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 Post subject: Profile: Al Keppler
PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 9:17 am 
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Profile: Al Keppler
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Al Keppler

Al Keppler has been a carpenter by trade since 1972 and he started bonsai in 1983. He started making stands in 2000 due to stands not being very plentiful. Since then he has shipped stands all over the US and a few to Europe.
He belongs to three bonsai clubs, he is the Vice President and program chairman for Hanford Bonsai Society, Akatsuki Bonsai Kai, and Kofu Kai.

He currently studies with Katsumi Kinoshita on a monthly basis and with Kenji Miyata when possible. he has shown his bonsai and stands in club exhibits, conventions, Fairs and most recently in a newly formed Central California permanent collection spring exhibition. He specializes in smaller bonsai and he feels that Shohin bonsai are a larger challenge as well as a greater reflection of power when done correctly. You can see Al's
gallery of stands here.

The Art of Bonsai project feels that quality stands and the craftsmen that make them are rare and we felt that a profile on such a craftsman as Al Keppler would be interesting and informative, we were not wrong. Al processes a talent and an artistic eye which shows plainly in his stands, they are indeed beautiful and reflect an attention to detail and craftsmanship that is not often seen any more in todays mass produced world.

The following is an on-line interview conducted with Al Keppler:


AoB: Al, you are perhaps one of the finest craftsman in regards to designing and making stands in the U.S. where does you inspiration come from?

Al Keppler: I have access to many years of Kindai Bonsai as well as a Japanese Shohin magazine, Bonsai Sakai. I also subscribe to WABI, a Japanese magazine devoted to display, as well as an auction preview for trees auctioned at Ginza Morimai. A Chinese magazine, which I cannot pronounce but, has many pictures of finely displayed bonsai of Chinese origin. It is the tables from these magazines that give me the most inspiration. I guess you could call me the "Elvis" of bonsai tables. Elvis didn't write lyrics or music, but he could sing anything. I have not designed many original pieces, but if there is not a lot of carving, I can usually reproduce it. I guess I make covers.


AoB: Your stands sometimes lean toward traditional Japanese design and other times toward traditional Chinese design, what do you favor and why?

Al Keppler: I tend to lean toward Japanese designs. The reasons are simple. I find the Japanese tables tend to be less ornate and beautiful in their simplicity. A lot of Chinese tables are highly ornate with many layers of carving and small details like rivets and nail-heads. There are only a couple hundred trees in existence that could be displayed on some Chinese tables and not be overpowered by the table. One of the biggest distractions for me is to see a tree in quiet elegance being displayed on a table with so much ornamentation that the tree is pale in comparison to the table. This goes against every idea of display.


AoB: What wood do you prefer for stand construction and is there a logical formula for the selection of such for a particular species that will be displayed on it?

Al Keppler: I prefer black walnut. I started using black walnut due to it being readily available and the darkest wood I could find. It works with tools well, does not smell when being worked or become itchy, and takes many finishes with ease. It is an American wood so I stay true to my origins. I have used many other woods from all over the world to build tables, having used paduak, African mahogany, bubinga, sapelle, Australian Lace wood, Wenge, and Cocabola. These are very beautiful woods, but most are patterned too much or the wood has such a variation in grain color that it begins to overshadow the tree. There is nothing worse than being in an exhibition and have someone tell you, that is the most marvelous stand?. I am thinking, "what about my tree"?

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African Mahogany

AoB: Should the color or tint of the wood be considered when selecting a stand? Is there a formula to use when working with a dark pot compared to a light one or from the species of tree?

Al Keppler: Strictly speaking, with bonsai the pot is usually matched to the tree. We pick the pot based on flowers, winter silhouette, bark color and foliage color. At this time the gender of the pot helps set the mood. The table should be built to compliment this mood, or it can be a table that will introduce tension or drama. The stand, being of wood, is mutually respectful of its display partner, the tree. The stand should therefore be chosen to compliment the pot and tree together rather than the tree. It should gradually move down in order of importance. The tree, then the pot chosen for the tree, and finally the display table chosen for the pot/tree as a unit. Now, if it's a commission for a table and the pot has been chosen poorly for the tree, it becomes a crap-shoot and the decision will usually be a mutual one between the owner and myself. Pictures help here as well as virtual compositions made with the aid of a computer.

