Designing Bonsai Displays For The Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo

OTO   11-2019.JPGOto Hime Japanese Maple for display

I spent all afternoon designing my three displays for the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo next weekend in Kannapolis, NC. There is more than picking out a tree, table, wiping them off and hauling them to a show. Much more for me, which takes basic fundamental display knowledge, taste and considerable time. Plus you need to get everything to the exhibition in good condition.

HAWTHORN.JPGWashington Hawthorn for display

The time spent this afternoon does not count the hours of preparing each of the bonsai. The exhibition moss still needs some hours to refine to perfection. The containers and display tables have been selected and need to be polished, as do all the containers.

4.jpgFour story rotunda display area at the North Carolina Research Campus. Note large round table in center.

The main purpose of this afternoon’s task was to select the tablecloth color, scroll, accessory and stand for the accessory. Just picking out the right color felt was a task. Ever go to a JoAnn Fabric store on Thanksgiving weekend with hordes of shoppers with fists of coupons? The trees have not been detailed yet but will be finished in the days ahead. The scroll positioning and heights have not been decided yet. Please note these are NOT formal studio photos, they are just quick working shots to help me select the final elements in my personal displays of classical bonsai.

6P4A6711.jpgMy two displays are on either side of the large round table in the center from 2017.

It is important to realize a couple of items about my displays. First, seasonality and second the total visual display area. My two tables area in the center of a four story rotunda surrounded by beautiful Cordoba marble. Each of my six foot tables is on either side of a huge round permanent valuable table from Hawaii which can’t be moved. Seven years ago I made the error of putting my sweet teacup on the table and I was instantly surrounded by security guards. So in order to present my entire display on two separate tables, between the permanent table, several items needed to be considered: tree species, display tables, direction, accessories, scrolls and tablecloth colors.

MAPLE-GRASS.JPGOto Hime Japanese maple displayed with Japanese forest grass.

Although this is a “winter silhouette” display, technically it’s still autumn. Yes, we have already had 12 inches of snow and are under a winter weather advisory with another 8 inches of snow and ice expected by tomorrow evening. So a late autumn/early winter season theme has been determined for my three displays. Normally I would not display two deciduous species, but will for this special exhibition. The Oto Hime Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Oto Hime,’ features twigs and the Washington hawthorn, Crataegus phaemopyrum, is full of red fruit. My third display is a pine, on the other side of a curtain, so not part of this display area. By the way pines do not indicate seasonality because they are always green. So seasonality has to be indicated using something else.

MAPLE-PAMPAS.JPGOto Hime Japanese maple displayed with Yakushima dwarf pampas grass.

There were two display tables suitable for the maple and hawthorn bonsai, and although different colors, they were similar in design. So another display table for the hawthorn needed to be selected. Fortunately, I have several to choose from. The left table display features the maple which has a left to right eye movement towards the round center table. It originally had a small golden fern as the accessory. However, it seemed to blend into the green tablecloth color. A Yakushima dwarf pampas grass planted in a rock looked great, as did a Japanese forest grass with brown foliage indicating seasonality. Both are in unglazed symmetrical pots, which is in my taste when displaying a bonsai in an asymmetrical glazed container. Both were suitable for displaying with the maple. Of the two grasses, the Yakushima dwarf pampas grass was a bit more delicate than the Japanese forest grass, so that was the final selection.

HAWTHORN- FERN.JPGWashington hawthorn displayed with golden fern which disappears in the green tablecloth.

However, the table on the right features a hawthorn which has a right to left eye movement towards the center table. It too looked good with both grasses. One of each could easily be utilized, but I did not want to duplicate two grasses. The Japanese forest grass looked good with the hawthorn, so I played around with the round disc stand to display it on. Two were of suitable size, one black and the other brown. Both are the same shape and size. The brown disc was finally selected because black stands indicate formality and this is an informal display.

HAWTHORN-GRASS BLACK.JPGWashington hawthorn displayed with Japanese forest grass on black disc.


HAWTHORN-GRASS BROWN.JPGWashington hawthorn displayed with Japanese forest grass on brown disc.

HAWTHORN BURNER.JPGWashington hawthorn displayed with bronze incense burner

There was a bronze antique incense burner in the shape of a hut. I used this accessory several years ago and even had Xmas incense smoke rising from the window. Again, I did not want to use the same unique accessory, so it was eliminated.

HAWTHORN-MONDO.JPGWashington hawthorn displayed with Black mondo grass.

I continued to look around found a Black mondo grass planting in an antique white glazed Chinese container. The round shape is good, quality excellent, but I did not want to use two glazed containers in one display. That’s easy to correct, I’ll just change the accessory pot to an unglazed symmetrical shape to contrast with the glazed asymmetrical container of the hawthorn.

The scroll selection was next. The maple display season is late autumn so a scroll with a deer was studied. The direction of the deer was great, looking toward the bonsai. It even featured a hit of a Japanese maple turning red in autumn. Great, now the scroll for the hawthorn display season is early winter. An unusual scroll with a full moon among the clouds was excellent. It even has white snowflakes falling down. In spring I use this scroll and the snowflakes suddenly change to cherry blossoms falling. So now two scrolls were selected, but were about the same length which I wanted to avoid. Since the hawthorn was a taller bonsai the long scroll featuring the full moon and snowflakes was chosen. Then I had to look for another late autumn theme scroll which is shorter in length. Finally, I found a short scroll depicting Mt. Fuji with a small flock of geese migrating towards the bonsai.


Also, note there is one more display I have already designed, but was too heavy for me to move alone to photograph. If you want to see it, and my final display designs, join us on Saturday/Sunday at the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo in Kannapolis, NC. Please note, I may change my designs again. Come see the final selections on Saturday or Sunday. There will be several lecture/demos, three rooms full of vendors and a FREE bonsai critique for exhibitors early on Sunday morning conducted by me.


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