Sunday, December 31, 2017

The First Kiln Load of Pots Since September

LIfe seems to get in the way of making bonsai pots.
I start out with the best intentions to spending most of the day out in the garage making pots, but somehow other things keep stepping in the way,  pushing me in a different direction.  Out to the car, into town, out to the garden, and dread of all directions....inside to do housework. :)
Alas.....after pinching a bit of time here and there over the last couple of months, there's finally a kiln load of finished pots to show for it. 

I have to say that I really like the matt green glaze on some of the drum and textured pots.  A thin single layer seems to do the trick, with a double dip on the rim.   Must make more of these.

Monday, November 6, 2017


Contrary to popular belief we in Southland do get the odd bit of sunshine. I'll have to dispell the myth that there are polar bears roaming our icy sub antartic streets at this end of the country.
This week we had a little too much too soon for some of my wee bonsai.   Mostly it was the deciduous trees that were affected.  They'd furiously been sending out fresh new growth, running riot after there long hibernation over winter.
We knew it was coming, they'd been forcasting unseasonally warm sunny days, but gosh, the last few days left both me and the trees feeling a little wilted!
I managed to water pretty much all of the trees in the morning, thinking that'll do them until wrong I was.
Hornbeam leaves
There isn't alot I can do about it now that the damage has been done. They've been put aside in a shady area to getover their sunstroke/sunburn and rehydrate properly.
The Italian Alder will probably recover as they're as tough as ol' boots, but the Hawthorn might be a different cup of tea.  There are a few small bits of green still remaining, but the rest of the leaves have been totalled.
Hoping that I havent lost this Hawthorn (below) completely.  It doesnt look good at all.  It's surprising just how quickly the leaves go brown when they've basically been cooked/dehydrated.
If this is the damage done to the leaves, it makes you wonder whats going on with the roots, cambium, phloem water transport system in the tree.   Only time will tell.
This Redwood feared a little better as it was only the very very soft tips that got scorched, a quick trim and you'd never notice the stress and trauma they'd been through.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED....listen to the weather forecast!  Make sure all of the water barrels and tanks are topped up ready for the onslaught of watering cans about to be dipped and splashed about.   Last of all, do a rain dance and pray for rain, during the night would be good ☂🌧

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ice Crystals are Beautiful, Also Unwanted

Ice Crystals are beautiful, as I found out this morning when I ventured out into the garage.

Jack Frost had let his presence known with a white layer of crystals over almost everything outside.

Not too welcome was the partially unassembled oval pots that I'd forgotten to bring inside last night.  Yes, it felt like there was going to be a frost, but didn't imagine it would be that hard.

After getting over the initial "Bugger" when I saw them, I was in awe of the intricate patterns the freezing water had made on the slab and around the oval sides.

    Just beautiful.
 Almost looks like a snowy landscape of mountains and trees if you stretch your imagination.
    Unfortunately these will have to go in the recycling bucket    as the water crystals have cracked and weakened the clay.
There are some potters who will put their pots back on the wheel and compress/smooth down the sides.  I tried this a few years ago and wasnt at all sucessfull.  Once the clay is weakened its not worth the effort to continue, always start again, especially with larger vessels. Making up a new slab base is easy enough.
The side of this oval was smooth yesterday, look how the expanding water has roughened it up. I may just wait until Sunday or Monday when they're forecasting a bit of rain and cloud.
Bonsai Pot making can be quite challenging during the winter!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Yikes.....It's Frosty

It's 10.45am and still no sun hits our much as I love trees, when the neighbours untrimmed trees shade our home most of the winter months I tend to get a bit grizzly.   With a frost it's even worse.
Fortunately my many bonsai trees don't give me that problem.  The only things they shade is the odd mushroom and pesky weeds.
Having frosty nights means that once again I have to haul my just made bonsai pots into the house where most of the time it's a bit warmer than the garage. I lost many out in the garage over the last few years as the wet clay froze and ruined was always the sneaky frosts that got them. Sometimes I'd go outside and think na there isnt going to be a frost tonight so I'll leave the pots I'd made that afternoon out there.  That's when you get caught out!

So once again the family has to share the kitchen table and any other spare area with a heap of wet clay pots.

We can't leave them on the ground any more as we now have a very curious little puppy who like to gallop over anything and everything. Clay would be lots of fun for him.

Roll on Spring.  Love it when the sun rises higher in the sky then.....means more sun coming through the windows than winter...sigh, just a few more months to wait!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Finding Inspiration in a Fallen Leaf

Sarah bought along a huge fallen Scarlet Oak leaf to our last Gore Bonsai Club Workshop.....picked up in the park while taking the dog for a run.  Great find!
Our theme for the day was Autumn Colour and used this with the help of a local lady who was in the Gore Photographic Club to attempt to better the use of our cameras.
I brought this leaf home and had a wee play with it.  Did the obvious thing - cutting out the leaf shape.  Then tried joining some of the offcuts to make the unusual looking accent bonsai pot.  Be interesting to see how it turns out with glaze on it.
I'll add a couple of random looking feet later.  Never would have made this pot if Sarah hadn't bought that leaf along.

Nature is the best inspiration for a lot of things in life.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Mossing up some small Bonsai

The members of the Gore Bonsai Club had the opportunity to learn from a local Photography Club member on how to take photos of our bonsai trees, and how to work our cameras in general.
We took along a few trees.  I personally think that they look so much better with a layer of fresh moss covering the soil - especially on smaller trees (shohin/mame)
I only had time to moss one tree at the workshop, but loved the result so much that I went home and picked a few smaller ones out and mossed them as well.
Love this little miniature Rhododendron, has a couple of purple flowers on it for some reason
A very young little native totara
A little maple that refuses to drop its leaves during the autumn!
This little maple was from a cutting 4 years ago, beautiful in leaf, the moss sets the colour of the bark and branches.  
I put these near my front door so I can see and enjoy the look of the green mossy blanket over the winter time. Some people say you shouldnt ever moss your trees unless they are going in an exhibition or show, but I figure that if you like it, do it.  It doesnt seem to hurt these wee fellas and gives me much pleasure.

Wednesday, March 1, 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, February 17, 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.