Friday, July 24, 2015

HOW I PACK TO SEND A BONSAI POT AROUND THE COUNTRY

This is a subject that I was hesitant about posting on........everyone has different methods and materials, some work, some not so well.

I have to admit that maybe once or twice a year there will be a damaged pot received by someone. Considering the number I send, that's something that has to be expected, and am quite proud of our record so far.

A pot can be sent all over the world successfully, but when it comes to parcel handling in New Zealand we are faced with parcels that can be treated quite roughly.

This is how I send my pots around New Zealand.

Each individual pot is wrapped in several layers of newspaper  (love to recycle:)

Then each pot is wrapped in layers of bubblewrap and taped.  It does use a lot of bubblewrap but sometimes you can get it on special.  Its always handy to have around for something.
Almost there!!    I must mention that all wrapping etc must be done in front of a nice warm fire away from frosty icy garages!  The cat and I jostled for the best position, unfortunately she won....that was her spot.
Finished....it takes quite a while, but the extra time put into it now, can save you having to replace any that get damaged.
I estimated that these would fit into 3 cartons, but until you get them wrapped up, its really just a guess.
My biggest challenge is finding boxes that are sturdy enough to handle the weight of several pots, and are the right shape......I didn't realise just how hard it is to get shallow square boxes.  Being mostly round pots there is a lot of wasted space using a rectangle box.  That's just something I have to live with as I have chosen to make different size pots.
The above picture shows a banana box bottom tucked inside another box just to keep the sides rigid.  A layer of scrunched up newspaper is put on the bottom and the pots are arranged so they aren't touching the sides (very important)
Nearly finished......The pots are placed in the box with layers of newspaper surrounding and in between them.  They shouldn't be able to move at all.  The box is filled up this way, being careful not to make it too heavy.
The box top is folded down and taped.....by taped I mean all around several times, just one or two strips wont do.
 
Several "Fragile" stickers are placed around the box and its addressed and ready to send.  I also write "TOP STOW" around the box.  This supposedly means that it wont be put at the bottom of the crates they are stacked into while traveling around the country. It should be stored near the top.....therefore not getting crushed with all the weight on top of it.  Well that's what I've been told by the courier, but not sure if it actually happens.
 
The couriers are beginning to get a bit more particular about the size and weight of box's sent, I underestimated the weight on one of these box's and ended up having to pay for an extra Courier ticket.  Sometimes the estimate is spot on, sometimes its not.........
 
So that's how I do it......maybe you do it differently, I'd be interested to hear of any different methods that don't require you buying lots of expensive packing materials:)



Sunday, July 19, 2015

It's Been a While....an Oval Bonsai Pot at Last.

After numerous failures and disappointments while making large oval bonsai pots, I decided to give it another go........ opening the kiln this afternoon I was a little apprehensive.
Turned out beautifully!  I added a little bit of soft clay around the join, a slightly different colour but you don't see that when its planted up.
The glaze has a grainy almost wood fired look to it.....very pleased with it.  Being 48cm long it'll be a very handy pot to have.  I have a group of alders that would look great in it.
This pot however, got the "holy moly" reaction.  Being one to always try something new, I decided to dab a little dark glaze on with a sponge. Thinking it would melt and blend in with the brown glaze, I was disappointed when it didn't move/melt or anything.  Looks like a pot that has gone mouldy.  This has been put aside to try reglazing!  It's not growing on me at all.
 
 
These turned out well....love this glaze, it's darker in the grooves of the textured pots.
It has a nice antique look to it.
 
Just a wee note about my pots freezing.  I got an email from Simon Leach a very well respected potter who had the same thing happen to some of his freshly  made jugs.  He noticed ice crystals in them,  he just reworked them and smoothed them down again, and they all  turned out perfectly.  So that's something to keep in mind if it ever happens again.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Gotta Love Winter in Southland New Zealand!

This is what we woke up to this morning.....wow, breath taking!
 
