Around the 1st of December 2013, I was contacted by Paul Vandlik chair for the GSBF 2014 Convention in Sacramento. He explained that I was one of the people picked to lead a workshop on Japanese Black Pine. I was ecstatic to say the least. Rewind a few months earlier and I remember the then GSBF President Gareth Shepard suggesting to Scott Chadd that I would be a great workshop leader. I am not sure how they pick people to help at the convention, but I was honored.

Back to Paul, he was one of so many people who work behind the scenes to help a convention run smoothly. Paul asked me to send in pictures of the black pines I would be using for the convention to add to the GSBF convention Webpage. I sent him 8-10 pictures of the Japanese Black pines we would be using at the workshop.

In June we decided to be vendors at the convention. We contacted Bob Shimon who told us there was still space and sent us the necessary paperwork to become vendors. Why vendor too? We have, make and sell a great bonsai mix that we wanted to share. Plus a lot of people young and old are on Facebook. Our company Slogan is “You know you are a bonsai freak when you … On Facebook we have a fun group with that exact name. People from all over the world go to Facebook and post funny things that makes them a Bonsai freak. Such as you know you are a bonsai freak when you …Wire a bonsai on your wedding night. In honor of being a Bonsai freak we had T-shirts made up with that saying and our company information on the back.


Me at our Vendor Booth



 Kelly and I at the Vendors booth


In August I contacted David Hodgetts Chair of the Joshua Roth New Talent Contest and decided to put my name in the hat for consideration to compete in the Joshua Roth New Talent contest. They were offering a thousand dollars to apply toward advancing your bonsai knowledge with a teacher of your choice. After sending in all necessary paperwork and pictures, I was informed by my third year student Shawn Silbuagh that he was joining the completion also. Plus Shawn was going as our clubs Power of One winner. He really deserved to be chosen having served the Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai club in so many positions. It was going to be fun.

On October 1st I received a Facebook post from Victrina Ridgeway saying that I had been picked to be one of the competitors for the Joshua Roth New talent contest. My Student Shawn Silbough had also made the cut...... Oh yeah baby!!

Wednesday October 29th we drove up to Sacramento to set up as vendors. This was our first time in doing this and we met a lot of new faces and other vendors. We arrived at about 2pm and from 2pm until about 5pm we set up all our bonsai supplies. Then it was time for a beer or three!

Thursday we just vended, the convention participation on Thursday was a little slow as usual, because half the people were still working. We still had a good time interacting with everyone. A big thanks goes out to my wife who helped me out through this entire event. Two days after we got back she had her knee operated on, she really was a trooper.

Friday morning at 0800 hours our Joshua Roth New Talent Competition began. This event was sponsored by the American Bonsai Society. David Hodgetts from the east coast had flown in to officiate things. The American Bonsai Society President Karen Harkaway had also traveled from the east coast to this event, that’s dedication!

There were 7 tables with 7 big, make that huge San Jose junipers that Scott Chadd had found at a nursery many moons ago. They were to put it plainly … Bushes. If I had to guess I would say they were between 30 and 50 years old. The Junipers all had nice trunk’s some trees were tall other short and with fat bases, some with twisted trunk’s and others were more straight. No one knew what tree they would get until we drew from the hat. I picked tree number 8. I believe sometime in its infancy someone had made a curly cue and stuck in in the growing pot, then again maybe it just grew that way…almost like a spiral.


The first picture i took was the tree i randomly picked to work on...# 8.


  I believe this is tree # 1 that Shawn Silbough worked on.


Shawn my third year student and I before the Competition began.



The tree base...possible front



 Left side


The right side


We were off...we had 8 hours to complete our master piece painting from a black slate. There was a lot of foliage to go through before you could even begin to start looking at some sort of style. Everyone had different approaches, some people just sat and locked at their trees for a while. Other pulled out chain saws and grinders and drills and carver tools and went to town making deadwood. OK I exaggerated a little on the chain saw! I personally started removing all growth growing down on the bottom of the branches; just so I could see some sort of bonsai hidden in there. I then worked on a little deadwood and began wiring, and wiring and wiring. I never left my tree for eight hours and could have continued to wire for 16 more hours. We finished at exactly 4 pm congratulated each other and headed out to enjoy the rest of the convention. We would not know who the judges picked until Saturday night. Here is a link to my friends blog that covers the winners.


Back side ...



 Beginning to look at design ideas ...


A quarter of the way done ...


 What the tree looked like after working on it for 8 hours. I purchased this tree to take home.


 I worked on this tree two weeks after the Convention for 3-4 hours to finish the initial styling. This is what it the pre-bonsai material looks like today


What did I learn, actually I really learned a lot in this competition. I learned that I wish I had 16 more hours to wire. I learned that you have to work with the material you are given. I learned that I should have added more deadwood. Because there was so much foliage on my tree the deadwood was hidden in picture and in viewing. I learned I should have taken off more foliage, but was glad I didn’t. Why because I purchased the tree and will continue to work on it when I get it home. I learned that 8 hours was a lot…but not enough to really make something into a finished nice piece, it was just a start. I learned the judges liked the tree with the most deadwood. In fact I would say this is a fast growing trend…more foliage on the ground.


Friday night was Halloween and the awards dinner. Most people’s Halloween Costume was dressing as Convention goers, i liked their costumes also.

Mine was just a little different!

This is my costume with my friend Jackie


The night was a great event.

Saturday morning November 1st, 2014 bright and early we were back at the venders both. The vendor’s area opened up every morning at 8 am and closed at 5 PM. A lot of what you need was in one room, big bonsai plants, small bonsai plants, finished bonsai plants, starter bonsai plants, collected or yamadori bonsai, tools, stands, pots, supplies, t-shirts, rocks – suiseki, jewelry, books all from many vendors.

A great story…My Japanese black pine class had booked out. A gentleman named Carl from Oregon came up to our vendor booth and said “I really wanted to get into your Japanese Black Pine class. I came a long way to not be able to get into your class. He seemed a little down to put it mildly. I said I have 8 people in class, and this may be pushing it; but…go back to the registrar and tell her I will except one more student if its OK with them. I said “Let’s try to bend the rules just a bit”! Twenty Minutes later Carl was back with a smile…They let me in!

Whirl wind tour does not come close to describe how busy we really were. I left the vendor booth about 1215. I stopped half way through my lunch to go grab my tools and be at my Japanese Black Pine workshop. At 1PM on the dot…I began my Workshop. It was a very diversified class with 4 men and 5 women, Some had come as far as Virgina to attend the conference.

We then divided the trees trees up by putting numbers in a hat and then mixing up another set of numbers and placing those under the plants. I believe everyone was happy with their tree. I had prepared a handout and we started with covering the basics. I received a few blank stares during the class, and as people began becoming more familiar, they would say things like…oh, no wonder, that’s not being taught where I am from, that’s what I have been doing wrong. It was interesting to hear so many different reactions to basic Japanese Black Pine Teaching.

After about an hour of workshop teaching and repeating strengthen the week and weaken the strong. I began helping people wire and style their trees. My very good friend Sam Adina stopped by and asked if he could help. I was more than happy to have Sam help out. Long story short, almost everyone went home with a nice tree that was mostly wired before they left class.

For those of you that missed the convention this year make it a goal to go next year. You will not be disappointed.


Thank you to everyone that made this convention awesome and thanks to my buddy Ken for stopping by.


The END!

Written by Ron Anderson — November 29, 2014