As for color, I enjoy seeing the grain of the wood. The variation of grain and texture is something I try hard to incorporate in each table I make. I look for things like a small tight knot or a small birds-eye in the wood and feature that as part of the story of the table. Too many and it looks like bad wood, but one in a nice spot will really make a statement. It's kind of like a handmade pot and having a happy accident in the kiln. That's the pot that sells first at the vendor table. Dark finishes seem to work best and are less conspicuous in the display. There are times that a complimentary color could be used to help bring a display together. Blue pots work well with woods that seem to be more orange like paduak or mahogany. Grey pots work well with deep reds like rosewood or red mahoganies. Dark pots as well as lighter colored pots seem to work best with the warm glow of walnut. I very much like a nice maple tree in an oatmeal-glazed pot with a walnut stand finished in hand rubbed oil. It does not get much better.
The table is just underpinning for the story and is there for elevation and as a picture frame for the composition. If the table is too light in color the eye is immediately drawn to the lighter table in the image. I now have a formula for dyeing wood that works extremely well. I can make even inexpensive wood like poplar look like Brazilian Rosewood.


AoB: Does the masculinity or femininity of a tree dictate the shape of a stand as well?

Al Keppler: Sure it does, as well as the masculinity or femininity of the pot. The gender or aesthetic feel of the tree should be reflected in the pot and table as well. The difference is the gender of the stand can influence the display much more than the gender of the pot. A lot will depend on the mood of the displayer and the mood of the tree. A soft look with a feminine tree can be shown with the soft curves of a feminine table. A soft tree can be displayed on a very masculine table and add power to the base of the display. Very formal, rigid stands tend to be masculine while stands with curves and subtle carving tend to be more feminine.


AoB: When constructing a stand, do you simply glue and clamp or do you use a fastening system such as wafers or dowels? Does the method you use supply long-term durability and do you feel this is important on a stand
that may only be used a few times per year?

Al Keppler: All of the above and many more. I use tongues and grooves, dados, rabbits, splines and wedges. I have sent a couple stands to Europe and to many states across our nation. The weather changes in all the locales is staggering. The same problem that makes your front door stick in winter will split open the miters of a stand in a day or two. Compensation for these weather anomalies must be taken into consideration. Many tables are stored in the home in a closet or under the bed. On show day they are taken outside in the morning to be loaded, or worse the night before. Then taken to the show where a pot gorged with water so it won't dry out during the exhibit is placed on it. Then late in the day we take it home in the dry air-conditioned car and take it back into the dry home. All these atmospheric conditions play havoc on a table with complex miters and a solid piece of wood surrounded by mitered borders. That centerboard will expand considerably during the course of a day with the wet pot on it. Then what if the plant gets watered and heaven forbid they have a heavy hand and the pot leeks on the stand and it flows into a shadow line on the border. The stand has to be built with a sort of expando waistline in it, just like my pants. During the moisture laden exhibit time, the centerboard will expand into a tongue and groove or rabbit, and when it dries out it will contract back to its original state. All this unseen by the eye.
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Double Miter

AoB: You are known to use such features as double miters on your stands and details such as these add to the overall quality and visual appeal of the stands you make. This attention to detail is rare these days,
what processes you to go beyond the norm?

Al Keppler: That's a good question. Probably ego. A need to see if I can do it. A double miter is a very complicated thing to do. I now have some pretty cool shortcuts that make these very simple to do. I have built some homemade jigs that make cutting out the parts for these miters easy and fool proof to construct. I do not really mass-produce stands for sale. I have made large lots of stands for an event I was going to and people expected me to bring them, but that is rare. For the most part someone will ask me to make a stand and we will email pictures back and forth and decide on something and I will make the stand to specific dimensions. Wood or color will be chosen and I get to work. I can usually make a stand in as little as 10 hours, with about 10 hours for finish. I feel, that if someone goes to all the trouble to seek me out to build a tree specific table, then I should do all I can to make sure that the stand represents as much attention to detail that the new owner seems to possess.


AoB: Wood has always been the traditional material for stand construction; do you see modern plastics and other materials that have recently been appearing gaining a foothold for use in stands?

Al Keppler: Back fifteen years ago, a partner and myself were making custom-built Plexiglas salt-water reef trickle filters. I had been working with plastic like wood. Cutting it on the table saw and shaping it with low-speed tools and heat. I have used Corian, which works just like wood and can use the same tools. The trouble is with the plastic materials; the warmth of wood is missing. Even though the wood is dead, it lives on with its beauty. There is something about displaying a living piece or art, on a dead piece of art, of the same material. I did build some tables with Formica in the centerboard. After the wood components were assembled and stained to match the Formica, one could barely tell the difference. This did add an extra margin of safety to the stand in the water-leaking department. I do not own any Formica topped tables but I do have 6 rosewood sink cutouts from an apartment complex I did. I have them ready for when that person comes along.


