Monday, September 17, 2007

Jin and Shari Demo at Golden Bonsai

For those who aren’t familiar, Rich Perricone is the owner of Farmingdale’s Golden Bonsai. He is also the President of the Bonsai Society of Greater New York, and we were fortunate enough to have him give the club a demonstration on Jin and Shari techniques. Originally slated to be held at the Farmingdale University’s green houses across the street, we changed venues just before start over to the Golden Bonsai greenhouse. After a short scurry to get some better lighting going, we were ready to begin. Though it was already dark out, many of the club members had the chance to wander around the nursery and see some of Rich’s fantastic stock before we got started.

Before the demo, he showed us several new pieces he’d acquired, including a fantastic, if a little shabby, juniper raft, garden grown for fifty years. Also several boxwoods, including a slightly unconventional boxwood literati. The largest of the boxwoods, field grown for the last fifty years as well, was truly astounding. The smallest was a cutting from that largest boxwood’s mother plant, and approximately the size this one was when it was planted out fifty years ago.

Three door prizes, donated by a member of the club who unfortunately couldn’t be there that evening, were also given out. A spruce bonsai found a new home with one of the newest members of the society, here on her first visit, and two jades were also given out.

After showing us several of his own previous work with Jin and Shari, and sharing the pedigree of one of his pieces (the Juniper shown below. The whole story I am sorry to say I didn’t write down… darn my memory, next time I’m there I’ll ask him about it again and write it down this time!), Rich showed us our two trees from which the club could chose from. Once finished, the tree would become part of the club’s collection. Two “Hollywood” junipers, both collected early this past spring, had come far enough to be able to be worked on. Though not as common as Shimpaku or Chinese junipers in bonsai, Hollywood junipers have some great features that make them perfect for the art. They have the soft, scale foliage, rather than the sharp needle foliage of some other varieties. Easily pinched, forgiving species, the red undertone to the bark is particularly appealing.

We decided on the smaller of the two trees, though neither is small by any stretch of the imagination! While the first tree had great qualities, the sheer expanse of non-living trunk on the second tree made it particularly suited to the demo, with more work possible on it in a shorter span of time (i.e. the evening!).
The tree we didn't pick....
The tree we did pick!

While Rich chose a front, he talked about various events in the natural world that could cause a jin or a shari to occur on a tree in the wild. Different techniques and end results can be used to simulate and evoke a lightening strike or insect damage. As he turned to us, asking what style of deadwood we would like to see presented in this tree, the mixed calls of, “Lightening! Carpenter Ants! An avalanche!” quickly decided our course of action.

“Alright, an insect infested tree that was hit by lightening, after an avalanche.”

So much for simplicity!

While much of the presentation would be focused around power tools and their uses in bonsai jin and shari techniques, there’s nothing that quite beats the more basic tools. Of all of the tools I expected Rich to pull out, a linoleum cutter was certainly not on the list. It was, however, one of the first tools to hit the tree (after a brief introduction to his dremel and a careful outline of the living vein that would remain.). I have to admit, that there was nothing more suited to the initial removal of the bark on this section of the trunk. As the living branches and foliage had only been removed a few days ago, the wood was still mostly green and, with the exception of a few rough spots, very easy to remove by hand. Had the wood gotten a chance to completely die off, we would have been more likely to see the power tools in action much sooner.

I was able to assist Rich during parts of the demonstration, though this is the only picture I have of me doing anything. A very clear indicator of how fresh the wood was remained on my hands for the rest of the night in the form of a lovely sticky sap. If I didn’t *like* the smell of juniper, this would have been a problem.

Rich used the power tools to remove the remainder of the bark where it had dried out too much to be easy to remove by hand.

A high powered butane torch was implemented to burn off the “fuzzy” burs of wood left behind. As wood is a very poor conductor of heat, and the foliage that the tree did have was far enough away, there was little issue with using the open flame (small though it was) on the wood we were working on. If there had been a living vein next to the area we were working on, considerably more care would need to be taken.

I have no pictures of the next step, as I was helping Rich. We used raffia to cover the living branch, what was to be our second trunk. Using wet raffia on a branch this size required one more hand than any of us possess. The dampness of the raffia helped protect the bark from cracking as we’d be bending the branch just far enough away from the main trunk to keep it out of harms way when Rich *really* went to town with the dremel. Several windings of wire, a branch bender and another club member later (I just didn’t have the strength to hold down the pot as the branch was being bent!), we were ready to start again.

At this point several of the society members got a chance for some hands and up close experience with how the tree was coming along.

Rich became a wood chipping fanatic at this point, the sawdust flying everywhere like juniper scented snow. The bulk of the carving occurred at this point, and the appearance of those details previously mentioned (“So wait, carpenter ants *and* lightening, right?”) really started to emerge. Rich took a break with the dremel to show us the uses of larger jin pliers when dealing with the stumps of branches that had been removed prior to cutting. By crushing the ends of the stumps (anywhere from an inch to four inches long) and pulling down on the slivers and pieces, a realistic look of where a branch had been broken off by outside forces was created (avalanche anyone?).
Our “mid way” point.

The demonstration was halted at this point due to a small incident with the dremel, and though by the time this was sorted out, it was extremely late and much of the club had left, Rich finished the demonstration to the extent he’d intended to that evening.

While there is still refinement to be done on the carvings, mostly to erase the hand of man from the final design, the dead wood at least looks much like it will look when completed. The lines will be made a little softer, to show the passing of time, some of the furrows and dead veins will be deepened, and lime sulphur will be applied to whiten and protect (at least to an extent) the deadwood as it is. The live branch, now to be our second trunk, will also need some refining and much more work, including improved ramifications and a sympathetic curve with the dead trunk, the piece is well on its way.


Anonymous said...

That's A LOT of pictures.... wow. Thanks for sharing!


Anonymous said...

Hey Heather, is Rich alright? Maybe I'm just morbidly curious now, but what happened with the powertools?!?!?


Kitsune said...

Glad you liked them Kelly :)

Paul, nothing major, a slip of the hand. That's what safety equipment is for. And yes, Rich is ok!