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 Post subject: Profile: Brussel Martin
PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2007 6:42 pm 
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Location: WI, USA
Profile: Brussel Martin
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Brussel Martin
Photograph by Walter Pall


Brussel Martin is well known by many practitioners of the art, his stock has found its way to benches, workshops, and demonstrations around the world and his reputation as a nurseryman is respected by the beginner and advanced artist alike. The following bio is from his website www.brusselsbonsai.com.

When Brussel was 5 years old, he can remember being instantly captivated by several bonsai his father brought back from a California business trip. As a teenager, he began to seriously study the art of bonsai. What started out as an artistic endeavor in his parent's backyard quickly grew into a business. In the 1970s, he began selling bonsai through the mail and traveling to shows across the country. By the early 1980s, he was making annual buying trips to Asia.
As his business has grown, so has his desire to introduce bonsai to more and more Americans. He now offer a full range of bonsai trees starting with modestly priced bonsai for the beginner, on up to unique specimens styled by Bonsai Masters. Regardless of your selection, rest assured that every bonsai from our nursery has been meticulously developed and will arrive in perfect condition. Every tree includes specific growing instructions so your success is guaranteed.


Brussel's Bonsai Nursery can be seen at http://www.brusselsbonsai.com

The following is an on-line interview with Brussel Martin


AoB: What is 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?

Brussel: My first encounter with bonsai was when my father brought 3 bonsai back from an architecture trip to California. This was when I was about 5 years old (1955) we had the trees for several years. I was hooked. I started serious collecting in my early twenties.


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

Brussel: I have studied with many different bonsai artists thru the years. I knew and studied some with John Naka, Ben Oki and others. There is a guy named Joe Harris that I grew up with that spent 4 years in Japan at The Bonsai Park in Kanuma. He worked for me for about 5 years after returning from Japan, he was a wealth of knowledge on style and technique. I now study with Kathy Shanner, which we have in a couple of times a year.


AoB: As the owner and operator of Brussel's Bonsai in Olive Branch, Mississippi, you have your thumb on the pulse of bonsai and the trends in species preferences. This experience is backed of course with the fact that you started selling bonsai through the mail in the 70's and by the early 80's, you begun to make annual buying trips to Asia. How has the preferences for bonsai material changed over the years and do you see preferences leaning more now toward native species or remaining with the traditional species?

Brussel: The majority of entry level people want indoor or blooming bonsai. They eventually see the beauty of the traditional outdoor bonsai.


AoB: Buying or growing stock for resale takes a talent for predicting trends in the marketplace. What do you see the future demanding as far as species are concerned? Where are the current trends headed?

Brussel: We grow , import and have contact grown many flowering, fruiting and traditional bonsai in different sizes and styles.
We see the need to grow , import and have contract grown a wide selection of indoor, flowering and traditional varieties of bonsai. There are many bonsai varieties that can not be imported or are expensive when imported. (Japanese Black Pine) (Trident Maple) (Shimpaku Juniper)(Chinese Quince) (Korean Hornbeam) We are growing or having grown most of these in various styles and sizes ranging from $50 to $200. These are all grown from day one as a high quality bonsai with movement to the trunks and good branch placement.
The current trends are entry level bonsai (Azaleas) (Gardenia) (Juniper)
(indoor) and quality styled bonsai from $50 to $200


AoB: Brussel, it has been said that you seem to set the market price for bonsai in the U.S. What are your thoughts on this?

Brussel: We have no reason to try and control the bonsai market. We are having a hard time keeping up with the business we have. We grow many entry level bonsai, which are just small plants placed in a bonsai pot.These have no traditional bonsai training but are priced accordingly. All of our styled bonsai sell about as fast as we can make them.


AoB: You make many Asian buying trips to purchase stock for Brussel's Bonsai and import many more bonsai as well from many countries, you are in fact, the largest importer in the U.S. Has the recent import restrictions affected your business adversely and is dealing with growers from other countries difficult?

Brussel: Since the quarantine restrictions importing is more difficult and expensive.We are one of a handful of nurseries with an approved quarantine facility. This is why we are growing many more domestic bonsai.


AoB: Running a bonsai nursery in America can be rough, how do you stay on top and continue in the business when many others fail?