AoB: Recently there have been a few articles released showing how to use other materials for stands and especially Daiza such as Bondo and plaster. How do you feel about materials other than the traditional wood
as to the overall visual appearance?

Al Keppler: I'm not sure of the question, but I can say that I would not think of using Bondo or plaster for a bonsai stand. I might think about using it for a Daiza for a Suiseki. I do prefer wood to other materials here also. I have seen something like other stones and metal used for Suiseki, and recently in Bonsai Europe Magazine there is a wonderful article about using heavy wool for stone bases. The pictures speak a thousand words and are very beautiful together. What I did notice though was that the article showed half a dozen pictures of stones with the wool bases. While the bases were nice and showed much creativity, I noticed that while all the stones were different the bases all looked the same. Like clones. No creativity within the image from stone to stone. With wood, I can get variation of color and grain patterns, small knots and texture that can't be achieved without looking man-made in things like plaster or Bondo.

I think displays could push the envelope when it comes to display tables and stands. Glass is not used enough and could be a natural partner for a pop display. I think wood and glass could be a natural. Glass "lives" enough to stand on its own, whereas plastic comes across as sterile and dead. Marc Noelanders has created some scenes with barbed wire and rusty metal as well as Farrond Bloch. They have stepped out of the box and created something not seen much in the US. I have seen some antique tables made from marble and alabaster from China. They are very beautiful and works of art on their own. The color is very light if not white and they seem dead and do not have the friendly and warming effect that wood offers.


AoB: In what ways would you recommend that a stand be prepared for display? What shouldn't one do?

Al Keppler: Stands should be dusted and all the rails cleaned. I use a spray can of air like for cleaning computer keyboards. I find that the packaged dusters with the cloths already charged for dust pick-up work pretty well. I don't recommend using a damp towel. These can tend to raise the grain of the wood and make the top rough to the feel.


AoB: How would you recommend that stands be maintained and is there anything that shouldn't be done?

Al Keppler: I store all my stands in beach towels that I buy at the 99-cent store. They are large enough to wrap around the table and it does not get scratched or damaged this way. Tables can be cleaned with orange oil or lemon oil, which will bring back its luster. I do not recommend using spray wax or paste wax on a table unless it has a finish like glass. Wax can get into the grain of wood and turn white as it dries out and it looks terrible.


AoB: What are the best ways to repair a scratched or cracked stand?

Al Keppler: This is a tough question. Depends a lot on the extent of the damage. For a crack, the owner could repair it by using a toothpick to get some glue into the crack. Then using two culls, clamp pressure can be applied and all should be well. It does make sense to try and find the reason for the crack. If it was just a crack in the wood due to natural shrinkage, there is not much one can do. If the crack was due to moisture damage and swelling, then that behavior must be changed. There are some products like "restore a finish" that work for some scratches. If it has a nick or a dent there is not much that can be done. These become battle scars.


AoB: How important is the role of the stand in a bonsai display?

Al Keppler: How long I have waited to hear this question. To me, the stand is almost the focal point of the display. I have seen far too many great displays ruined by the improper stand. Either the stand was too large or too small, wrong color, too much ornamentation. The stand is the foundation of the display. We build each successive layer upon this foundation. It is the first component we lay down to build the display and sets the mood immediately. As the layers are built the story may change but the mood of the stand sets the display. This may be the most important aspect of bonsai display and the one most often overlooked in my opinion. When I am out looking at exhibitions, I can tell those exhibitions that are built on a foundation of training and someone with expertise in the arts about how to build displays with trees and tables. Exhibition should be like this. All the trees are brought to a central location. Stands, accents and stands for the accents, scrolls and other bonsai accouterments are also brought here. Then a display group sets to choosing the best tree for the appropriate stand along with accents and tables for each. The display may be built from components from three different enthusiasts. This is the best way to build an exhibit that is harmonious and correct. This year I had the pleasure of doing such an event in which I was able to build eight examples of a three point display with trees and accents and tables from many members to choose from. It was a very beautiful display.


