Unofficial Display

Sometimes I bring a tree or two into my friends’ coffee shop and show it off for a couple days. I always hope that someone will see it and say, “I want to do that.” It hasn’t really worked yet, but my trees are probably to blame. I’ve also set up a display at my church’s Night of Originals, where people show off their creative talents and sell their goods. Most people thought the trees were for sale and were disappointed when I told them I was simply raising awareness of a living art form.

I am curious if any of you have set up your own “unofficial display” in an attempt to get real bonsai in front of people who may otherwise never be exposed.


Yes! We have a Japanese festival here in town and have an informal display. Basically some trees on a table, nothing fancy, nothing like a show. People from the club do sell seedlings and little plants, but it is really informal.

What I have found to be the thing that grabs people’s attention the most and gets them interested is actually working on a tree at the booth. Last year I bought a cheap nursery tree and had a pretty raw bonsai stock. I sat there for a few hours just working on the trees. Not doing anything too crazy, pruning and wiring. Now, I am by no means an expert, but people would stand and watch for a while and ask questions and get really engaged more than the people just looking at the trees. Even if you are doing some really basic pruning and not doing anything stunning I think it helps.

My goal for my club is to engage young members, I am what some people might consider “Young” at 26, but I am thinking more like high school or college students. So I am brainstorming ways to do this. Our club demographic is aging, which is GREAT. If we bring in younger members, they can learn from people with years of experience. That is my main goal in bonsai outreach in my city.

Glad to hear you are of similar mindset!! I think the issue with people wanting to buy trees from you at the church could be solved by having some bonsai vendors to direct people to in the area. For example our botanical gardens sell great starter trees at a fair price. Even directing them to a website would be good. Best of luck to you!! :smiley_cat:


Yeah man I think you’re spot on, those are some great suggestions! We have a Japanese festival here as well, but the bonsai “expert” who displays and sells trees is questionable at best, haha (she had a tree for sale with a fresh shari that completely circled the trunk…). So maybe I can ask somebody about setting up a small display there. I’ll be sure and get a list of vendors and suppliers together, as well as information about Mirai Live as THE source of education.

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To keep this thread more in line with the “Design” category, I’d love to discuss some creative ways to show trees outside of official exhibitions. Since the tree/composition isn’t being judged, there’s no concern about how well your display will score. If the goal of our unofficial display is partly to inspire others to try bonsai, how could we alter the context of the display?

On a different note, I’ve always thought it would be fun (and funny) to wire up and style some little plant that sprouted out of a crack in the sidewalk or something. Street bonsai is the next big movement…

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We’ve been looking to add new ‘younger’ members also. One suggestion was to talk with local university professor (dealing with plants, botany, etc) and offering discount membership to students.

Good idea! We do have a pretty large university here in the city. I also have some ties to the ceramics department at my old school that I am trying to talk to the teacher to add a bonsai pot requirement to their advanced ceramics and I could do a short lecture on it. I was a ceramics nerd in high school :slight_smile:

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In one of the early videos in the archive, Ryan basically used bonsai as a performance art. I think this is something that really should be explored more. At our Japanese festival, it was amazing how mesmerized people were with watching me do pretty mundane work. Waiting for someone to start doing Bonsai street art!

This is the stream I am talking about

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So it’s not exactly bonsai “street art”, but our club put on a display at a local art gallery during one of the City’s “Downtown” events and “Art Walks.” There was a lot of interest, but I also experienced the disappointment from people not being able to buy trees. (I pointed them to a few websites anyway.)

We also set up a display at the Sate Fair which usually gets a lot of interest and questions.

And I’m considering setting up a display of several trees in a cool alley-like picnic area downtown during another event.


I have a similar experience but with a different subject matter. I find the idea of phoenix grafts fascinating but understand it isn’t every ones cup of tea ( being polite here ).
One aspect enjoying the grafts has been finding the right wood pieces for the right tree subjects and I enjoy that challenge. But most of all is the hunt and development of the deadwood once you find a good piece ( I love the carving and aging the wood to make it look ancient, it’s really satisfying ).
Bringing my work to club meeting seemed like the right next step in the progression. Everyone loved my live edge slabs and and exotic bases. When I displayed some of my graft work ( basic design, nothing finished for show at that point ), there seemed to be alot of interest.
The problems started when I was asked if anything was for sale. I used the basic cost of the raw materials and quoted those prices to start the conversation. I was countered with prices that wouldn’t cover the cost of the sandpaper and finishing supplies that had been used. One member later asked if he could just borrow a base for an upcoming show.
The whole incident left me reeling. I wondered if anyone else had a similar experience and what was their outcome.

I incorporate a Bonsai in each of my Massage display booths. It allows me to create a zen aesthetic as well as attract people that might not be interested in Massage but are just admiring the tree, it’s a hook.

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