JOURNAL TRANSITIONAL REPORT
ISSUE #21. SEPTEMBER 2014
 
Dedicated to and honoring Jerry Meislik named
as our Journal Contributing Editor Emeritus!
 
          This month is another milestone issue for the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai and we pause to count our blessings. A major blessing of the entire national bonsai community is Jerry Meislik of Whitefish, Montana.  Jerry is a unique fellow who has assisted and is involved with just about every national bonsai organization and we are very appreciative of the assistance provided to the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai!  MAHALO JERRY! 
 
           As the founder and president of Fuku-Bonsai, I have a vested conflict of interest.  Many years ago, we trademarked TRUE INDOOR BONSAI as we want to have no part of the fraud and representation associated with the term:  "INDOOR BONSAI."  We partnered with the 5013)(c) Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation to co-sponsor and publish the JOURNAL OF TROPICAL & TRUE INDOOR BONSAI with the hope that it will become a leading voice to greatly increase bonsai success,  to build a "Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai community,  and to try to stop and prevent "Indoor Bonsai Fraud" by providing clear, authority reputable information and education.
 
           Jerry agreed to help me as "Contributing Editor" in spite of his own personal schedule, goals, and research and he's made a major contribution.  With his participation, the Journal is now well established and is building and enlarging the editorial team.  We are elevating him to JOURNAL CONTRIBUTING EDITOR EMERITUS which is a fancy way of partially letting him off the hook so he doesn’t feel pressured to submit an article every month.  The themes of his articles are much more profound universal scope bonsai subjects that require a lot of research or long-term bonsai history articles in which he shares an impressive detailed photo record of his trees over many years. They have greatly added to the authenticity and validity of the Journal and set a high standard that we'll keep trying to meet.  I hope this allows him to pursue projects he's had to put on the back burner.  But look forward to his articles from time to time.   I told Senior Journal Contributing Editor Ryan Chang of my plans and asked him for his thoughts about Jerry:
 
 

         "Jerry, from the very start of my bonsai quest for knowledge, I was reading about you.  I bought your book Ficus, The Exotic Bonsai, which you were kind enough to autograph.  A big thanks to Jerry for always pitching in with a comment or two, an exciting idea, and an encouraging spirit every time we wrapped up another month of articles.  It always spurs us on for the upcoming months. It is a well deserved time-off for you to tend to your trees and enjoy that beautiful bonsai room you have overlooking the mountains of majesty.  I remember and appreciate the tips you gave me with your drawing for my store-bought ficus.  I still have it in a "growing-on" stage.  MAHALO!   - - - Ryan  "

        Early in the month, I had asked contributing editor Jay Boryczko about attending a recent workshop when Jerry was visiting there.  Jay didn't have any photos but wanted to share his early contact with Jerry and he put together "MEMORIES OF JERRY" posted at www.fukubonsai.com/1a6z12.html.  So Jay submitted two major articles for this issue.  Jay wrote his first Journal article just a year ago in the September 2013 issue and this issue includes his one year report:  "THE GANG'S ALL HERE!" posted at www.fukubonsai.com/1a6z11.html  and it's impressive! I again asked Ryan for his thoughts and he wrote:

         "A big congratulations to Jay on his First Year Report.  My words were “Oh WOW!!!” upon seeing that opening picture “The Gang's All Here!”  I see the potential of the work he is doing and know that he is well on his way to creating the ultimate goal to create his own style of bonsai.  I congratulate him on becoming a "free-thinking bonsai man!"  We start on David’s shoulders and like the branches of bonsai, we are encouraged to grow.  Jay and I still have a lot to learn, but it's good to know that we will push forward as a team.  I once was fascinated about collecting trees for bonsai. I now see David’s point that Nature’s Bonsai belongs to everyone and should be collected carefully, in moderation, and not be sold by bonsai professionals.