AoB: Finding the perfect pot to bring out the best aspects of a given tree sometimes feels like an art in and of itself. In the US, we tend to pay somewhat less attention to the stand. Other than making sure that
you've got the right size and height, are stands pretty much "one
design" fits all, or would one use different woods, different amounts of
ornamentation, different lines, on the stand used for say a rugged
Ponderosa pine compared to the stand used for a feminine Japanese maple?

Al Keppler: In the US we pay less attention to the stand because we pay less attention to display as an art form. We are content to buy a cheap laminated particle board stand from ebay and place our nice tree on it and put it into the club exhibition. Bonsai people are driven to the hobby for many reasons. It may be a form of relaxation or they may find propagation rewarding. Maybe someone has a backyard full of priceless trees but finds display frightening. What ever the motivations for bonsai are, display has to have its own motivator. Someone that is making great displays or moving toward that direction is reading all they can about the subject and doing as many displays a year as possible. The only real way to find out if that feminine Japanese maple needs a feminine stand or not is to try it with many other possibilities.
Bonsai is never about "one design fits all" and personal taste will play into many design options in the realm of display. Display is about personal reflection of the artist. This personal taste has been reflected in arts throughout the ages. It is no different in bonsai. Mike Page is a friend of mine. He has taken some flack for some of the displays he has tried in the past. Mike is trying new things and making paradigm shifts within a sometimes stagnated classical bonsai display genre. For that I applaud him. Working well outside the box is the only way bonsai display will move to a different plain. As long as we are comfortable within the paradigm we are destined to repeat it. Some displays at the Weyerhaeuser collection in Seattle Washington have gone on to push the envelope in display. In my own hometown last year a college art course combined to display canvas art as well as bonsai. In Germany in past years canvas art has been used as a backdrop to help tell a story within the display. Many times the stand was the important part of the display that made it either work or not work.

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My Tokonoma, trees and stands by Al Keppler

AoB: What are the correct formulas for determining the size and type of
stand to be used with a bonsai?

Al Keppler: The Golden Mean would be the first place to start. I make my tops in a dimension that look good to the eye. I find that the length of the rectangle should be about 1.5 times the distance of the depth. 6"x 9" or 10"x 15" or 18"x 27." These dimensions all look good to the eye and then there's the height issue. Bonsai displays are getting larger. Shitakusa are getting larger. We are adding evermore numbers of plants together in a small pot and making very nice accent material. The problem with these very large accents is that they require a table with more height to accommodate these larger accent plantings. I am now in the habit of adding a little extra height in my tables to make up for this discrepancy. When using tables to elevate bonsai into the dominant position of the composition, a little extra height looks good anyways.
My rule of thumb for designing the top of a table is to have the dimensions of the pot, add 1.5 inches of top for each side of the pot. The border is determined by the size of the table based on this centerboard dimension. For instance if I had a pot that measured 10"x 15" I would make a centerboard 13"x 18". Then I would make the border 2 inches wide. This would make a top 17"x 22". This would be a weird looking top. It becomes very deep in relation to the length. I then have to add inches to the length to fit the 1.5 times the depth rule. The depth dimension stays the same but the length of the top increases to 25". Making a table top of 17"x 25." A table this size would be 6 inches tall. This would allow plenty of room to place the pot in the sweet spot of the table with ample room around the shadow line as well as the full view of the border unobstructed by the pot. The tree is not cramped on the table and a table this size adds power and reverence to the composition.


AoB: In your opinion, what are the most common mistake people make when selecting a stand for their bonsai?

Al Keppler: The most common mistake is buying the wrong size stand. Here in America we do not have many proper places to buy fine bonsai tables. The places that do sell good stands are far a few between and after shipping and possible damage; it is not a very appealing aspect to buy a table mail order. I like to look at the wood and feel the finish. Unless you are dealing with someone that cares as much as you do about bonsai, the chances for disappointment are great. This makes mail order the only alternative yet not the best one. Then, buying a table "off the shelf" limits the owner to trees in their collection that fit the stand, rather than buying a stand of the proper dimensions that fit the tree. Many more people are commissioning pots for their trees, and I feel that stands will be a good market in the next 10 years due to increased knowledge that the Internet has provided. The tide is turning and that is a good thing!

