Expectation of Participants
Formal structure workshops
Participants arrive and set up at benches provided. It’s good manners to arrive punctually to set up your workshop space and to meet your instructor. Spaces will be available 30 minutes prior to your workshop session so as you may prepare your work area.
The Bonsai Instructor moves around to each participant individually and talks to them about the design of their tree and sets a task for the participant to achieve (eg, branch design and removal). He then moves on to the next participant and repeats the process. Once the Instructor has seen all the participants, he will come back to you to see how you’re progressing and then direct you to the next stage of the tree. This process continues until all the trees have been created. Please remember that each session only lasts 3 hours so the work is fairly intensive.
Please advise if you require the assistance of an experienced club member.
There will also be observers present watching the creation of the trees, however these people should not interrupt the Bonsai Master or you whilst working on the tree.
Present your instructor with a tree that is worthy of his time and effort (and your money). Work on appropriate material.
To maximise the value of working with an experienced workshop leader. There’s not very much to be learnt from immature plant material where you might end up with one first branch and a new leader. On the other hand, it is recognised that great bonsai material is not always available when you want it, however you will get a better outcome when you give your instructor an interesting tree to work on, so try to make the effort.
Prepare material beforehand
Clean the tree up as much as you can:
- get rid of weeds
- scrape away the soil so the nebari is visible
- cut out dead branches on the interior (be positive they are dead first. If you are unsure, leave them)
Consider the experience of your instructor
If your instructor has a reputation for and experience in creating a pretty azalea bonsai, it’s probably not appropriate to bring along a gigantic collected tree to be carved with a chain saw. However, it may not always be the case.
Come prepared, bring all the tools and materials you need to carry out the work planned
If you are working on a huge stump and you need a chain saw, bring your own. If you need a drill for thread grafting, bring your own. If you need raffia for dramatic branch bending, bring your own. It is not appropriate to borrow tools and materials from other workshop participants.
Uniquely identify your tools
Paint the handles of your tools with a rust resistant paint, or engrave your name on them. It makes identification a lot easier.
Prepare your pot
If you intend to repot, bring the pot prepared with mesh already wired over the drainage holes and a wire to stabilise your tree already in place. If you are intending to do a forest setting have a number of tie wires already in place.
- a turntable
- chocks to help with assessing various angles for the tree
- new potting mix
- muck if doing a saikei
- selection of appropriate size wire
- an apron, if you’re the messy type
- soil surface finishes such as moss or gravel
- a water sprayer to wet the soil for the moss and to spray roots to stop them drying out and to mist the foliage
- disposable gloves if you are working with muck, repotting or if you are allergic to junipers
- a notebook and pen to record the instructor’s advice
- a camera – a photographic record of your tree’s development is invaluable. Such photos can also be helpful in adding interest to future articles you write for our newsletter
A gentle afterthought
Your Instructor can’t be with you all the time – there are other people in the workshop seeking his/her time. Be patient and try to avoid seeking “design decisions” from the audience – no matter how experienced or talented they may be. You are paying to share your instructor’s experience, so don’t introduce a third party into the collaboration. Try to avoid asking the instructor questions when he/she is attending to other workshop participants.
And finally, etiquette for bonsai workshop observers
Please be mindful that it is the participant who has paid for the instructor’s time. As an observer you should not interrupt communication between the instructor and the participant. Instructors have their own personal style, and some are more willing than others to involve observers in discussion, and will run their workshops as a teaching opportunity for everyone. Others may only communicate with the participant, so you need to be paying attention to benefit from the instruction. However, this is something that you can only become aware of at the time. Please also remember that everyone is trying to learn, so keep the chatter with fellow observers to a minimum.
Observance of these guidelines helps to ensure that everyone gets maximum benefit from their workshop experience.