A great start to the new year! Part 1

2014 did not end well for me after losing two dear friends quite close together.
But 2015 promises to be a better year, at least in terms of bonsai. And it is through bonsai that I stay focused.

From the moment I decided to open my nursery and start my bonsai academy, my focus has always been to provide the best for everyone. Be that through education, bonsai trees, material trees, pots, tools or whatever. I have always pushed the boat out to bring people THE best in bonsai.

This year (2015), I am excited to be starting my international learning programme for UK bonsai aficionados here at the nursery. It is designed to open up to all those who want to learn and progress, the chance to learn from individuals who I believe are some of the worlds best in bonsai, the art of display, kusamono and suiseki. The International “Joy through Bonsai” programme kicks off in April this year when we will welcome Taiga Urishibata to the nursery to conduct a series of workshops.

At the age of 20, Taiga Urishibata became an apprentice of probably the most famous bonsai master on the planet, Masahiko Kimura. After studying for 5 years with an additional year of free service, Taiga became independent at the age of 26.
He now works at Taisho En nursery with his father Nobuichi Urishibata also a famous Japanese bonsai master where he is in Taiga’s own words “devoting my life to the pursuit of my faith”.

Taiga will be conducting workshops on – Friday 10th April, Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th. The workshops will be of no more than 6 persons participating, so that all attendees have a more intimate learning experience.

We have limited places left on these dates.

Then in August we welcome Sean Smith from the USA to share his unique skills and knowledge with us. I am proud to be introducing Sean to the UK bonsai scene. Here is Sean’s bio.

Sean Smith
For the second part of our “Joy through Bonsai” programme 2015, Steve Tolley Bonsai studio will be proud to be hosting Sean Smith from the USA.
We are very honoured to be the first to introduce Sean Smith to the UK to give workshops/talks on the art of display, suiseki, and daiza carving for suiseki.
Sean will bring his great skills, understanding and dry wit for a great weekend of learning. Sean’s workshops can only advance our understanding of bonsai and suiseki for the overall benefit of British Bonsai.
If you are serious about bonsai and display, or have an interest in suiseki, then do not miss Sean’s visit.
Sean Smith lives in the United States in Marysville Pennsylvania, where he owns and operates ‘Custom Oriental Wood-craft’.
Sean took his 20 year passion for Bonsai and Suiseki along with his extensive background in carpentry and put all them together to start his own business in 1994. He currently creates Bonsai display tables, and carves Daiza for renowned Bonsai and Suiseki enthusiasts all over the world. As a result of this work many awards have been bestowed upon him for his craftsmanship as well as his strict adherence to these ancient Japanese art forms.

  • In 2001, Mr. Arishige Matsuura, President of the Japanese Suiseki Association, proclaimed Sean the number one Daiza carver outside of Japan.
  • In 2003, Sean was the first American to exhibit an American Suiseki in the Japanese National Suiseki Show at the Meji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan.
  • In 2008 Sean was given recognition by the World Bonsai Friendship Federation for the promoting and expanding the Japanese art of suiseki.

In 2004, Sean was asked by Senji Morimae to come to Japan to study Bonsai and Suiseki at his nursery outside of Tokyo.With a passion for constantly learning, Sean accepted the invitation. As a result he was able to hone his skills as well as broaden his knowledge of Japanese related antiques. Sean continues to make this trip every year and has been fortunate to have studied the following art forms. He is highly recognised as one of the leading authorities of formal Tokonoma display in the West.

  • In 2005, he was invited to study Zen in Daitokuji-in, at the sub temple of Hoshyu-In in Kyoto, Japan, Sean also studied daiza carving in Hamamatsu Japan, with Japan’s leading daiza carver, Mr. Koji Suzuki. Sean was his 1st and only student.
  • In 2007, Sean Studied Kiri Bako making with Japan’s top box maker, Mr.Akira Shiraishi in Tokyo.
  • In 2009, Sean got the opportunity to study scroll making, with Mr. Seizi Maruoka, one of Japan’s leading scroll makers.
  • In 2010, he studied the art of pot repair with Mr.Nakada Tomohide, in Tokyo.
  • In 2011, Sean studied the art of Display with Mr. Negishi in Hanyu City, Japan.
  • In 2012 he helped arrange A special suiseki exhibit in Koyto.
  • In 2013 Sean spent time and intense study with Mr. Sudo in Saitama Japan.
  • In 2014 Sean was one of few westerners invited to exhibit a suiseki in the 1st major suiseki exhibit at the Tokyo National Museum.