I have found that most people buy a table for a tree because they have to. They have reached a stage in their hobby in which they want to display their tree in a club show. They are told that they will need a stand. They buy whatever they find that will accommodate the tree, paying no attention to color, shape, height or gender. Bonsai is a fairly expensive hobby. Not as expensive as horse racing or car collecting, but expensive never the less. I find that most people will save their money to buy a fairly nice piece of material to work on and when it comes time to display it, are content with setting it on a stand that is the wrong size, the wrong color, and the wrong shape. Most don't even know, so probably don't care. Most people have finally turned the corner on spending adequate money on a fine pot. They are proud of their decision and wish to let everyone know that they have purchased a signature pot, a Tokoname, or a hand made pot from a well-known potter. There seems to be some status now in owning a good pot. Stands have not yet reached this status but they are gaining ground. In a recent issue of Bonsai Europe Magazine a reader wrote that they wondered why the magazine did not credit the stand builder like they always do with the plant and pot. The editor made the note that the name of the stand builder is not always known nor the country of origin. Just the fact that this issue was even brought up is proof to me that stands are gaining some status, and artists want to know who are building good quality stands.


AoB: What are the most common mistake people make when displaying with a
stand?

Al Keppler: The most common mistake is under size tables. This is the worst mistake of all. Even if all the correct pieces are in place, the tree, pot, the shape and style of stand. Then the composition is put together and the pot creeps over the shadow line and into the border of the stand. As someone that views this as taboo, how do I make an assumption about the artist? Is this a person that does not know any better? Are they on a tight budget and they cannot afford to buy more stands? Do they just not care?
Another mistake I see often is using a stand at all. In America I find that most trees seem to be weak in the trunk department. Trees seem to fit into Literati styles rather then the style the artist thinks it is. Even if the trunk is thick in terms of actual inches, due to the height of the material or the lack of good bottom branches, the tree will look top heavy and thin trunked or spindly. Then to top it all off, the tree gets put on a chunky, poorly styled, table that elevates it even more. What may be a better option would be to get rid of the stand all together and display the tree on a thin burl or thin slice of tree. Who would of thought!

Lastly, centering pots on the stand. This has been the subject of many forum discussions. I prefer pots centered on the table. For the most part there is only one exception to having a pot not centered on a table. This would be a case by case scenario, but it would be the lone tree in a shallow, narrow long pot, as in depicting a meadow with the tree planted to one side of the pot, or a slanting tree, planted far to one side of the pot. Now, this is the secret to displaying this type of tree on a table off center. The stand has to be designed for this off center displacement. A correct stand for placing a slanting tree off center would have a top exaggerated in length. For instance say a normal table would be 12"x18", then a table for displaying off center might be 12"x22". This extra length gives the viewer a place to anchor the eyes at the intersection of the pot and table. When the top is too small, the pot begins to creep over the border and it starts to feel cramped. Again this is just not practical for most hobby enthusiasts to have a stand specifically for each tree. Yet if we are to display properly this should be the norm.


AoB: What do you think of the differences in bonsai that result from the inspirations of viewers from the West Coast (Rockies) and East Coast (Smokies) U.S. mountain views? This is both related to the material and
more specifically rock plantings.

Al Keppler: Well this is very complicated question for me to answer due to the fact that I have not ventured very Far East of California to speak of. I have seen bits and pieces of the east coast of the United States through TV and the Internet, but that is not really doing the landscape much justice. What I can tell you is that I have some of the most spectacular bonsai inspirational scenery known to man just minutes or hours from my home.

1. The largest tree in the world, General Grant 60 miles from my home
2. The tallest trees in the world, the Coast redwoods, some of the largest old growth redwoods still in existence, 150 miles from my home.
3. The oldest trees in the world, Bristle cone pines, in the White Mountains, 73 miles from my home.
4. One of the most visited places on earth, Yosemite Valley, full of inspirational trees and rugged junipers, 61 miles from my home.
5. Mojave desert, home to some of the oldest junipers known to man and available for removal, 143 miles from my home.
6. Pebble Beach / Pacific Grove, some of the most photographed trees in the USA. 17 Mile Drive has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. 200 miles from my home.
7. The Grand Canyon, easily done in a weekend trip, and some of the oldest junipers seen in many cliff locations and ready for a bonsai pot.

The west coast of the USA is very alive with seismic activity. The South American plate continues its northern trek crashing into the North American plate and pushing the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada's ever upward. The highest point on the Continental USA, Mount Whitney is a mere 62 miles from my home. This is a lot of bonsai inspiration packed into a 500-mile radius. Not many places on earth can boast the lowest place in the US and the highest place in the US, 200 miles from one another. Some of the finest Suiseki in the USA are taken from northern California rivers annually. The sands of Death Valley have also yielded a treasure trove of fine Suiseki.

