Wednesday, 1 March 2017

A Little Decoration on Bonsai Pot

There's nothing more relaxing than spending time sitting in a comfy chair, sun streaming in through the windows and a quiet breeze sneeking though the door as I do a bit of carving on a pot that was made yesterday.

Not as serene and quiet as you may think though.....Fleetwood Mac was blarrring in the background.   It's just the way I like to work....sometimes quiet is nice, but much prefer a bit of music to sing along with.  Well, I make the odd sound, but wouldn't really call it singing.
Back to the pots.   
Some say that Bonsai Pots must not be too fancy, or catch your eye too much.  Fair enough I think, but as I don't enter in fancy competitions and not alot of others see my trees, I just do what I want.   If you want to be pedantic and stick to the rules, good on you, but I will do as I please when making pots and matching them with my trees.
I had a bit of time to think about something that I found out unexpectedly this morning.  The place I get my clay from in Dunedin has closed down.  The chap was wonderful, very accomodating and even met me half way at Balclutha to drop off clay to me, saving me another hours travelling time.  Always a gentleman and carried the bags of clay to the car for me.  It was always an excuse to go to Dunedin for the day!   Now I'm going to have to get my clay from the North Island......the freight cost is gonna kill me.  Will have to sort out my options and see who can offer the best deal, either way it will never be as sweet as it was with my local clay supplier. It's always good to have a bit of a personal connection with a product, rather than just ordering everything online and deal with impersonal emails instead of "real" people......will miss it Barry :( 
Just finished making a couple of larger rounds  They've just been covered in plastic for a while as with this warm weather they tend to dry out fairly quickly, especially the sides and rims.  It needs to dry at the same rate all over the pot, otherwise it sets up stresses where the clay has at different levels of moisture and contracts at different rates. 
Back to making ovals tomorrow I guess.....been behaving a bit like a squirrell lately and stashing things away for later in the year.  I've decided this will be the year when I have plenty of pots for repotting and other occasions, my secret stash will NOT be broken into...famous last words!   YEH RIGHT.

Friday, 17 February 2017

REAL Time Spent Making Oval Bonsai Pots

Just looking at this picture, it's hard to imagine the many hours that have been spent making these 8 ovals so far. 
They have been made and bisque fired, but still have to be glazed and fired yet again before they are finished.

Recently I've been strongly encouraged to factor in the real total time spent making each oval  bonsai pot.(not just a rough guess as I have been doing for the past few years) It has been interesting comparing the total time making a small oval compared to a larger one.   Not as much difference as I thought there would be.

The other thing I'm struggling with is what to charge as my hourly rate in working out the real pot cost. 

Pottery is a skill, with many years of practice to develop an acceptable standard and style. Perhaps a potter doesn't have the written trade qualifications like an electrician or mechanic, but that doesn't mean that the skill learnt over the years is worth any less than the so called "qualified trades person".

Then comes the hard part....combining all of those real expenses into the pot price.  If only people could see the time and effort that goes into some of these pots, they wouldn't grumble and groan that they're more expensive than the "imported" ones.

I guess that's the purpose of this share just what is involved in making bonsai pots and to enlighten peoples perception of how a pot is made from a lump of clay.

Friday, 30 December 2016

My Little "Cow Udder" Accent Bonsai Pots

These little accent bonsai pots make me smile. 

It wasn't until we were sitting out in the garage having a chat that someone commented that those pots looked a bit like "cow udders"
From that moment on, they are affectionately known to me as the "Cow Udder Pots".  For those of you not familiar with the term, it refers to the mammary glands on a cow (teats)......the place your delicious milk comes from! 
 Definitely Kiwi Style Pots.
We don't seem to use too many accent pots  when we display our bonsai pots here in New Zealand.  We do see the odd one, I suspect it's an area that we need to learn more about.

Regardless, they are lots of fun to make.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Needed These Bonsai Pots Dried in a Hurry!

What do you do when the kiln needs to be fired and you've got no little pots to fill in all the wee spaces on the shelves?
Answer:  Quickly make a batch of little ones up, put them on a couple of Hardy Plank bats, on top of a nice warm fire.
Within half an hour or less they had firmed up to leatherhard, were trimmed up, rivots added, and put back on the fireplace for another hour or two.
Hey presto.....they were ready to load into the kiln with the other pots tonight.
Not something I recommend to do normally, but with these very small bonsai pots a "quick dry" doesnt seem to have any detrimental effects (cracking)
WARNING:  You'll sweat like crazy if you're inside....was a warm mild day, so didnt really need the fire going at all!
These little "uns were placed in all the wee nooks and crannies on the shelves along with all these other larger ovals.
Happy days!!

Monday, 12 September 2016


I've had this lovely ol' cedar since I was 17....I found it on the rubbish dump at the Nursery I was an apprentice at.  A scrawny bent up looking thing, more dead than alive at the time, but it had something about it that made me "rescue" it from imminent death.

