Ok, so I’m gearing up for another very busy spring. We have been repotting and wiring and planting trees nonstop this Jan, feb, and March in anticipation of busy season in April and to get ready for our April spring festival. ( april 15th, 16th, and 17th), just sitting down waiting for tea bags to do their work to the hot water, when I noticed yet another article on the withering of the art of bonsai in Scotland.
I had just read a similar article on the withering of the art of bonsai in America last week. Considering this is my full time job, and now the full time job of David, my son Avery, myself, and a yet to be determined future online manager, this was disconcerting to say the least. I actually disagree with that statement, at least in the US. In the 25 years I’ve been doing bonsai, and in the 13 years schley’s bonsai was been in business, I’ve never seen more people in the 1 to 5 year active range. Sure, when I started there were more people, but they were the previous generation, that got excited by the wave of enthusiasm in the 70s, or were swept up in their excitement in the 80s with karate kid franchise. Most of those people unfortunately moved, or moved on from this earth, the central florida hobby suffering with each loss .
I was the youngest in the club back then, at least who stayed long term, for years. The next youngest members beating me by at least 12 years. That slowly changed, which was wonderful, since I’m no spring chicken these days, but it was still just a trickle of new members. Not a flood like most of us bonsai hobbyists expect when we get into this hobby and can’t imagine anyone in their right mind not doing this. There wasn’t even enough new members to replace the old, or in some cases just enough.
Now we have the Internet. That alone has simultaneously made this hobby emense, but even smaller all at the same time. I see people and talk to them in Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, California, Louisiana and Oregon on literally a weekly basis. That is amazing.
I have been doing classes for beginners since 2004 on a once a month basis. I would expect some would bow out of hobby due to other interests, but some will surprise me a couple years later seeing them still interested and still with the same living trees. They will come in and require help or supplies. And this is once again encouraging.
However, I still think we are too nitchy.
The people in bonsai come from all walks of life, which is fantastic, but also may be why we are still so tiny in comparison with other hobbies. Golf, for instance. Surfing, biking, even orchids if we are going to stay in the plant genres.
So I propose that we start to focus on certain groups, and try to make bonsai a part of said group. Here are some examples.
Sure. A bonsai in each hand. A requirement for mature enlightenment. This has always been one of our strong factions . At a certain age, backs and knees don’t work like they used to, and bonsai is a great way to enjoy nature without getting on your knees to plant and pull weeds and trees. It makes perfect sense.
Why not. In bonsai, you need to think 5 moves ahead. And it takes years, even decades to master. And you only get better when you go against better competition. Not a hobby anyone will get board with because they have mastered it. Not going to happen.
Hear me out on this one.
Driving on the road can be extremely stressful and extremely long and boring all during the same day. Cars may dart out in front or a bridge may be precariously low. Sure, after work it’s good to unwind with a beer and burger, or possibly self destructive habits to relax, but as bonsai growers can attest to, bonsai is a great form of meditation to relax and wind down for the day, or even gear up for the morning to bring your mind in focus, before you are dodging that tiny car that had no idea you almost squashed them like a bug. It’s really a great transitional event either way.
You betcha. Meditation. It fits like peas and carrots. In fact, every yoga student should have at least 3, so they can always have one in their meditation/yoga studio, and 2 outside in the sun to stay healthy, and cycle them out. They really need more, but the start is 3. If every yoga student got into the art in the US, we would become the biggest bonsai consumer in the world.
In fact, there is maybe another group of people I think could transport bonsai from a niche hobby to a mainstream phenomenon. Case in point.
If we could get the hipsters excited about it in the states, like truely interested to almost “I need to improve my tree, this is more than a passing fad, but a lifestyle and I need to show how ironic I am” level, it could kill two birds with one stone. One: is youth as hipsters tend to be under 40. In fact under 30 their ranks swell to pseudo main stream, and because of that, Two: get the hobby more into main stream.
So that’s my calling. Make the hobby 1# with the ironic artsy crowd. It also may take the hobby in a few different directions many never thought of, which is fine as well for the sake of art. America has a large influx very quality, youthful talent right now, but it still seems to wax and wane. Let’s make it so large and such a part of everyday lifestyles that it no longer wanes to any noticeable level.
The yoga crowd, the truck drivers, the retirees, the chess players, in fact, every man woman and child should get in this hobby. It will elevate and appreciate all aspects of bonsai.
Ok my morning thoughts. A little tongue in cheek. But not.
Come to our event. Bring a hipster. Or a truck driver.