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MABA Convention Website Now Open

Access the latest information on the 2015 MABA Convention at www.maba2015.com.

The Mid-America Bonsai Alliance is pleased to announce the Indianapolis Bonsai Club will be host for the convention. The event will be held at the Clarion Hotel Waterfront Plaza & Conference Center in Indianapolis July 10 - 12, 2015 with Suthin Sukosolvisit as the headlining artist. Other featured artists include: Jim Doyle, Frank Mihalic, Bill Valavanis, Mike Tiedeman, Paul Weishaar, Ken Huth, Mark Fields, Pauline Muth, Scott Yelich and Brian Ciskowski. See the www.maba2015.com website for more detailed information on the artists, vendors and accommodations. Be sure and mark the MABA Convention in your 2015 calendar now.

Welcome to the Mid-America Bonsai Alliance (MABA) website

We are in the process of updating the website by adding additional club information. Our “Club Member” link currently lists member clubs by location, name, contact and website address. We are now expanding the club information to include links to each club's latest newsletter. This will simplify one of our goals which is to further communication between clubs and club members.


Convention Update
June 11, 2014

The MABA Board of Directors is seeking a host club for a convention in 2017. Now is the time to start discussing with your club members about considering hosting the next convention. I will be honest there is some planning work that needs to take place and then there is work during the convention, but the payoff is not only the profits generated for your club but also the opportunity of bringing your club name to the forefront in the bonsai community. So please have discussions with your club members and consider being the host club in 2017.

For those of you not familiar with the Mid-America Bonsai Alliance, it is a group of clubs located throughout the central part of North America and our purpose is to promote the use of plant species that are native to this region to be used as bonsai and to also provide a convention close to home that offers a good value for your money. We try to hold a convention every other year and move its location within the region so that all clubs that are members of MABA have the opportunity to host the event. These conventions are a great fundraiser for your local club as the host club keeps 65% of the profits from the convention.

The MABA region is comprised of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio and Ontario Canada. There is no membership fee and any club within the region is cordially invited to join. While we are organized as an alliance of bonsai clubs we realize there are those who have an interest in bonsai but do not live close to a club location. You are also welcome to join. Simply forward your name, address and email address to the MABA Secretary at the address in the Contact MABA section.

While writing this I cannot help but think of our bonsai community and who we are. We are, to say the least, an interesting conglomeration of enthusiasts. We are diverse. We are eclectic. We are an assemblage of elements ranging from amateurs to professionals from every country, racial, religious and ethnic group there is. We tend to rise above our differences, be they economic, social, political, educational, generational and cultural or gender related. In the bonsai world rocket scientists interact with laborers, loggers work hand in hand with conservationists, liberals befriend conservatives and professional nurserymen help and guide novices. We are enthusiasts from all over the world who if it were not for bonsai we would never meet. This is what a bonsai convention is all about. You, too, are part of this bonsai world. So come join us at our next convention.

Thank you for visiting the MABA website

Paul Weishaar
President, Mid-America Bonsai Alliance

Why Go to a Bonsai Convention, Anyway?

A message from Steve Moore, MABA Vice-President

Late last year, I started talking up the MABA2010 convention, trying to persuade as many as possible of our local members to attend. A question from one lady stopped me in my tracks for a moment. The gist was: I don't have much bonsai experience; wouldn't things at a convention be over my head? So what point would there be to my going?

That rocked me a bit! As I considered her question, I realized that I had not mentioned the great difference my own first convention made to me. My first bonsai convention resulted in a "quantum leap" in my bonsai knowledge, enjoyment, and confidence. (I really don't like clichés, but occasionally a cliché does actually say it best.)

The first convention I attended was the 1992 American Bonsai Society Symposium, hosted by the Susquehanna Bonsai Society and held in Hershey, PA. Even though I had acquired my first tree (a serissa) 2-1/2 years before, I was still very much a beginner, learning as best I could from books and journals. My work schedule at the time kept me from involvement in any bonsai club.

How did the symposium result in a "quantum leap?" Let me give you some specifics.

