Suiseki Master Training Seminar

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Today, October 25, 2014, Marc Arpag, Fran Mahoney, Les Allen (from Erie, PA) and I, all members of the Upstate New York Suiseki Study Group drove to Marysville, PA, to attend the Suiseki Master Training Seminar with Seiji Morimae, Sir Peter Warren and Sean Smith. The intense one day seminar was held in a delightful lodge nestled deep in the woods near Sean’s home. The quiet venue was a perfect setting for this advanced seminar on suiseki which was limited to only 15 individuals who were familiar with the art and wanted to improve their understanding. People traveled from Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and New York state.

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Everyone was asked to bring two suiseki for the display and critique. An empty water basin and another suiseki for positioning in the water basin were necessary for the seminar. Sean provided high quality washed sand for all water basins.

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Before the formal program began all participants set up their suiseki displays featuring both daiza suiseki and water basin suiseki which were arranged with accent plants or other small art objects and a few hanging scrolls. People who brought extra display tables and accent plants shared with others in order to present each display to its finest beauty.

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After a few brief introductions and announcements Seiji Morimae, proprietor of S-Cube in Japan showed images to explain Japanese aesthetics with the excellent translation of Sir Peter Warren, who was well schooled in the art and understanding of Suiseki during his six year apprenticeship with Kunio Kobayashi who is the present head of the Nippon Suiseki Association. Mr. Morimae first showed images of his bonsai garden, but explained for the first time in public his thinking and philosophy on its design. The path through the garden as well as the entrance gate orientation are important and were discussed. Although I’ve had the privilege of visiting Mr. Merimee’s garden in Hanyu, Japan, numerous times during the past ten years of its opening, this is the first time he has explained in detail his thoughts. When I visit his garden again in a couple of weeks with my tour I’ll be certain to simply sit and think about Mr. Morimae’s philosophy.

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Next images of Japanese art, architecture, nature, bonsai and suiseki were shown and explained how all these elements worked together to contribute to the development of Japanese aesthetics. He spoke about the importance of the two general types of bonsai and how they differ and also mentioned that there are two types of suiseki as well.

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Just before a delicious catered luncheon everyone joined Mr. Morimae outside on the deck for a demonstration on how to fill water basins with gravel. He showed the sand and explained in detail the correct way of filling the water basin with sand, leveling, placing the stone, watering and finally adjusting for the best viewing position. Then everyone moved to individual tables and prepared their own water basin and suiseki compositions. Mr. Morimae, Sir Peter Warren and Sean went around helping the participants using some of the several provided tools. When everyone completed their stone arrangement, Mr. Morimae critiqued each composition and presented ideas on how to improve the stone display so the best viewing angle could be appreciated. Again here Sir Peter translated so everyone could easily understand his teaching.

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After lunch a walk in the woods was led by Mr. Morimae who spoke about the relationship between nature and stones. The walk also helped to wake people up after the delicious and filling luncheon.

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When we returned back in the lodge all participants lined up and were split into three groups, each to compose a formal suiseki display using the large tokonoma alcove Sean built for the event. We could use any item and although all three group displays were beautiful Mr. Morimae made suggestions on how the displays could be elevated to a higher level of appreciation.

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Finally, we had a small auction with items donated from Mr. Morimae, Sean and the other participants. Several of the high quality suiseki sold for excellent low prices. Suddenly Sean remembered that there was washed sand remaining from the workshop so all of the five gallon buckets were brought inside and auctioned.

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Thank you to Mr. Morimae and Sir Peter who traveled around the world and gave so much of themselves to help serious suiseki lovers to better understand the deeper elements of suiseki and how we can improve our displays. But, the biggest thank you goes to Sean Smith for his concept and execution of a most successful Master Suiseki Training Seminar, all first class and making the fifteen participants feel welcome. I learned a lot which will be shared with others and feel lucky I was invited to this unique training seminar.

Thank you Sean!

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