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 Post subject: Back to Back - Demonstrations - by Johnson and Wood
PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 5:20 pm 
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This thread is for discussion of the article Back to Back: Demonstrations, by Hector Johnson and Vance Wood. http://www.artofbonsai.org/feature_arti ... ations.php


Last edited by Will Heath on Sat Jun 23, 2007 12:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 11:26 am 
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So???? Who cares??? That's the problem no one cares enough to even add to the discussion. Not trying to be antagonistic, but if this was as big a problem as many think it is you would think at least someone would have responded one way or the other by now. I can hardly think no one has an opinion.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 11:37 am 
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Things move at a slower pace here sometimes, our members tend to take their time digesting what they read before responding. I personally find this much more refreshing than the typical sprout before you think mentality that is sometimes prevalent on the web. (I'm sure you agree with me.)

There are a lot of great points in both articles, even though I have read them both a few times over the course of the formatting, editing, and approval process, I am still digesting, I apologize.

Will


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 11:53 am 
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The demonstartors are between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they have to entertain the audience. Sometimes they travel from far away. And in most cases they don't see the demo material in advance.

What would happen if after 10 minutes of working on the pitiful material, they will tell the audience: "Well, that's all I can do for now, everything else will endanger the life of the tree. You can go home now."

Instead of the above scenario, they will rather take a chance on the tree than disappoint the audience. Sacrificing the tree seems to be a better option than writing off the demo as a disaster.

The blame is both on the club and the demonstrator. The club should have provided better material. And the demonstrator should have requested pictures of the material in advance. Any of these would have been enough to ensure a good demo.

As to dealing with different student personalities, I wouldn't worry much about it. Good student or bad one, a teacher will try to share his knowledge during the workshop. He is paid to do that. It is up to the student to use it or waste it.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 12:10 pm 
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No apologies are necessary, I was just stirring the pot. I think this is an important issue and I agree with Atilla, I guess mostly because he agrees with me.

As to the students, well that's a different issue. Until you have had some of the things I have mentioned happen it is easy to say you share your knowledge, on that I agree. But; when you have some individual contradicting everything you say it's like some of the issues you run into on the web without the delete button.

Again I place the majority of the problem in the lap of the Clubs and Organiztions in that they either don't know or don't care about the kinds of problems envolved in Demos and Workshops. When things go badly it is so convininent to blame the teacher. The participants do. Having said that I cannot in my wildest dreams conceive of the Club leadership comming forward and saying; "No No, it was our fault".

Does anyone see any pigs flying over?


Last edited by Vance Wood on Tue Apr 18, 2006 12:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 12:10 pm 
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Who is to blame the club or group or the demonstrator?

Both.

Clubs are often infiltrated by politics and hence workshops and demos are often planned and arranged to suit the personal viewpoints, philosophies, and agendas of the board members instead of for what would be the most educational and do the most good for the people attending. They are often used to promote local vendors, to accent the skill set of the board members, or otherwise to advance anything but the participants. Clubs also either try to save a buck by purchasing inferior material that can not be used in a constructive way by the visiting master or they do not have the experience necessary to tell quality stock from crap.

Visiting masters are also to blame because with a combined effort they could put a stop to this by simply insisting that they see the stock (pictures of it) first before they will arrive. They can also dictate what they will and will not do and take a "If you want me, then you play by my rules" attitude. "This is what I offer, take it or leave it."

Imagine holding a potters workshop and when the master potter arrived, handing them a chunk of bread dough and an Easy Bake oven (toy oven powered by a light bulb). Do you think they would just go ahead and do the demo? How about an expert on water painting arriving to find a box of crayons and a brown paper bag waiting for them?

In my opinion, it is time for clubs and groups to make a commitment to offer educational seminars, workshops, and demos to it's members and participants and stop playing politics. It is also time for visiting masters to insist on nothing less and stop whoring for the fame and cash, let's put some integerity into the practice, the payoff will be greater in the end.
There will always be demo whores, wanna-be masters who will fill the gaps, let them..people will know the difference.

Will


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 12:37 pm 
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You are right Will, but as I pointed out in my article any teacher that would take that position in today's market would find himself not working. The convoluted philosophies that often dictate how these things are done will look for the people that will do what it is they want done and how they want it done.

In short they have a bargain basement program and they look for a bargain basement teacher that will work with bargain basement materials. Unless you have a big name, followed by big fees, it is awfully difficult to dictate terms and still have opportunities to do these kinds of things.

Another issue is in the fees some Clubs and Organizations are willing to pay. There are some organizations out there that are trying to grow so they expect you to do what you do for free, they may pay for materials (if any but only if they are cheap) and lodging if necessary but that's about it.
So unless you happen to be a big named artist that can demand big name prices and work on big buck trees and demand three squares, transportation, lodging and concubines (just joking) you are left with, kind of going with the flow. That's the real problem in the USA, there is a lack of real respect for people that do these kind of things. In my way of looking at it, the teacher in some respects is as much a victim as the participants in the workshop. They just know it sooner.

It is for all of the reasons I have pointed out above and in the article I usually try to furnish both the demo tree and the workshop material, at least then I know what I am getting involved with before I start having to count the deck chairs on the Titanic.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 12:41 pm 
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You are right, all of you.
I have seen some appalling crap offered up as sacrifices by the clubs that I have been to, as demo material.

Asking a visiting master to create a masterpiece from "$20 stock you could all afford" is an insult and a waste of time.

