While I was attending Bonsai in the Rockies ABS/BCI Convention in Denver, I found myself peering into the room where the Joshua Roth New Talent Competition was taking place. I wish when I was new to bonsai that I had the nerve to go against other bonsai enthusiasts like this. As I was examining the final trees created by the competitors, I knew which one was going to win. I didn’t know who had done the work, but I just knew, and several others on Facebook, that #2 was the winner hands down. I didn’t realize until after speaking with Micheal that he is currently studying under Ryan Neil and then I got my issue of Bonsai Focus and there was Micheal assisting Ryan in a photo shoot. This just goes to show that if you are passionate and go after your dreams, that you just might make them a reality. And I have a feeling that we will be seeing more and more of Micheal.
Below you will find some impromptu interview questions and answers.
Michael’s interest in bonsai stemmed from his training and studies of the martial arts and Asian culture. On a visit to Epcot to see the Japanese portion of the park he encountered beautiful bonsai on display throughout the area. He was immediately captivated and had to learn everything he could about this living art form.
He started by joining a local bonsai club. Membership with the Central Florida Bonsai Club afforded Michael opportunities to participate in workshops and the chance to meet and work with different artists. It was thru these venues that Michael met Erik Wigert. Michael began intensive studies with Erik, attending his monthly advanced class, and one on one study. At Erik’s Open House event in 2010 Michael had a chance to meet and work with Pedro Morales for the first time. He would later become a student of Pedro’s Tropical Bonsai School and travel to Puerto Rico to work with him.
January 2011 would be a defining moment for Michael. He made the decision to pursue bonsai professionally and exclusively. With the encouragement and advice of his family and friends, he started Feduccia’s Bonsai. Michael’s ever growing creation that offers both quality material and educational opportunities for beginners to advanced level students. He also leads workshops, lectures, and demonstrations for clubs across the United States.
In 2011 Michael began studies with Ryan Neil who recently returned from his six year apprenticeship in Japan under the acclaimed bonsai Master, Masahiko Kimura. Michael travels to Oregon to work with Ryan several times a year for one to two weeks at a time. Michael assisted Ryan on stage at the 2011 BSF state convention and had the distinct honor of assisting his Master at the 2012 Noelanders Trophy XIII in Belgium. He will also be assisting Ryan next May 2013 at the 26th National Bonsai Convention in Canberra, New South Wales, Australia. Michael continues working to improve himself and hone the techniques and skills that are necessary to reach his ultimate goal of becoming recognized as a world class professional.
Michael is willing to travel both nationally and internationally to promote bonsai and share his passion. His education has been well rounded and he is comfortable working on tropical, deciduous/ broadleaf, and conifers alike. His approach is to find the most appealing aspects of the material and then use the proper techniques to bring that vision to reality. