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 Post subject: Profile: Jim Doyle
PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2006 10:24 am 
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Profile: Jim Doyle
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Jim Doyle
Photograph by Walter Pall

In 1973, with a B.S. degree in horticulture from Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture, Jim started Nature`s Way Nursery and developed an early interest in Asian culture and plants. By 1980, through the influence of Chase Rosade, bonsai passed from being a hobby to a business/life-style. Jim attends many symposia, teaches year round to both adults and children at his studio and travels extensively.
After a brief visit to Japan, Jim started a quest for new information. He was involved in founding the Susquehanna Bonsai Club, boasting membership of over 100, and co-chaired the 1992 ABS Convention in Hershey. He has written articles for national publication and consulted regionally in Japanese garden design.

Today, along with his teaching, Jim continues to import bonsai, pots, tools and related garden items. Other interests include conifers, Japanese maples, writing haiku, volleyball, fishing and spending time with his wife Mary Kay and children Sarah and Max (not to be confused with his other hobbies). Jim`s favorite tree is, of course, the one he is working on.

As time goes by, Jim continues to enjoy the benefits of knowledge through bonsai. He has discovered a caring and understanding friendship with plants and with people.

Image
Jim Doyle
Photograph by Walter Pall


The following is an on-line interview conducted with Jim Doyle.


AoB: What's your recollection of your earliest encounter with bonsai? How did you feel about it? Was that first impression the defining moment in your pursuit of bonsai, or did it take more than that to make you get involved with it?

Jim: My first interest came in dwarf conifers and Japanese maples and through my readings I kept seeing examples of bonsai applied to these species. Then I saw a demonstration on bonsai and felt challenged applying art, science and horticulture. I didn't have to think twice about trying bonsai.


AoB: How did you go about learning? Do you consider any particular master as your teacher, or did you study on you own?

Jim: I went about learning through reading books on bonsai, horticulture and art. One day shortly after college graduation I visited Chase Rosade and in the morning he had me helping him prune and style an old maple. The afternoon I went to a college friend and he had me up in a seventy foot maple tree learning how to prune in a large scale. That day put everything into perspective that I wanted to do bonsai. This was followed by a trip in 1984 with my wife Mary Kay and this opened up my eyes to real bonsai. First I don't care for the term master. It implies that someone has to be a slave. Teacher is a much better compliment. Early on I was influenced with Chase Rosade, Yuji Yoshimura, Lynn Perry Altstadt, Bill Valavanis, Nick Lenz, Takeyama and Walter Pall.


AoB: Since you consider bonsai a living art, what other interest do you have in art?

Jim: Since I was eight years old I danced tap, Jazz and ballet and see people's torsos in trees for inspiration through the rhythmic promise of music and all forms of visual art including painting, sculpture and garden design. All this appreciation of other art forms are applied to bonsai and not by copying someone else's work. In the beginning I was trying to find the 'perfect' tree, now the more challenging design the better.


Image
Jim Doyle
Photograph by Walter Pall


AoB: You have a B.S. degree in horticulture from Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture, obviously this has helped greatly in your bonsai career, would you recommend such formal education to anyone pursuing the art of bonsai?

Jim: It would not hurt. Understanding how a tree reacts to different applications and environments certainly helps. Creating challenges for a tree is stimulating. Often the plant reacts by dying, this is always a big lesson. My thoughts... 'through death there is knowledge'. I often tell my audiences that I am demonstrating and lecturing because I have probably killed more trees than they have.


AoB: You founded Nature's Way Nursery which specializes in Japanese inspired Gardens and bonsai, has the interest in bonsai grown since you started this nursery?

Jim: Nature's Way was born April 1973 and then over the past 33 years there have been many trends in landscape design and bonsai. The largest being getting back to nature, indigenous plants and simplifying maintenance. In the US there is so much 'busy' lives, people don't have the time to garden as in the past. However the people who do bonsai really appreciate the time they have with their trees.


AoB: A major part of the success of a bonsai nursery is predicting the trends in bonsai five or ten years down the line, how do you go about this and what do you think bonsaists will be buying then?

Jim: Trends are like clothing, they all come around and are reinvented. I don't plot a marketing plan for the future, just do what interests me and hopefully my enthusiasm will carry on to others. I do enjoy growing, so our field and container production is more for future workshops. The 'serious' trees come from collecting trips which I very much enjoy.

Image
Walter Pall with Jim Doyle
Photograph submitted by Walter Pall



AoB: You teach and give demonstrations as well as workshops all over the country, what is the biggest joy for you in this and what do you dislike the most.

Jim: First working with children is an honor and working with anyone wanting to increase knowledge. That thirst never seems to end. There is always more to learn ... I feel so lucky.

The downside is that there is never enough time.


AoB: What advice would you give to those who are planning on attending a workshop or a class?

Jim: For bring your own tree workshop, study up on the culture requirements, prepare the plant i.e. weed, clean up dead needles and leaves and remove surface soil from the base of the tree and consider a possible design and be open to other suggestions. Some tools are very important but the top three are a turn-table, drawing pad and a camera.


AoB: It is notably difficult to earn a living in bonsai, why do you think this is and what needs to change in order to open up bonsai as a good career choice?