I would far prefer to see a master artist restyle a $2000 tree that has great potential, than try to create toffee from dog manure. Hell, even a $500 piece of high quality stock would be far preferable.

In fact, seeing a demo where $20, $100, $500 and $2500 plants are reworked would be of far more educational benefit, in my view.

That would ensure the stock plants are raised to their next level of potential, all in one sitting. Does anyone do such demos/workshops?


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 12:47 pm 
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Vance Wood wrote:
As to the students, well that's a different issue. Until you have had some of the things I have mentioned happen it is easy to say you share your knowledge, on that I agree. But; when you have some individual contradicting everything you say it's like some of the issues you run into on the web without the delete button.
Again I place the majority of the problem in the lap of the Clubs and Organiztions in that they either don't know or don't care about the kinds of problems envolved in Demos and Workshops. When things go badly it is so convininent to blame the teacher. The participants do. Having said that I cannot in my wildest dreams conceive of the Club leadership comming forward and saying; "No No, it was our fault".
Does anyone see any pigs flying over?

I have to disagree on blaming the club for bad students. The club's job is to get as many members as possible. Quality doesn't matter. The bad ones will drop out anyway. When you try to popularize bonsai, you can't be selective as to who to popularize for. You have to include everyone on this planet. Workshops are part of this promotion business.
The second part, dealing with the participants that is, is the teacher's problem. The club doesn't know how to do this, the teacher should. I know it's very difficult to deal with a student with big ego. But it's part of being a teacher. You have to use psychology and any tactics in the book in order to get through the workshop. And most of all, have a thick skin. If the student tries to kick you in the groin, just quickly turn aside, to avoid the blow ;) .... and you cannot kick back! (well, may be in the parking lot, on the way home)


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:14 pm 
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I'm not so sure you can't kick back. I've seen students pulled up short by visiting demonstrators. Harry Tomlinson makes a joke of it, and pulls the discussion back in line. Lindsay Bebb gives a withering stare and observes something like, "You haven't a clue why I'm here, or what I'm doing, have you?"
Both achieve the same result, though one gets a reputation for being a heavy-handed curmudgeon.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:27 pm 
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I didn't say the bad student was the clubs fault, though I didn't say the Student was not, my error in omitting that little point. However; there is one thing I know for sure, that student is not my fault. However, Neither did I say that I do not know how to deal with these people, every body finds their own way. I was pointing out the kind of things you run into for those who have not done this except maybe for their own club.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:35 pm 
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Vance Wood wrote:
Neither did I say that I do not know how to deal with these people, every body finds their own way.

I imagine you are no pushover, Vance. But rather on the feisty side :)


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:58 pm 
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You could say that, but I try to be as gentle and courteous as possible. However; I have been shot at with real bullets, some bonsai twerp with an attitude and agenda is not likely to intimidate me.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2006 8:37 am 
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The responsibility rests squarely on the demonstrator, i.e. ostensibly the professional. The demonstrator needs to talk to the club in advance and find out the club's goals - if the club desires to have a masterpiece to auction off then they should be told to provide nearly finished material, i.e. big $$ material. If the club has limited funds, then the demonstrator should suggest what teaching processes could be accomplished and still make a worthwhile presentation. If the club offers a tree that is in the wrong time of year to have work done on it, the demonstrator should advise as such and not let their ego force them to create something that will harm a tree. Demonstrators also have to know they might be able to push a tree and give it good aftercare while a beginner might not. In that case they should moderate the work and explain why it was done.
When given basic starter material my approach is to clearly explain to the audience that bonsai is not an instant process, that there are at least three phases to bonsai development and that since we are starting with nursery material we are probably years away from a finished bonsai. I like to make a sketch, sometimes very detailed of what the tree could look like in the future. If I can't do all the work on a tree right now I lay out a road map of what should happen to the tree in the next few years. I use lots of drawings. I show what branches should be cut and where. I like to explain basic concepts frequently debunking many bonsai myths, demonstrate some advanced concepts such as grafting, layering, etc, tell lots of stories and jokes, get the audience involved and generally have a good time. At the end there is a tree well on its way to bonsaihood and the audience might have been entertained and even better might learned something.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2006 9:09 am 
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Rob, respectfully I have to disagree with you putting the blame squarely on the demonstrator, certainly there is blame there. But did you read the accompanying article? Have you ever done one of these programs yourself?

Let me give you a bit of an analogy. I pay for a ticket to a concert to hear So-and-so play the violin. I anxiously wait in line to get in, I anxiously wait for the show to commence and Maestro So-and-so comes on stage and explains that he has chosen PDQ Bach's partita with one part missing as his concert selection. But because the piece is so difficult and he can't find the other part he will only be able to play part of it. As a ticket holder what do you think of this?

Yes the demonstrators could do a lot to change this practice but for the reasons I pointed out, it is never going to happen. The kind of people that do these things are about as interested in getting together and taking a stand as a cat at a swimming pool convention. This would amount to the bonsai demonstrators forming some sort of trade union whereby they would all agree to not kill trees, and would shun or boycott those that do.
When someone goes to a convention to see Kimura, or Walter Pall design a tree masterpiece they do not want to be told half way through that this is all you get. Now Walter and Kimura both can make the kinds of demands of clubs and organizations that you or I cannot. Very often people like you and me have to go with the program or be replaced with someone who will. So in this instance the ethical demonstrator gets to sit back on his ethics while someone else reaps the monetary rewards. So in the end you stand for something but you stand alone.

You have of course heard the story about being outstanding in your field, parodied by the song which continues----in mud up to your knees?


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