These larch are hardly recognisable.
 I had to knock a bit of snow off the pines as there was quite a bit of weight on the wee branches.
 This Chinese elm looks majestic with its temporary snow foliage pads.

 This Wisteria looks quite artistic now!

 Snow seems to get rid of all the clutter and shows you the bare bones of the bonsai, as with this Alder.
 This large Hornbeam was sitting on the deck, ready to get some attention over the winter, perhaps its just as well I never got around to it yet.
 
Snow puts a whole new perspective on our every day views, its natures way of making us take notice of what shapes are around us...........brrrrr, time to put another log of wood on the fire.  MAYBE REPOTTING TIME IS A WEE WAY OFF YET!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A BONSAI POT DISASTER !!*&#!

A hard overnight frost put me in the most suckiest (not sure if that's a word) mood in a long while.

I'd just spent all my spare time the previous weekend making some larger bonsai pots - one for someone who had been waiting a while.

Yesterday when I got home I strolled into the garage to check on my pots and make the feet etc, I was greeted by the most heart breaking sight.

The frost had snuck its way into the garage and froze the freshly made pots.  The still wet pots must have defrosted during the day and ended up a cracked useless mess!

I'm normally a fairly placid person, but when I discovered this I was so angry......all that time and effort wasted.....grrrrr. 

After I'd calmed down a little I thought I'd share this, as I'm sure I'm not the only one this has happened too.

Here's my You tube Channel LINK: https://youtu.be/ZlvsUfHi0l0


My main concern is that the pots that were waiting to go into the kiln may have fine cracks in them now that I'm unable to see...... do I risk wasting more money by bisque firing them now??  At least I can recycle the freshly made ones, so its not all bad.

THEY SPENT THE NIGHT INSIDE THE HOUSE WITH THE FAMILY LAST NIGHT, AND NOT A WORD WAS SAID BY ANY ONE......I DONT THINK THEY WERE GAME ENOUGH TOO, CONSIDERING MY MOOD.

We had another heavy frost last night and the inside of the garage windows where all frozen this morning.

Those of you that have nice heated studios attached to your homes are so lucky in many ways after days like this. (I'm green with envy!)

"I love pottery, even with its ups and downs"

Hmmm.... looks like I'm going to have to suss out where in the house I can put my pots without causing the least disturbance for the family.  Wish me luck!

 

Monday, June 15, 2015

USE FOR A BROKEN SLAB?? I WONDER..........

The weather has been absolutely rubbish this week. You don't wanna be outside and you're sick of puddling round inside!

SO... I got to reminiscing over previous posts and found one that hadn't had many views way back when I first started blogging.  It was quite relevant to last weeks topic on some slabs that had just been successfully completed.

Have a wee look.  Its a bit out of date....but still very relevant.

http://howimakebonsaipots.blogspot.co.nz/2013/08/a-broken-bonsai-pot-is-useful-pot.html     Here it is....below

Have you ever broken a bonsai pot or slab and ended up throwing it in the wheely bin?

Many of us have.

Too many of us think that if a pot isn't "perfect" that it will never look any good with our tree in it.

Recently, I was asked if I had any broken/cracked bonsai pots that I was going to chuck out.  Hmmm... strange question I thought.  Normally people want solid unbroken uncracked pots-brand new.

On questioning him he was adamant they would definitely have a use.  So I quite happily gave him a couple of rejects from my latest kiln firing.

I got an email from him recently  with a couple of pictures of his latest bonsai creation using a slab that had broken during the high firing.

Now this bloke is obviously talented.  To think outside the square and make use of these two pieces of pot and create a beautiful forest/group planting of beech is something to be proud of.

Here is a picture of the beech planted up on a "one piece slab" (broken one pushed together)



Looks great dont you think!  But look below



In my opinion, I think this looks even better, two separate plantings but still with the one group.
The river/stream is imagined between them.

 I managed to get him to agree to put his name to this creation....well sort of, he's about to start out his own bonsai venture and  is going by the name of Fredric Bonsai. (fredricbonsai@gmail.com)  If you want to get in touch with him, I may be able to pass on any queries.  Better still, I'll see if he wants me to add his email address!  (he did say yes!!)

