Mid-America Bonsai Alliance

Mid-America Bonsai Alliance


The Mid-America Bonsai Alliance (MABA) is an organization made up of local bonsai clubs and societies from nine Midwest U.S. states and Canadian provinces. (Currently, those states/provinces are: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Ontario, and Wisconsin.) MABA's purpose is to foster the sharing of knowledge and bonsai artist talent among the clubs and states of the Midwest, as well as to encourage the use of native species in the art of bonsai. MABA also promotes public awareness and appreciation of bonsai. To further the goals of education and communication, MABA holds an impressive convention in association with one of its member clubs. MABA is a non-profit organization.

If you are new to bonsai, visit our bonsai photo galleries. If you find yourself becoming as fascinated by bonsai as we are, look to one of our member clubs or societies for more information.

Kris Ziemann
MABA  2020 Chairperson

News from the Mid-America Bonsai Alliance

MABA 2020 will be hosted by the Milwaukee Bonsai Society.  This event will take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the dates of June 25-28, 2020.

Click here for more information!


Mid-America Bonsai Alliance

Welcome to the Mid-America Bonsai Alliance website. The Mid-America Bonsai Alliance (MABA) is a regional alliance of bonsai practitioners located in the Midwest region of the USA. There are no dues to belong to MABA and any bonsai organization or individual may go on line and provide their name and contact information for fellow bonsai enthusiasts. Please note that membership is not limited to the 9 states (Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri) or the Providence of Ontario, Canada but our primary goal is to provide a rather informal platform in which bonsai information and artists specific to our local area may be shared. An added benefit is the camaraderie shared by all.


One of the functions of MABA is to schedule a convention every other year somewhere within the region. We would like to invite you to attend the next convention, MABA2020, which will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 25-28, 2020. This event is being hosted by the Milwaukee Bonsai Society. There will be Workshops, Demonstrations, Exhibit Critiques and Seminars along with a Vendors Hall and an outstanding Bonsai Exhibit.  The headlining artist is Francois Jerker.  Additional information can be found at the following link:

MABA 2020 Milwaukee

The last convention, MABA2017, was hosted by the Indianapolis Bonsai Club and attended by over 100 pre-registrants and a surprisingly large number of walk-in registrants. The 3875 sq ft Vendors Hall was totally filled with outstanding wares. The exhibit consisted of 91 displays with 152 bonsai and was the talk of the convention. Careful planning is the key to success and it was obvious to all this convention was magnificently organized and reflected the hard work of the host club.

Web Site

Previous visitors may notice the change in the MABA Website appearance. This is the result of our new webmaster Scott Yelich. Scott’s primary initial goal is to insure the membership information is correct and up to date and therefore he is requesting that if any site visitor notices any information that needs updated, please notify him. Scott's contact link is located under the Contact MABA link. I personally want to thank his predecessor Todd Renshaw for his excellent set-up and maintenance of the MABA website over the past years.

Election of Officers

The MABA By-Laws require the election of Officers every two years. Each MABA member club is allowed one vote for each of the following positions: President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. All other positions are either appointed or filled with volunteers. The 2017 Elections will be held at the MABA2017 Convention. The Nominating Committee is requesting each member club to discuss and if they wish, to submit a name or names of any member whom they feel would make a good officer. It would be appreciated if a brief bio accompanied each submission. Nominees will be posted prior to the MABA2017 Convention.



Why Go to a Bonsai Convention, Anyway?
A message from Steve Moore,  Former 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.