Jim: Bonsai in the United States and in other parts of the world is a career challenge. Some of today's existing road blocks are:
1- working with clubs and other groups that change officers and contacts every year or two (these are volunteers with good meaning but are not addressing our professional approach).

2 - bonsai is viewed as a hobby and less as an art. So people are willing to spend a little to satisfy their hobby but would spend more on art. In Japan if a serious tree is sold often more income is generated through the consecutive care of that tree.

3 - bonsai can die, so the key is in teaching others how to keep them alive, supplying a care service as in Japan and having an open door all the questions and challenges that come with this art form.

I feel fortunate every day that I get to meet interesting people import tools and pots, offer classes, give lectures and demonstrations and grow and collect many of the trees offered by Nature's Way.


AoB: Prices of bonsai are low here in America as compared to other countries, do you think this is directly related to the small number of collectors we have?

Jim: I think it is back to the mentality that as long as bonsai is viewed more as a hobby than as investment in art the unjust low prices will continue. The support of after-care knowledge is key to keeping this art alive.


AoB: What do you think the art of bonsai will be like over the next few decades?

Jim: This art will continue to grow in number. There are many clubs and study groups that enjoy bonsai for many reasons. The larger organizations supply a need but is not the total answer. Help can come by serious bonsai gardens such as in northern and southern California, Weyerhouser, North Carolina's new bonsai garden, Chicago Botanic Garden and, of course the national collection in Washington DC. Many individuals do bonsai on a personal level and it would be interesting to know just how many private collections there are.

A professional group should surface to address the awareness approach to the general public. If it is an art in an art gallery form, the elevation will rise considerably. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Symposia exhibits, arboretum collections, bonsai club shows, art galleries and open houses are all first impression venues to introduce bonsai.
When I'm asked to do programs, an exhibit is always with me to introduce the subject and display.


Image
Jim Doyle
Photograph by Walter Pall



AoB: Jim, you have had more exposure to the European bonsai scene than most Americans. How would you describe it?

Jim: I truly believe the Europeans are leading the rest of the world including Asia in bonsai. Many good artists pushing each other in a friendly way, excellent potters, great trees to collect, easier import laws and symposia that puts the main emphasis on the tree exhibit (not so much demos and workshops ) are all keys to this strong passion and success of bonsai in Europe. Critiques and discussions are becoming more popular in Europe, which in my opinion is a great way to learn.

Bonsai in Europe is in an upswing with the past WBFF Convention in Munich, Germany, the Crespi Cup and Dany Use's Best in Europe display with his Gingko Cup. Good European magazines are helping to spread the word. Bonsai in Europe, Bonsai Art are my favorites.


AoB: What are the differences and similarities between American and European bonsai?

Jim: The main difference is geography. America is so large and spread out, many folks just can't come together to share ideas. Europe has many small countries each with a unique approach and plant material.

Image
Jim Doyle
Photograph by Walter Pall



AoB:What do you think the reasons are that so much is going on in Europe?

Jim: Organization of exhibits, 'bigger egos' make better bonsai, a sense of competition, climate for growing certain types of trees, and history.

Let's face it, America is really just getting started. Education: many European artists are traveling to Asia to study and also being asked to teach around the world.


AoB: What carving tools/power equipment would you recommend for the more-experienced bonsai enthusiasts?

Jim: Tools ... one of my favorite subjects. I appreciate the tools and the care of them and now have our own NWN brand. Nature's Way has been importing tools from Japan since 1988.

I have tried many types of carving tools and the 'Ninja' bit using a die grinder is one of my favorites. To work on any deadwood you need many types and sizes of bits, sometimes along with the use of fire. Not all deadwood should be created with power tools. Often a sharp knife and pointed pliers is all you need. Good hand tools are made by Flexcut in Pennsylvania.


AoB: Can you mention a few of your favorite artists, and the reason why you like them?

Jim: For his classical knowledgeable approach Bill Valavanis, Nick Lenz for his whimsical and pioneer applications to indigenous trees, Kimura for his contemporary design and carving talent, many Europeans, Marc Noelanders, Salvatore Liporace, Robert Barth, Francois Jeker, Pius Notter, Colin Lewis and Marco Invernizzi, Marty Schmalenberg for his work with native species and my friend, mentor Walter Pall always pushing the envelope pursuing new art in this art and bringing out inner naturalistic beauty in trees.


AoB: A concern among all of us that do bonsai is where do they go after we part and what steps should be taken to insure they get into good caring hands.

Jim: It's found everywhere that all of us get old (with the exception of WP) and have great concern that our trees go to a place with good hands. Our trees outlive us, so thought toward this subject should be discussed for the future. Perhaps an answer is setting up bonsai museums throughout the world so others can appreciate our life-long work. This, of course, is an economic challenge.

Art can only derive from fresh strength and stimulation for healthy development from nature's eternal and unstoppable fountain of youth from which all cultures have evolved.

Image
Jim Doyle
Photograph by Walter Pall


Image
Jim Doyle
Photograph by Walter Pall


Image
Jim Doyle with Werner Busch
Photograph by Walter Pall


Image
Marty Schmalenberg with Jim Doyle
Photograph by Walter Pall


Image
Jim Doyle with Horst in Horst's shop
Photograph by Walter Pall


Last edited by Paul Stokes on Tue Jan 29, 2008 9:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 12:48 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
Great interview, informative, educational, and entertaining!

Will


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