimmed foot off the wheel like this one.  I must try some.

A small cascade bonsai pot.

This pot is only 5 cm in height.

A 7.5 cm tea cup with handle. 

A finger/thumb pinch.  Still in the tea bowl shape though.

I am getting quite a collection of these very small tea gulpers.

27 cm in diameter.  I plan on making more of these fruit bowls.

I think I may have found a suitable object to give the viewer an idea of the original size of each piece.  Fruit!  Perhaps the multitalented grape?  My hand model isn't always so willing. 

Thanks for taking the time to view these pieces.  I enjoy taking the pictures and writing a little bit about each one.  I like giving some thought into this with the hope it will make the next pots better.

Take care out there.

Please visit my online shop at AllinoneCeramics for these and other pieces.