Now 30+++++ years later we are still together.According to the label down the side of the of the pot, it had last been repotted in  2012.
I'd thought it would be difficult to get it out of the large pot as the top was curved inwards.  After raking out the outside edge of dirt I got the old bread knife out and cut straight down, releasing any roots growing into the curved edge.                                                          
Surprisingly the soi was almost bone dry.  The cedar canopy had kept most of the rain off.  Even during the winter I suspect the rootball was suffering from dryness.  It made taking the old soil off quite a bit easier.
The roots were trimmed back quite a bit.  It was soaked in water for about 15 minutes as it was bone dry.
There was only 1 large drainage hole in the pot bottom.  Sometimes if the pot isn't sitting dead flat, water will pool in one side.  So I put a reasonable later of pumice down first to stop the roots sitting in water if this happens.  Then a layer of soil.  This cedar seems to prefer more of a peaty based soil, rather than the free draining bark/pumice/grit type mixes.  It has worked for the last 30 odd years, so I'm not going to change it now.....goes against all the potting mix rules, but it works for this one.
All done......for the first time.  Needless to say that it was now alot heavier than before.  I have learnt to always wait for help when shifting something this size......otherwise you will end up having to repot it twice!   I will remember this for next time in 4 or 5 years!!
 She was put in the shade, with just a bit of sun for a couple of hours in the morning.
This is the view from the top showing just how dense thick and wide the main foliage pads are.  They are just going to get wider and wider unless I keep pinching them back.   It's a darn shame our annual demonstrator workshop was cancelled, I could have done with a bit of expert advice.....oh well, guess its back to looking at You tube and the Internet for some hints.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016


Everyone knows I love texture on my bonsai pots and slabs.

Glazes have their own special look, but to physically texture clay by hand is a special thing.

This slab is an example of that.
It was textured on the top and bottom.  Here's a closer look
The best looking textures in my opinion are the ones that look quite random.  Just have a look might be some bark off an old tree, a nice looking stick, a crumpled up piece of paper.  All are great for making textures in wet clay.   Well worth the effort.
At 48cm long, it's just on the verge of what my wee kiln can handle.   Funnily enough I have no trouble making a large slab, but ovals are a different cup of tea!

Thursday, 26 May 2016


This little beastie had been sitting outside in front of a table for the last 3 weeks.  Slowly but surely it's leaves were starting to fall.  It had been left for a year or so to do its own thing.
I figured I could take it along to the Gore Bonsai Club workshop on Sunday and get some work done on it.  Might be good for some of the other members to work on a larger tree??
There was the odd look when I walked in with it...."what on earth are you going to do with that?"  Little did they know that they would be answering that question themselves.
As there were only 5 of us there, we decided to work on this Dawn Redwood as a group. The leaves were  taken off (most just fell off) and the bark was cleaned up.  The colour of the trunk was quite amazing, a beautiful reddy brown colour. 
Where do you start!   We started by taking out all of the 3 D's - dead, diseased, damaged first.  Then any branches that crossed and couldn't be wired into another area.  We cut the top off as it was nearly 4 foot high.
I love this conveys the feeling of "holy heck...where do I start!"  This was the ideal chance for some to practise their wiring skills.  Some of the thick wire used was a bit of an overkill, but there were some quite stubborn branches.
Various ideas and opinions were tossed back and forwards - "take this branch off", "leave it on and shorten another one", "where should the front be?".   If we'd all had the same tree to work on individually,  each and every one would look totally different at the end. (Another idea for a workshop maybe)
The wee tree just kept getting smaller and smaller.  Lots of  wire was used. Pete gave one large awkward looking branch the chop!
The plain aluminium bonsai wire looks rather prominent and jumps up catches your eye waaay too much....a good reason to only use the brown coloured wire as it "blends in" a lot better.
 The group should be proud of what they achieved....the top of the trunk is dead and will need a bit of carving to be done at a later date.   To date, the group had only really worked on smaller trees and it was interesting that they made the comment that it was easier to work on a larger one.
We must do this again, it was fun working on a large tree together rather than everyone doing their own thing individually.  I've been in the club for a few years now, and can't recall any of us doing that before.   Roll on the next workshop!!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Bonsai Garden Having a Tidy Up

It's May now (late autumn/early winter) wouldn't know it by the warm temperatures we've been having recently.  I decided it was well and truly time for a bit of a tidy up in the garden.
There seemed to be more green on the ground than on my bonsai.  Time to weed, take old leaves off and think about what would need a good trim up just before spring.
You can actually see the path now that all that "bug repellent" plant has been removed.  These will all stay on the ground over the winter.
There's a group of 9 larch here that'll be made into a group planting this year.  They aren't much to look at individually, but might make a nice looking bonsai forest.  There's a mixture of larix decidua and kempferii, the difference isn't too noticeable, just the colour of the buds.
I had to dig these two pots out with a spade. These dawn redwoods are moisture lovers and don't care how they get it!  You can tell they weren't turned regularly.

The bottom of this plastic pot wont last another year.....looks like I'll have to make one for it.
I came across this pine that had been left to its own devices for the last couple or three years.  Lots of old dead needles to remove.  It's starting to look quite leggy and I've been tempted to cut the shoots back......but what is the right time of the year to do that.  I know there is a big difference depending on whether its a black or white pine.   All I know about this one is that the needles are in bundles of 2, so its not radiata(3) or white pine (5)
Looks 100% better tidied up.
It's times like now that I wish there was an experienced bonsai enthusiast handy.  I have a rough idea what I want the tree to look like, but it would be nice to have another opinion and a bit of a hand.  Its hard to learn when there's no one to bounce ideas off.  The Internet is good, but it'll never take the place of a face to face discussion...especially for a "hands on learner" such as myself.
It had that literati style look about it, but is now quite overgrown and tall.  I'll put it close to my cuppa tea seat and study it over the next week or two.....any suggestions greatly appreciated.
Looking at another 20degree day tomorrow, perhaps the back half of the garden might get some attention....nice way to spend Mothers Day I think.