Sunday, 14 October 2012

The sun's not shining on me, but..... !

'Like a kid in a sweet shop', that's what my friends would say if they had seen me going through some suiseki images I have just been sent from a good friend in Italy. A few days ago I received my new order of bronzes and now today I have received some emails with suiseki offerings. Someone is definitely smiling down on me from on high.

Here is a taste!

OK, one more!

I love suiseki. I have have had an affinity for stones since I was a boy. Long before I had heard of suiseki or Gong Shi I would spend hours on beaches, river banks or anywhere that had rocks and stones, just hunting for that special stone that appealed to me. I would walk home with my pockets weighed down by my treasure. I have no idea why I was drawn to stones, after all as someone once said to me, they are everywhere.......................aren't they?

The stone that really got me started was a bi seki or beautifully patterned stone; as opposed to suiseki which are object or viewing stones. It was from the Eel River California and was a gift from Harry Hirao of California, USA to Dan Barton. Dan gave me the stone to get me started in stone collecting in 2003, and it certainly did that.
I was lucky in that during the late 1990's early 20's I worked on Pius Notters bonsai collection in Switzerland. And Pius has one of the great collections of suiseki in Europe, and so I got to see so many high quality stones from Japan. Since then my love for stones has simmered on the back burner as I have always had several time consuming passions/hobby's on the go.

I have slowly been buying a few stones over the years, but it was a visit to Mike Pollacks when I was in the USA in 2010 that really fired me up again and made me determined to firstly learn more about stones, especially suiseki, and to start collecting them again seriously. Since then I have been more focused on stones and I have started to add to my collection and I have also bought some stones that I could pass on to students or clients who wished to start collecting suiseki.

In the UK suiseki have never been very popular or followed by many. There has always been a very small group of people collecting stones in the UK but it has never become main stream.
In the UK some people are now noticing suiseki because they have seen that they can be displayed with bonsai. And so like the bronze sculptures, TEN KEI  (TEN PEI), they are slowly finding favour along side the more familiar accent plantings. I think one reason is they are something different, and everyone seems to be using accent plantings for display. But also another reason is because they do not need tending i.e. watering or feeding. So if you think about it, they are versatile and user friendly. A suiseki or bronze can be bought and it can be displayed with the tree and also of course appreciated in the home. But it can also be packed away safely until the next time it is displayed with a tree, unlike accent plantings which need tending just like our bonsai.

I find it funny when I think back to my early days spent with Dan Barton in the late 1990's. I remember Bill Jordan driving up from London to visit Dan to take some photo's for a book. For those of you who don't know or remember Bill, he was a superb photographer and very active in the UK bonsai scene regularly contributing to magazines etc. He also pioneered the making of cement fondu and chicken wire rocks. He has also taken many of the photo's in Peter Adams books.

While he was at Dan's home Dan and I were cleaning out some of Dan's accents. Bill said" what is this all about Dan" pointing to an accent. " I don't see the point, it will never catch on". Well just look how popular accent plantings are now, and just how much their beauty and sophistication has developed over the last 12-14 years.
It was the same with scrolls. No one was really using scrolls in the UK until I asked Paul Goff to put on a display at the JOY OF BONSAI at the Bath Pavillion using bonsai, scroll and accent. He was surprised to be asked to do it, but after a bit of pressure from me he did. It was a great success. This awakened peoples interest in scrolls, as most people were not familiar with what happens in Japan, with the use of scrolls and bonsai.
However I must add, before someone shoots me down in flames. We do not use scrolls here in the UK how they are used in Japan. But I think that as more people understand the correct aesthetics needed when using scrolls for display with a bonsai, then we can hopefully start to get people to use them at the right time and in the right setting. One step at a time.

But back to stones. Suiseki is an art form in itself, and I would hate for people to only think of suiseki as an accompaniment to bonsai. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact many many stones are too big to exhibit with bonsai. At this present time I am drawn more to the Japanese aesthetic than I am to the chinese stones. But I do have some Chinese stones too. Collecting stones is addictive however, so be warned. I look forward to seeing if suiseki will become as popular here as they are on the continent. I cannot see them being as popular here as in Japan in my lifetime.

After two days of rain followed by our first heavy frost last night, the sun decided to appear today. First thing this morning, I had to break the ice so that the geese could get to their baths and topping the baths up was slow as the hose was frozen. So this afternoon the appearance of the sun was well received by everyone.
Even the last few late seasons butterflies were out basking on the late autumn flowers.

The last throes of autumn!


  1. Love reading your posts Steve. Hope you and athe family are well?



  2. Great stuff Steve, is the last picture your mysterious butterfly ? it's a Small Copper !