Working on a San Jose Juniper that was Originally Styled by John Naka
This is a long story with quite a few pictures so please bear with me…
Cheryl Manning was a headliner speaker during the 2002 ABS seminar in Milwaukee . During the convention she restyled a San Jose Juniper that she had shipped from California . She had been working on it for two years and had repotted it before shipping it to Milwaukee. She gave a good background on the tree and supplied several photos and drawings from before the convention.
I won the tree in the raffle during the banquet and I have been keeping it in NE Ohio for the last ten years. It was time for a serious rework of wiring, styling, woodwork and repotting. During the time I have had it I have repotted it twice and rewired it twice with trimming cutbacks and carving cleaning and enhancement but it was due again ( seriously) plus the pot was disintegrating!
So, on with the background…..
Cheryl was a member of John Nakas group of students/friends in the Nanpukai group who met once a month. Each month a tree was donated and worked on at the group . In 2000 Cheryl donated an old field grown San Jose Juniper that had been in a pot since 1992 for John to style and be worked on by a few other students. Below are some pictures that Cheryl gave me with some explanations along with Johns original drawing for the future of the bonsai.
Here is a picture of Johns original drawing for his styling.
Cheryl grew-on the tree for two years and after it was healthy and established well she decided to change the front from Johns original style. She also potted it into a fancyfooted wide-rimmed Chinese pot and shipped it to Milwaukee for her demonstration.
This is a drawing that Cheryl did for her demo showing how she intended to update the styling with quite a bit of carving and showing it planted on a slab in the future ( which I ruled out here in NE Ohio summers and overwintering).
The only picture I have of the tree after I had been growing it for a few years is this one I took with our new JRT puppy about 7 years ago.
This early June of 2011 the tree was overgrown, and had an unhealthy branch and a few dead twigs and seriously in need of a re-wire. The soil needed replaced and the root zone needed serious attention. The Chinese pot needed to be replaced as it was slowly disintegrating over the last few years. In fact, I have NEVER seen a pot in this bad of shape and still be able to pick it up without it falling apart!
I gave the tree to my student to rewire and do any styling he felt it needed but to keep it as close to the artists original design as possible and to clean up the carving and dead wood a bit as he saw fit. No time limit, except that it needed to be repotted in Fall this year before the pot and root damage became even worse. Plus, I needed time to look for a new pot. He was learning to carve and experimenting with his Dremel tools and I liked the outcome. He also did an Excellent job of rewiring the tree. He started to put a jin/carving coating mixture, which used a white paint on the carving, which I instructed him to stop doing before he finished. I did not want the large amount of dead wood to be too glaring with white paint.
If you look at the above pictures of the inside of the old pot you will see that the actual bottom of the pot that contained the roots is MUCH smaller in size than the overall size of the large-rimmed pot. I wanted a new pot that was the size and depth of the actual root containment area. I found two pots in my supplies that would work fine. One was an unglazed Chinese rectangle which I have thought about glazing and refiring in my kiln . The glaze would be a matt granite colored glaze. It is glazed and sitting ready to fire this winter. But, I needed to get the job done and found an EXCELLENT pot for the tree that had perfect size requirements but it was planted. So, I did some tree repottings until I could free up the perfect pot. It is a Sara Rayner oval in a dark brown with a runny rutile glaze on it. Pefect!
We’ll see, in the spring, how the Chinese pot looks after I refire it, if it survives the high fire re-fire!
I took a few pictures of the repotted tree sitting in the remainder of the original pot. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!
I spent SEVERAL hours brushing and washing the carved wood paint finish until all the old finish was removed. I actually like the color of the untreated wood very well but wanted to do some burning enhancements using a torch. I also did quite a bit of ‘picking’ and touchup carving of areas with some hand tools I use quite a bit.
Here are some pictures of the tools I use for this. Some are hand-made.
While I was working I noticed something I hadn’t ever noticed before. There was a large saw kerf on one of the dead wood spikes that I assume was from one of the two original stylings. The only thing I could think of why I never noticed it before was that it may have been originally filled with cut past and old jin fluid had disquised it. I had never completely stripped the dead wood to this point before and I think it finally washed out. The more I looked at it the more it stared me in the face!!
I did not want to fill it with just epoxy or Gorilla Glue or epoxy with sawdust mixed in, as I do sometimes, since they would all show under the finish once done. I decided to try something new. I mixed some DEER ANTLER DUST ( from a previous knife-making project) with the epoxy and fill the kerf so that it would match well once covered with a whiter jin fluid.
After doing some burning enhancement I used a mix of 50% water and 50% lime sulfur ( no paint or black ink included) as a dead wood colorant. I wanted it thin and light and easily washed away. Most of it is already gone after several rains and I think by next spring I’ll have a nice natural looking dead wood effect with a slight gray tint and some burning enhancement showing nicely.
I took a few evening pictures of the front and back with a quick displat set-up on my back deck/picnic table.
The tree is freshly potted and cleaned and jin colored in these shots. It’s been about 3 months since rewired.
I hope you enjoyed the story of the John Naka/Cheryl Manning tree update after 12 years from a start.
As my bonsai teacher Keith Scott used to often say, “Sometimes the magic just doesn’t work!”.
The saw kerf repair , as I feared, did not last. I had two choices of material for repair and I chose epoxy over the second choice. I was afraid however that the epoxy wouldn’t hold up in the wet and cold as it usually doesn’t in outside repairs. Also, it NEVER becomes really hard which is also problematic outside. It started to come out of the repair as it got colder and rained for several days straight. So, I moved to method #2 which was to use one of my favorite repair compounds ” GORILLA GLUE”. Over the years I have used it to repair cracked bonsai pots and many articles outside including cracked bonsai branches. It seems to be uneffected by cold and moisture, but, it’s one flaw is the foaming as it dries that makes it often a poor choice to use where it will show. I thought I’d give it a try here. After thoroughly cleaning up the old repair I mixed a bit of Gorilla Glue with some more bone dust and filled the saw kerf. As it thouroughly hardened, and foamed a bit, I easily trimmed it with a knife. I then sanded it and finally after two days put a THIN coat of Lime Sulfur and water over it . Next spring we’ll see how everything looks and touch up whats needed via different LS mixtures. I’m curious to see if the repair holds up well and if the color changes any on it. I’m still pretty sure it would be less noticeable ( with the jin fluid application) using the white tint than it would be with sawdust mixed in the glue which would give it a very dark tint. I should mention that in the macro photos it stands out much more than when viewing the tree from the front.