Currently, Sean lectures all over the United States as well as Central America and Europe on Bonsai, Suiseki and Daiza carving, Formal display. He is also a contributing editor of many international Bonsai and Suiseki magazines as well as the North American Viewing Stone Society, and the International Stone Appreciation Society. He is also a former director of the National Bonsai Federation in Washington DC., as well as a member of the Nippon Suiseki Association, European Suiseki, and past president of the Susquehanna Bonsai Club, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In addition, he is the head organizer for the International Stone Appreciation Symposium held every 2 years since 2002, in Harrisburg, PA.

As you can see from this brief intro, Sean has unique skills and knowledge to pass on to people in the UK and around the world.

Sean will be at Steve Tolley Bonsai studio in mid August 2015.

Provisional dates are 22nd and 23rd August.
Workshops will be £85 per person for the day.
If enough people are interested, a diazo carving workshop could be arranged to fit in with Sean’s visit.
As a suiseki lover, I will personally be attending Sean’s workshops as there is so much for us all to learn. And we never stop learning.
Book early as places will be limited.

Then finally to end the year on a high and as the final part of our “Joy through Bonsai” programme for 2015 we are excited to be hosting Bjorn Bjorholm of Fujikawa Kouka – En bonsai nursery Japan and Bjorvala Bonsai Studio USA.
I am very pleased and excited that Bjorn has agreed to make his debut here in the UK at our nursery.


Bjorn Bjorholm Bio

Bjorn frequently travels the globe, teaching bonsai art to various related organisations and working with private clients and collections.  Bjorn’s work is also regularly featured in exhibitions and publications around the world. In addition, Bjorn is the creator, producer, and editor of the Bonsai Art of Japan online video series. (YOUTUBE).
As apprentice of contemporary Japanese bonsai Master Keiichi Fujikawa.  Bjorn has been working at Mr. Fujikawa’s nursery, Kouka-En (located in Ikeda City just north of Osaka) since 2008.  and he is also the co-founder and co-instructor of the Fujikawa International School of Bonsai .
His experiences working with Fujikawa-san have necessarily shaped Bjorn’s approach to bonsai and furthered his never ceasing desire to improve the quality of western bonsai art.
During the initial phase of Bjorn’s apprenticeship, his website functioned as a conduit meant to share with everyone in the bonsai community the daily hardships and experiences studying under one of the greatest modern masters of bonsai art.  Today, however, the focus has shifted towards
Bjorn’s adventures travelling and teaching as a bonsai professional
Bjorn Bjorholm was born and raised in East Tennessee at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, which undoubtedly played a major role in his love of nature and eventual involvement in bonsai beginning at the age of 13.  From his initial introduction to bonsai, Bjorn has consistently strived towards the accomplishment of one goal – to improve the quality of bonsai art in the west.  At the age of 16 he helped found the Knoxville Bonsai Society, and later, single-handedly developed the Tennessee Bonsai Exhibition, now an annual and continually expanding event.
While still in high school, Bjorn had the opportunity to visit Japan as part of an ACOM Cultural Exchange Program, and it was during this short trip that he first met bonsai master Keiichi Fujikawa in Osaka.  At the time, Mr. Fujikawa jokingly offered Bjorn a position as an apprentice if he ever returned to Japan for an extended period of time.  Little did Mr. Fujikawa know that Bjorn would in fact take the offer to heart and would focus his full energies on one day returning to study bonsai at Fujikawa Kouka-en nursery.
During his final year at the University of Tennessee, Bjorn wrote Mr. Fujikawa a series of letters asking if his previous offer (then six years past) still stood.  Following several months with no response, Mr. Fujikawa finally answered with a single, short letter.  Unfortunately, however, the response was somewhat unexpected, as it expressed concern and apprehension about Bjorn’s Japanese language skills as well as his work ethic.  Through several more letters and a bit of convincing, Mr. Fujikawa agreed to allow Bjorn a three-month trial period as an apprentice beginning in the summer of 2008.
Three months, became six months, became one year and beyond.  Bjorn eventually became Mr. Fujikawa’s most trusted apprentice, and today the pair continues to work closely together to improve the quality and understanding of bonsai art worldwide.  Bjorn now divides his time between teaching and providing bonsai-related services around the globe and furthering his education in Japan.

Bjorn will be at Steve Tolley Bonsai Studio for 7 days during which time he will be hosting styling workshops. Bjorn will also be available for One to One tuition.
Workshop fees will be £150 per person for the day. Please enquire about One to One tuition.
Bjorn will be at my nursery from 5th December to 11th December, so a great way to finish the year off with a bang. If you are interested in attending a workshop or having a One to One workshop please contact me ASAP as we expect to be over subscribed.
Email: stevetolleybonsai@gmail.com
Tel: 01299 266994. Mobile: 07747477538.

Part 2 to follow……..”The Swiss Dragon”, International Joy through Bonsai 2016 and more!