Brussel: We have a new 3 million dollar facility that was designed to pot grow and ship bonsai in large numbers. Our production area has room for 15 to 18 potters at a time. The large shipping area has three lines with an overhead packing peanut hopper. We have three dock doors. We have a very streamlined operation which is reflected in our prices. Most bonsai only spent a couple of months at the nursery before being shipped out.


AoB: Besides your nursery, you also have a remarkably successful on-line business. You started selling on-line many years ago, what have you seen change as far as the Internet bonsaist is concerned?

Brussel: Our catalog and Internet site are doing well, better that last year. A large percent of our business is with what we call drop shippers(FTD) (1-800 Flowers)(Pro Flowers) (Amazon )(Hallmark). These people sell our product and then sent us the order to be shipped from our facility. Most of their sales are for small entry level bonsai for gifts. The most important part of this business is the ability to receive and ship hundreds of orders in the same day. During mothers day week we can ship as many as 20,000 individual orders. With out this facility we could not do that kind of business.

Image
Brussel Martin
Photograph by Walter Pall



AoB: There are many people who feel that we are on the edge of another bonsai boom, the likes of which haven't been seen since the release of the first Karate Kid movie, do you feel this way as well?

Brussel: We seen our sales increase about 20% each year for the past two years.


AoB: How did you come about starting the Rendezvous. your annual convention held over Memorial Day weekend and did you envision the success that it has achieved?

Brussel: Rendezvous was started to offer people a weekend to study bonsai with workshops and demos along with guest bonsai master,.along with great southern food. Also being able to purchase any bonsai material they might be looking for. This combination has seemed to work


AoB: What part of the Rendezvous do you think has been the most successful and why?

Brussel: The chance to see and work with different bonsai artists every year.Also visit with other bonsai hobbyist.


AoB: What do you envision the future of Rendezvous to be like?

Brussel: Ever year we try to improve on the things we offer along with the best new or international bonsai artists.This year for instance we have a Japanese Garden expert.


AoB: Over the last few decades bonsai in America has changed greatly, what were some of the most important innovations that you have seen?

Brussel: When I started in the bonsai business in the 70s there was mainly a small number of serious hobbyist. It has evolved into a mainstream hobby with all levels of hobbyists.


AoB: Based on your vast experience, travels to other countries, and conversations with world renowned artists, what do you think the art of bonsai will be like over the next few decades?

Brussel: Bonsai is not for everybody,s life style, especially Americans. Bonsai is big in Europe because they appreciate art and understand horticulture more than Americans. That being said, I think bonsai has a bright future in the USA.


AoB: What is the perception that other countries that you have visited have of the American bonsai scene? Are we gaining respect?

Brussel: We are slowly gaining their respect. Our bonsai are not of the quality of the other bonsai growing countries. I think this is because we have not developed as many serious bonsai hobbyists and the fact that most Americans will not pay for quality bonsai. They do not see their value.


AoB: What do you feel needs to be overcome in order for the bonsai in America to advance to higher levels or do you feel that we have come as far as we can?

Brussel: Most Americans do not know that their bonsai are not up to the standard of the rest of the bonsai world and usually don't care. Its just a hobby.


AoB: If there was one single thing you could teach to every person first starting out in bonsai, what would it be?

Brussel: First learn how to keep a bonsai healthy, no bonsai is a good bonsai if it is not healthy. The second thing is Quality over Quantity, a few good bonsai instead of many half done trees.

Image
Brussel Martin
Photograph by Walter Pall



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

Brussel: There are many good bonsai artists I have worked with but here are two of the best. I like Kathy Shanner, she is very free with all of her knowledge and presents it in a way you can grasp. We were all impressed by Mark Nolander at Rendezvous 2006 his styling is wonderful and we are having him back in 2008.


Last edited by Paul Stokes on Tue Jan 29, 2008 9:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2007 4:46 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2005 12:41 pm
Posts: 34
Location: Ottawa, KS
This is a great profile of Brussel Martin, but it fails to adequately address his principal characteristic, which can only be discovered by meeting him in person. Brussel Martin is a true Southern Gentleman in the truest and best sense of the word. I have only been privileged to go to the Rendezvous once, in 1999 (I still have the two trees I brought home). What a great time that was! A party atmosphere prevailed, and Brussel was truly in his element as gracious host and facilitator.

I went back by Brussels' a very few years ago and dropped in unannounced. They were photographing specimen trees for the catalog, and Brussel took some time away from that to visit with me and give me some advice. He is a Truly Nice Guy.


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