Hints on attending workshops
By Victor Byrdy
If you attend a workshop and have the ‘guru’ (and helpers) do all the work on your tree, you will, of course take home a better bonsai but you will not have contributed a great deal to it. It is much more satisfying to own bonsai that have had some input from yourself into their design and shaping. Remember the better the tree you bring, the better the bonsai you will take home. Nursery stock will become a possible future bonsai, but a good bonsai will become much better.
Before going to the workshop, study your tree or trees to try, if you can, see the style that would be most suitable. If need be, put it alone on a bench and walk slowly round it, keeping about three metres away. This helps you see the basic structure. However, don’t be disappointed if another style altogether is finally recommended. After all the Master is there because he is the Master and can see more possibilities than we can. Please do not try to tell him how it should be done.
You may be required to do quite a lot of wiring. If you are not proficient at this some practice would be advisable. Try wiring a shrub or tree in your garden (you can then remove the wire and use it again). Novices can count on help from experienced members at BSV workshops. Wire will be available for purchase, but it is a good idea to take what you will need and this also applies to raffia.
Always find the top roots of the tree, especially nursery stock before going to the workshop. If you cannot see the surface roots, you should remove a small amount of soil to expose them.
Please remove dead leaves and weeds. Those bringing dirty, weed infested pots will be required to clean them up (especially the bottoms), before presenting them to the Master. If your tree is in a large tub, consider reducing the soil mass and getting it into a container that can be more easily managed. Now would be a reasonable time to do this.
If you are going to have a group planting, it can be helpful to take the individual trees out of their pots either early on the day of the workshop or the day before. Reduce the soil mass to a minimum and then put the root balls into separate plastic bags.
If your tree or trees are going into bonsai pots, then it is a good idea to have a couple of pots of different size with you to choose from, and remember to bring your potting mix and appropriate tools with you.
Make sure you have all the tools you need for trimming and potting, pliers wire cutters etc. It is important to mark your tools so that you do not get them mixed up with those of other people.
Many people arrive at workshops without a turntable.The trading table has turntables for sale.
Arrive in time to set yourself up (at least 20 minutes before the class). The teacher usually wishes to inspect the trees before the session starts, and may also ask you to do some initial pruning or wiring.
Watch what is going on with other trees whenever you can as you can learn a lot from this. Observers should not distract the tutor, questions can be asked at an appropriate time, but please do not crowd in close and block the view of others.
Do not water your tree or trees for a day or two before the workshop (so that they are less brittle and more pliable) and make sure they are well drained.