          I now collect seeds and grow them from babies or grow or train them from a cutting --- tending to its needs and encouraging it to grow, much like how a good bonsai teacher is.  My compliments to Jerry and Jay on their accomplishments.  A big thanks to David for nurturing the love we as hobbyists have for this journey.  I think there will be a higher quality of bonsai activity and the future of bonsai will be greater.  We are a species of teachers and learners after all, and I made a promise to a friend that I’d teach him what I’d learn to others that also want to learn. Mahalo David for the stories, mahalo Jerry for the lessons, mahalo Jay for all the saikei work.  I’m inspired to do my own, but will have to do a lot of planning after learning from you, lol. - - - Ryan" 

          Jerry,  Ryan, Jay, and I have worked well as a team to guide the Journal and we are now strong enough to take the pressure off Jerry as the team begins to grow.   Ryan Chang began with our first issue in January 2013 and his progress is impressive.  He's got a great climate and situation and is now the senior contributing editor.  He's got great support from Jay Boryczko who once claimed that it's extremely difficult to get bonsai to develop in Michigan. In this issue his one-year report clearly proves that's no longer an adequate excuse and we will now hold him to higher Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai standards .  He's made impressive progress and having an insight into his plans, you ain't seen nothing yet!

          Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai was once considered a poor alternative to traditional Japanese outdoor bonsai that requires extreme discipline and skill.  That's really admirable and I enjoy seeing the best of Japanese Bonsai that are developed over many years that are trained by those who devoted their lives to master every single detail.  I think it is admirable that there are now young Americans who are investing a huge part of their lives to serve lengthy apprenticeships with the Japanese bonsai masters and that these apprentices are returning to America,  formally establishing schools and bonsai nurseries, and starting to teach traditional Japanese bonsai.  Their articles are beginning to dominate the national and international bonsai magazines and I am very concerned.

          While I admire the Japanese bonsai and the skills and discipline to create those masterpieces, I do not believe that this will become "mainstream American Bonsai."  I believe it will become the most fanatical "elite" part of American Bonsai" and that bonsai clubs that are formed to only focus on that level of Japanese Bonsai will see dwindling membership.  THAT'S A LARGE REASON WHY AMERICAN BONSAI ORGANIZATIONS ARE NOT GROWING! 

          With very few exceptions,  Americans make lousy imitation Japanese.  We come from two very different cultures.  Japanese tend to want consensus and to be exact imitations of their sensei.  They willingly sign up to be members of bonsai schools and pledge to follow the bonsai masters ---  absolutely and without question.  Not many Americans are willing to do that.  Japanese Bonsai is an extremely rigid cultural craft in the same manner that their flower arrangement,  tea, martial arts, and other cultural subjects are taught. 

         In contrast, when Americans are told the requirements including blindly following the master to join that Japanese school,  the over-whelming American response is: "I'LL THINK ABOUT IT!" Americans are born to think and they think bonsai is both a hobby and a personal art --- not a disciplined craft that requires you to mindlessly follow the ever-growing number of rules that keep students perpetually tied to financially support that school.  Innovation is not allowed.  "Improving" on the teaching of the master or questioning their teachings is heresy and enough to get that apprentice kicked out.  So don't believe or expect to see an American bonsai apprentice professional wannabe claiming that he follows the principles of unhindered art.  If that person makes that statement,  it's just superficial talk as their actions will always be guided by the masters that they are so proud to be associated with. 

          Fuku-Bonsai has a long history of independent innovation and pioneering True Indoor Bonsai since 1962.  Although I've worked with top bonsai masters including Saburo Kato, Johh Naka, Yee-sun Wu, and Haruo Kaneshiro,  although they are in Fuku-Bonsai's International Honor Roll along with Ted Tsukiyama and Akiji Kataoka, I acknowledge and appreciate what I learned from them and clearly deviate from what they do or from Japanese Bonsai --- primarily because with very few exceptions, Japanese Bonsai will not grow in tropical climates outdoors.  THEY ARE NOT HOUSEPLANTS AND CERTAINLY WILL NOT GROW INDOORS. 