First, learning, learning, learning! Opportunities to learn were all around me:

Demonstrations. I saw Bruce Baker, of Ann Arbor, MI, start out with an unkempt-looking collected yew that I, frankly, thought was quite boring, and transform it into a masterpiece. The work took two days, most of it off in a side room; but when Bruce was finished I was very much impressed by the result! I learned how a potter creates an oval pot on a round potter's wheel by watching Max Braverman do it. (He threw a round pot, then cut a leaf-shaped section out of the center and carefully squeezed the sides in to close the gap.) And I grasped some techniques that I had not yet understood from reading, by seeing them done.

Workshops are of course an excellent chance to learn, as many of you already know. I didn't take any in Hershey, but I was a silent observer in one or two, and even observing I learned quite a bit.

Exhibit Critiques. I took one critique at ABS '92, and have been convinced of their value ever since! Vaughn Banting, of New Orleans, led a dozen of us through the convention exhibit, explaining what he found good and not-so-good about each tree. I know I learned more in that one hour than in any other four hours that weekend! Vaughn, by the way, had an encouraging way of referring to a bonsai's "dilemmas" rather than its "problems."

Private conversations. Within half an hour of checking in I found myself welcomed to listen in as a serissa's owner discussed design options with a teacher. Several times during the weekend I stopped one teacher or another in the hall, to ask (politely) if he would mind answering a question. My questions then were kindergarten level, but only one man blew me off.

Vaughn Banting was the most helpful of all. After courteously listening to a design dilemma that had me stumped, Vaughn sat down with me on a nearby bench. Taking the pad on which I'd sketched out my problem, he in turn sketched a simple, fairly elegant solution, which was well within my abilities at the time. When I protested that his suggestion broke a basic design rule, he explained that this was a valid exception. ("A major branch may cross the trunk, if the tree is a windswept.") It has always seemed to me that the best way to show my appreciation for the helpfulness of Vaughn, and others, is by passing it on. Vaughn died in October 2008, and since then it has also seemed the best way to honor his memory.

Second, inspiration! Pictures can be very useful, but nothing compares with being able to see a bonsai directly: you can look at it from different angles, from closer or farther away; you can see more detail, more nuance. I went through the bonsai exhibit in Hershey at least three times by myself, studying the trees, finding new details, new insights. Several times I bent down to put my eyes about at the level of the nebari, and looked up into the branch structure.

Sometime during ABS '92, I'm sure, is when I started saying to myself, "I didn't know you could do that," in mingled surprise and delight. After 18 years, I still say it from time to time.

What sorts of insights can you gain from studying good bonsai?

Species. Would you expect English ivy, or giant sequoia, to make a good bonsai? A convention display is a good place to expand your horizons about species you may not have considered before.

Style and color matches. Sometimes we don't realize that a certain style will work well for a given species, until we see an example. The same is true for pot colors and the foliage, fruit, or bark of different trees.

Ways to handle dilemmas. One of the trees in the Hershey exhibit had a major trunk-chop wound that was far from being completely closed. The artist put the wound to the rear, and grew a new leader directly in front of it, to conceal it. It was the first time I had seen that. Seeing how others have handled design dilemmas can give us ideas for dealing with the challenges our own trees present.

Third, community. This benefit is intangible, but it is very real. Paul Weishaar, President of MABA, approaches this concept from an angle that hadn't occurred to me, in his current "President's Message." Rather than appear to compete with him, I'll just ask you to read his second paragraph, beginning with, "As I write this I cannot help but think of our bonsai community …" (President's Message shown below.)

Finally, let me leave you with a 9-year-old's perspective. I asked my daughter what she would say on this point, as I was getting ready to write. I'll quote her answer as closely as I can: When you go to a convention, you learn a lot about bonsai, and then you find you have a hobby that you will enjoy for the rest of your life!

Steve Moore, MABA Vice-President; Warsaw, IN
Fort Wayne Bonsai Club

This article is adapted from the February 2010 Stuff from Steve, a column in the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club monthly newsletter.

You might also be interested to read Steve's report on the MABA 2008 Convention in Indianapolis. Follow this link for Steve's report. (Or find it in the Articles section on the lower left.)


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