So the next time the dog/kids/wind/rugby ball knocks over one of your trees and breaks the pot/slab,  take a good hard look at it first before turfing it in the bin.  Nature isnt perfect, after all,  isn't that what we are trying to recreate?
 
 

Friday, June 12, 2015

SLABS AND TEXTURED BONSAI POTS


 These came out of the bisque firing successfully, always a relief.  A lot of flat pieces like large platters etc are a bit more at risk of cracking as the bottom is in full contact with the kiln shelf, especially as there are no feet to raise it up slightly.  The air surrounding the sides of the pots cools them down a lot quicker than the part of the pot touching the kiln shelf.  It holds onto the heat more and cools down a lot more slowly.  The trouble comes when the sides are cooler than the bottom - with the whole expansion and contraction tug of war going on, this is when the cracking can sometimes occur.  I'm not into the whole chemistry/physics explaination of things, simple understandable language suits me fine!
This above slab shrunk to 47long x 28cm wide in the bisque firing
 All slabs were made of different clays, and all turned out differently in colour, texture and shrinkage.
Final completed size 46cm long by 27cm wide. 
This was oxided and had that beautiful rough texture.  I'm not sure if I'm putting in too many drainage holes, as I have had the odd comment that they use a lot of "gauze".  I'd rather put too many than not enough.  The tying in holes are also another method of drainage, especially if the bottom has warped slightly up during drying and firing (it sometimes does).

Gotta love that texture!
This slab was a surprise as it fired to a light terracotta colour, it was a mix of 3 different clays if I remember rightly.  The sandy surface will give the roots something to cling onto, rather than have it smooth as so many are. Bisqued size was 47 x 31cm wide, final size  after glaze firing was 45cm long by 30cm wide. 
Along with working on these slabs, which by the way are happily on their way up to the lovely climate of Auckland as we speak, I squeezed in a couple of other textured bonsai pots.
 The two brown ones are really nice, much nicer in person than the pic shows.  One has a shallow crackled texture and the other much rougher.  The bottom one is already sold but the other will make its way onto Trademe shortly. Nice light feminine style pots.

 This one was a bit of a surprise. I acquired a bucket of glaze that had been made up, but one of the ingredients we are guessing was labelled wrong and the resulting glaze was....well....(bl.... awful!)  Not one to see things wasted, I offered to take it home, perhaps thinking that if I fired it up high enough it might be nicer.  WRONG....looked even worse.  So being one that doesn't follow recipes, I added this and that, along with little bits of left over glaze.  This glaze couldn't be repeated anyway as it was in an unlabelled bucket with no ingredients listed.  I did a couple of tests and tried it out on a pot just to see.  All of the pot is a uniform colour until this bit on the front.....shame it didn't happed between the gap in the feet, it would have looked like it was done on purpose.
Would look nice with a golden totara in it.  The winter colour would match the goldeny yellow colour in the runs. (not sure if I worded that well, considering the colour!)

Opening the kiln after a glaze firing gives me more of a kick than opening presents at Xmas by a long shot.....gotta love pottery!!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

AUTUMN'S ALMOST DONE AND DUSTED.....

The days are shorter, the nights are colder and the bonsai trees are getting ready for their winter sleep. 

After spending spring and summer sending out new shoots and growth, its time for our trees to shed their summer outfits and have a well earned rest before next spring.
60 - 70% of my  bonsai trees are deciduous, so winter time around my garden looks a little bare.  In another week or two most of the leaves will have dropped properly off my elms and beech etc.  So I'm making the most of the change in colour, especially with the swamp cypress which is now a beautiful rusty red colour. The leaflets fall when you touch them, so no doubt the wind will take care of that job shortly.
  You get to see the "framework" of the trees after leaf fall.....sometimes (well most of the time) they don't look as appealing and other times there is a nice surprise with the branch structure.  Perhaps I have learned something and its looking the way it should be.