         THE REALITY IS THAT EVERY DIFFERENT TREE TRAINED AS BONSAI REQUIRES A SPECIFIC BOOK THAT ONLY TEACHES THAT SPECIFIC TREE!  If you study and believe general bonsai books and claim to know everything about bonsai, and arrogantly want to impress or argue with me,  please don't ask to join our Beginner Study Group.  It is very unlikely that you will graduate and be invited to become a member of the Fast-Track Study Group. 

           The problem is that most bonsai books published in English are written by Western writers who don't know bonsai.  They may be good writers who spend time interviewing Japanese bonsai masters, take a lot of notes, and come home to write books that are intended for the general public that explain the secrets of bonsai.  But the books are totally flawed and very poor to use as guides to create bonsai.  Anyone who believes that a person who interviews Japanese bonsai masters can write a bonsai book is simplistic and naive.  Each specific plant requires different cultures at different stages of development and in different environments.  Techniques do not apply to all plants.  What works for say Japanese Black Pine will not work for azaleas or elms, or Dwarf Schefflera! 

           FUKU-BONSAI IS SINGULARLY VERY SUCCESSFUL BECAUSE WE SPECIFICALLY ONLY TEACH AND SHIP SUPERIOR DWARF SCHEFFLERA GROWN FROM HIGH-POTENTIAL PREPARED BONSAI STOCK!  Can you identify any other source that can make that statement?

           OUR GOAL IS TO TEACH AS MANY MEMBERS OF THE FAST-TRACK STUDY GROUP AS POSSIBLE.  Except as the primary component of our Introductory Workshop Package we are not interested in selling prepared bonsai stock --- especially to other bonsai professionals.  But the reality is that we are encouraging members of our Fast-Track Study Group to teach and become bonsai professionals!  We will supply them Premium Prepared Bonsai Stock that they can train in a relatively short time and to sell at a significant profit --- BUT ONLY IF THEY AGREE TO TEACH OTHERS AND WRITE ARTICLES FOR THE JOURNAL OF TROPICAL AND TRUE INDOOR BONSAI!  THAT'S WIN-WIN-WIN!

            OUR LONG-TERM GOAL IS TO HAVE FAST-TRACK STUDY GROUP MEMBERS IN EVERY PART OF THE UNITED STATES TEACHING TRUE INDOOR BONSAI TO ALL WHO ARE INTERESTED!  The reality is that very few individuals are willing and able to learn bonsai in depth via the Internet and email.  The Beginner Study Group may seem easy, but it's not!  There are only a small number who can develop the discipline to pre-plan the workshop project.  Whereas most of the submitted reports were once published, the standard continues to go up and the critiques are more detailed.

           That's good and bad.   Those who have low standards and are satisfied in just their potted tree has survived may be disappointed that their effort is not praised as masterpieces.  I never hear from some again.  So I appreciate the kind words of those who appreciate my efforts to improve their craft and who are not intimidated by some of my comments of higher standards and greater detail. 

            As everyone knows, I have a fanatical love of bonsai and really enjoy seeing others improve and enjoy the challenge and the fellowship. Growing, maintaining, and refining bonsai can be mastered by many --- especially if the trees are either properly prepared, pre-trained, or semi-trained. But training to address specific trees as done by members of the Fast-Track Study Group is a lot more difficult and at times I'm still learning too.  It's a lot more fun working with a group of bonsai trainers and I hope this friendships continue to grow,  that individuals begin to teach others nearby,  and that they also get involved in the national bonsai movement as we all try to create our version of American Bonsai.  I believe that the Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai community that we are creating will continue to grow and that we will be increasingly be teaching younger children and more ladies.

            But I also expect to continue to see more innovation and creativity.  In this issue we welcome newest contributing editor Thomas Matkey and introduce Jeff Smith, the newest member of the Beginner Study Group.  For me, this is another milestone issue as Jerry, Ryan, Jay, Thomas, David R., and Jeff has made nice contributions and each is excited about the future.  I AM TOO! 

            MAHALO!  ~~~David  (david.f@fukubonsai.com)

 

*** Return to the September 2014 issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
*** Go to Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
*** Go to Fuku-Bonsai website
© Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014