Masahiko Kimura Demonstration
MABA 2000 Detroit Convention by Paul Baresi

Masahiko Kimura Demonstration 2000 Detroit Convention
by Paul Baresi, Four Seasons Bonsai Club of Michigan

The Four Seasons Bonsai Club of Michigan contacted the supplier of Mr. Kimura's demonstration tree in Atlanta the previous summer, Brian Ciskowski. Brian was able to show Mr. Kimura a couple of potential trees for his presentation in Detroit. At that time Mr. Kimura picked a tree that he was very excited about. Four Seasons representatives ordered the above mentioned tree and 20 smaller versions for two of the Kimura workshops.

The Kimura Demonstration tree was on display to the public all day Friday. Mr. Kimura spent a few hours studying the tree, peeling some bark and finding the vein of life. On Saturday, July 1st at 10:00AM the demonstration hall was standing room only. The chairs were set up in a semi circle around the podium, all 125 seats were full and there was a buzz in the air, the excitement of the Kimura demo was all over the show. Johnny Uchida, a well known Bonsai Master from northern California was on hand to interpret for the crowd. Johnnyís sense of humor was very entertaining, along with his keen eye for what was taking place in front of him.

Mr. Kimura started by cutting a few branches off, then for the branches that were to have a very tight bend, he wrapped raffia and wire and also tied them down. Then wiring the remaining branches with copper he was ready to move on.

Although the Rocky Mountain Juniper was indeed very healthy and had a lot of potential to fill in during the next couple of years of growth, this tree had been harvested from the hills of South Dakota two years earlier. Trees from the timberline usually have just enough branches to survive. It will take a few years for it to enjoy its new conditions and fill in. The styling was completed rather quickly, but the best was yet to come. Carving the dead wood. They donít call Mr. Kimura ìThe Magicianî for nothing. His artistic side really becomes obvious when he starts to carve.

Mr. Kimura brought with him from Japan, a special power tool with a cable drive and a grinder type end for carving. This tool seemed to cut through the dead wood like butter and provided a surface that was very smooth, as if it had been sanded at the same time. It was impossible to get close enough to examine the tool, but then, up close provided the viewers a sawdust shower that made them look like they had assisted Kimura, themselves. Ernie Kuo, another fine Bonsai master from California held a vacuum hose close by the cutting area so as to keep the dust down to a minimum.

Mr. Kimura worked at an amazing pace, stripping bark and carving shapes that no one else could possibly have seen in this tree. Just as Michealangelo said, ìI only remove the marble that should not be there.î Kimura seemed to intuitively remove wood as though it was in the way of the finished product.

After the carving was complete Christine Hayward, Marty Schmallenberg's wife and the artistic director for the exhibition at MABA2000, was asked to come up and assist Mr. Kimura in painting on a special solution to protect and enhance the appearance of the newly carved dead wood. This solution consisted of Sulfur Dioxide and a water-soluble grey paint that was delouted to the consistency of a wash. It was explained that this provided protection for the bare wood from rotting and also gave it that grey / white look, as though it had been exposed to the elements for years.

The entire demonstration lasted about 2 Ω to 3 hours and when Mr. Kimura finished there was a very enthusiastic response of applause from the crowd, who stayed and looked at the tree up close and personal, long after Mr. Kimura left the room.

Mr. Kimura was asked to sign autographs constantly during the convention and he always provided them with a smile. I remember seeing lines of 10 to 20 people at a time waiting for him to autograph his book or any other item that they could come up with. He kept a wide dry marker (felt tipped pen) on him at all times. This pen worked perfectly for signing his name in kanji. I guess this is just another example of his attention to detail.

Actually the end of the demonstration was not the end of the story. The Four Seasons Bonsai Club sold tickets for a raffle and on Sunday the Kimura demo tree was presented to the winning couple. They were thrilled to accept and look forward to many years of enjoying this very special tree.

Mr. Kimura was indeed an enjoyable experience and watching him in person will make all his articles in various publications come to life.

I think that the sawdust just might jump off the page.