My beech always puzzle me though.  Some loose their leaves and others hold onto them with all their might.  The purple beech tend to loose their leaves more than the plain green beech, but I assume that because of the leaf colour and the different rates of photosynthesis.

 This beeches branches are trying to grow up vertical again, so I'll have a go at wiring them down into the sweep type characteristics of the large old mature beech.  One of the many jobs to do this winter.
My oaks are very similar to the beeches, in that some have totally lost their leaves and others have only slowly started to yellow off and remain quite green.  This English Oak (Quercus robur) is a classic example.  It'll probably hold onto its brown leaves over the winter if it gets the chance.  But I usually go around and cut the leaves off about July and just leave the petiole or stem attached.  I figure lots of eggs overwinter amongst the leaves, so I find it best to get rid of them. Many will disagree with doing this as they say the leaves protect the buds over winter....doesn't seem to harm them from what I've seen over the last few years as the leaf stem must still protect them to a certain degree.
Another tree that likes to hold onto its leaves is the good old Hornbeam.(Carpinus betulus)  This one was given its first wiring last year. The wire is still on as it hasn't seemed to have cut in at all.  I think it got such a shock that I was actually doing something to it, that it decided to sulk for a while.  Will have to repot it this spring as its been in that cut down pot for a year or two or three.
These larches are also not very coordinated in their approach to colour changing and loosing their leaves...some quite green still and others looking bare!  Just goes to show how each tree is totally unique and how it adjusts to its environment whether its in a large pot/small pot, in the sun/sheltered, well watered/not. These are going into a group planting hopefully, soon as I get a decent size slab made for them. 
 
You've gotta love these wee trees each with their own characteristics.... a bit like us, all totally different.
 
ROLL ON SPRING!

 


 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

GORE BONSAI CLUB OUTING TO DUNEDIN

 
While this blog is mainly about making bonsai pots, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to let others know about our Bonsai Club in Gore.

Its only small, with a regular attendance of 8 members (some more, some less) at our workshops.

Every now and then we organise an outing....sometimes its to a nursery or to visit a bonsai collection.  A couple of weeks ago it was time to go on a visit to Dunedin to see Joy and Colin Morton's large collection of bonsai trees.  We certainly weren't disappointed!

Yes Colin we can see you!!
Joys garden is full of bonsai in all different stages. Many she has grown and cared for over the last 30 odd years.


It was a time for old friends to catch up and the younger ones to see what could be made with a bit of time and patience.


We stopped every few metres for Joy to explain about some other bonsai and how it was grown and trained.  Unfortunately the camera and sun didn't play ball and many pictures were too dark to be of any use. 


A couple of her many trees.  I was particularly fond of the Ginko which was in its brilliant yellow autumn colouring.


We found this group of rocks particulary interesting, until Joy informed us they were made of fired clay from pottery that she had done back in her younger years.
 
Then off we went to visit Russell and Leonie Taits garden and bonsai collection.
Russell and Leonie live on a steep slope and their bonsai were in little terraced sheltered areas hidden around the garden.  It was obvious that Russel had a passion for growing bonsai as he explained his methods of growing and training his trees.

He had quite a variety of trees from maples to cedars.
Russell explained to us how he air layered the large maple in the background off a very large specimen tree in his garden.  We were told that Russell likes to experiment with his trees and find new ways of doing things as shown by some of these examples.  All great bonsai in the making.
 He showed us a beautiful maple in its full autumn colouring....a real stunner.
Just as we were about to leave, Russell called some over and gave them some of his maple seeding's that he'd collected from underneath his large garden specimen trees.  Thanks for you generosity Russell, as for some of the new beginners these would be their first introduction to maples.
My daughter was thrilled to bits when he have her these.  Enough for her to make a couple of small group plantings.
 
That's what being a bonsai enthusiast is all about......being able and willing to share your knowledge and experience freely with others.  Sometimes its not all about the plants, its about the people as well.