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Club News – April 2021

Carving Deadwood Demonstration by Steve Iwaki
April 17 @ 7PM via Zoom

by Idris Anderson

Steve Iwaki will return to Kusamura at our Zoom meeting on April 16, this time to let us see how he works as a carver of deadwood on bonsai using power tools. He will show a slide presentation discussing when and why we carve, inspiration found in nature and before/after photos of some trees. Additionally, he will pre-video a session of carving on one of his own trees and will be free during our meeting to comment as we watch him work: on drills and bits, on various techniques to create depth and texture, shadows, grain lines, and other effects to make deadwood features look naturally beautiful. He will also talk about preserving deadwood or letting it rot naturally. He will allow plenty of time to answer your questions. You don’t want to miss this fascinating program of a special kind of bonsai art.

Steve Iwaki is a second generation bonsai practitioner. He grew up in Southern California with a backyard full of bonsai and his father’s bonsai friends, including John Naka. Steve has been developing his own bonsai collection for more than twenty-five years. He is by training and experience a designer and focuses on balance as a chief aesthetic principle. 

Note that this meeting will NOT be recorded.

Monthly Tasks

Each month there are a number of tasks you need to do to your bonsai – from repotting, to fertilizing to spraying for pests. We have put together a checklist, customized for the San Francisco Bay Area to help you. This checklist is adapted from earlier work by Mitsuo Umehara. 

This month: April Tasks


Recap of Our March Zoom Meeting

We had a strong turnout for our March program. Richard Phillips, Barbara Phillips and Charlene Fischer each covered various concepts of how to participate in the 2021 Virtual Show and how their efforts are broken into two different committees that make up the 2021 Show Team: the Show Coordinator Committee and the Show Tech Committee.

As Show “Coordinator” Committee lead, Barbara Phillips introduced her teammates: Maryann Hinden, Richard Murray and Lynne O’Dell. They will be reaching out to each club member and helping you with any questions you might have regarding submitting photos and biographies for your tree(s) for inclusion into the show.

The Show “Tech” Committee is made up of Richard Phillips and Charlene Fischer. Richard and Charlene will be doing the website work to create our online Virtual Show.

Richard started out by discussing the overall Show Concept and how each tree or bonsai related item will be placed within one of four galleries of a Virtual “Exhibit Hall”. Those four galleries are:

  • Main Gallery
  • Highly refined trees representing owner’s best work
  • Emerging Artist and Works in Progress Gallery
  • Trees in early development by any member of the club whether they be a member with lots of experience or a member new to the art of bonsai
  • Accent Gallery
  • Plants that are used as accents in a formal display
  • Inspiration Gallery
  • The source of inspiration for the bonsai artist: this could be a poem, photo of a tree in nature, a painting, etc.

In his set of slides Richard showed examples of entries that were appropriate for each type of gallery. Richard also pointed out other Show Concepts such as:

  • You can be in as many galleries as you want
  • Exhibits can be based on a current tree or one from a past show
  • Entries can be a single image or a series of images
  • Text can be verbose or minimal

Next Richard outlined what the show team will do. They will start by contacting every active member and encouraging them to participate. To facilitate that, they will offer to help you with all aspects of creating your exhibit(s). That will include the following:

  • Deciding what galleries you want to be in and what to include
  • Choosing templates for your images and text
  • Offering advice and support with taking photos of your entries
  • Handling the technical details of adding your material to the show galleries

As a show participant, you must:

  • Decide what galleries you want to be in and what to include
  • Choose the templates for your images and text
  • Find or make the images you need
  • Draft the text to accompany your images

Richard’s “Show Concepts” were well received at the meeting and I think everyone was left feeling excited about what fellow members would opt to present at this most unique virtual show. See it here – Show Concept.

Charlene walked us through her seventeen-slide presentation which focused on “Getting Our Bonsai Ready For Show Time”. Charlene first addressed the issue of “Why should I show my bonsai?”. She then moved on to discussing the decision process to follow in selecting a tree for show. I know for many of us we are waiting to see what the weather will do, will the tree flower, is it past it’s prime, etc. This year we have a little more flexibility with this as we are not tied to a single physical date and can take photos early. I think it’s going to be fun to find out what members decide to do – display their at-home tree in the traditional Japanese way and create a tokonoma or take a more casual approach, opting to not use an accent plant at all or use an unusual piece of art work that we would normally not consider. Regardless of what route we take, we still need to make sure our tree and plants are free of pests, look their best in clean pots, don’t have any weeds in them, don’t have glaring soil components such as white pumice visible (which can be covered using moss or another top dressing), don’t have overgrown moss or moss growing up the trunks, etc. Charlene covered all these issues in her presentation. 

Charlene closed out her presentation with some bits of advice which included “Worry about keeping your trees healthy above styling them”. This is advice that we all need to remember no matter how many years we’ve been practicing the art of bonsai. Charlene’s final slide was a photo of bonsai displayed in one of our annual show’s in the early 2000 timeframe held at De Anza College. I thought this was a particularly interesting photo because from a distance it made me think of something you’d see in a Star Wars movie – the bonsai displayed on the tall thin tree stumps looked like trees walking as the light from the arched windows highlighted them suspended in mid air, cool but eerie. I had forgotten about that display and enjoyed seeing it again. That was a unique display at that particular show. Our 2021 virtual show is destined to include many unique features too.

Charlene’s slide presentation was also very well received and Charlene had us mesmerized as she went from one slide to the next offering examples of all the things we should do to make our show entries the best they can be at this point in time. See it here – I’m Ready for My Closeup

The club thanks Richard, Charlene and Barbara for a fabulous program. One of our best and most enjoyable via Zoom during this Covid experience based on the feedback I heard from a number of members in attendance that night. Great job guys!

Note that both Richard and Charlene’s slides will be made available on the Kusamura website at some point. In the meantime, club members will receive a .pdf of each slide presentation via email.


Nominating Committee for Kusamura’s 2021-2023 Election

Rita Curbow will be heading up the Nominating Committee for election of new officers and Board of Directors for the 2021-2023 term. The committee will be looking for a new President, a new Vice President and three new Board of Directors as three current members finish their two-year term on June 30. New officers and Board of Directors will be nominated and elected at our May meeting, sworn in at our June meeting and begin their term on July 1, 2021. If you would like to assist Rita by joining her on the Nominating Committee and/or to be considered for one of these positions, contact Rita at your earliest convenience.


Next Beginner’s Workshop at Richard and Barbara’s Home

The date for the next workshop is Saturday, April 17. Richard Phillips will be contacting those members who are eligible. To be eligible, you have to be a newer member of the club and/or a member who has attended one or more of the Monday night Zoom workshops and need some in-person help. The April 17 workshop is a free workshop led by Richard and Rita Curbow. Again, participants must wear a mask and continue to social distance.

When attending, bring three to four trees because sometimes it may not be the right time of year to do the desired work on the tree and you want to make sure you have enough material to work on for the three hours allotted. The morning session is 9AM – Noon and the afternoon is 1PM – 4PM.

Closer Look

This month we see deciduous trees putting on leaves again. Some maples like the “bonfire” variety shown below start out bright red but then change to green in a few weeks. These leaves are about a day old.

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