I live in the center of some pretty hostile real estate. My inspiration tends to be for more rugged plants depicting an environment reminiscent of tree line at 13,000 feet. Valleys between this rugged mountain scenery are dotted with huge valley oaks and alder. Some of the scenery here would make a Floridian envious, yet I would love to tramp through an alligator infested swamp just to get the chance to dig a wonderfully buttressed cypress tree. I think inspiration is only a keystroke away now days. The Internet has brought us the means to go anywhere in the world at many bonsai discussion forums on a daily basis. How could anyone look at the pictures of Walter Pall's Craggy Alps and all those beautiful Swiss Pines and not feel just a wee bit of jealousy. Yet his wonderful pictures can inspire me. Thank you Walter.

There are a lot of plants that I have seen from the south and from upper east coast that I would love to keep. I would love to be able to keep larch, Eastern Red Cedar, white pines, water elms, bald cypress, and many others. The USA is so large with so many weather micro climates, that keeping large variations of stock outside your comfort zone is risky.

Image
Bi-level table of black walnut

AoB: You seem to specialize in Shohin bonsai, are the stands for smaller bonsai like Shohin and Mame more difficult to make and is this why it is so difficult to find quality stands of this size?

Al Keppler: It takes just as many parts, but the parts are oh so small! My fingers are sometimes inch away from a shaper bit. This bit turns at 9000 RPM's and would do considerable damage and probably ruin my stand career as well as my way of living. I am a carpenter by trade and I cherish all my fingers, I still have all 9 of them. No I have ten, just kidding. I think Shohin stands are something that not many stand builders want to spend their time making. If they can make larger stands that are easier to construct and make a decent living, why not. I decided to start making Shohin tables due to me not being able to find nice ones. The bonsai establishment in town used to carry some little Shohin tables by David Knittle of Tansu Bonsai. These were very nice stands and very well constructed. They were made of cherry wood and finished natural. They were a little light in color for my taste. I gave away the one I had and wished I had it back to keep with my ever-growing Shohin pot collection. Not only is it hard to find good Shohin stands, it is also hard to find stands of any sort in the USA. I wish I had the time to produce more of them. Of course turning a passion into a business takes all the sparkle out of it and then its just work. Then creativity dies and making stands becomes drudgery and work stops. I am content making a dozen stands a year.


AoB: You have also made many stands that are tiered in order to display multiple bonsai and/or accents on. What considerations must you make in order to assure a well-balanced display when creating these?

Al Keppler: Stands of any kind are hard to find. Shohin stands are even harder. Finding Shohin racks and multi level stands are impossible. I started making multi level Shohin stands for myself out of necessity. As my confidence built and I gained experience, I started to make even more complex designs. I have a few original designs in the back of my head and will put those ideas to wood in the fall of this year.

When I build a Shohin multi level stand I first sketch it on paper and check the proportions. I have found that most Shohin are about 6 to 10 inches tall. I keep the shelves separated by at least 12 inches to provide breathing space around the plant. I find that 30 inches seems to be a good base size and keeping the shelf top at around 7"x 11" seems to work best. Even when building a four sided traditional Japanese rack, the shelves must be kept to a minimum. This helps with keeping the display clean. In America there seems to be a trend to put as much stuff into the rack for display as possible. Soon, the whole thing looks kitsch and the professionalism we seek is lost.


AoB: Do you have a pet peeve when it comes to display and stands?

Al Keppler: The one thing that really bothers me is books. I am so confused as to why authors or publishers will use the ugliest bonsai in the book for its cover. I am also baffled if it is a picture book and the book is all about inspiration, I find that the author will include many pictures of trees from a major exhibition of international importance. Then all the trees will be photographed with maybe three stands for 50 trees. You get the same stands over and over. I find that the trees should be photographed with the stand they were shown with in the exhibition. If the composition were tasteful and shown with artistic merit, why would not the photographs of the individual trees from that exhibition be shown with all the original elements? I feel that the artistic involvement of the artist/display is lost in the photograph when the stand is just something to place the tree on for a picture. Say cheese, next! As I look at the pictures I can almost here them talking while shooting the pictures, hey, did anyone change the stand from the last photo, we don't want to get two pictures next to each other in the book with the same stand!


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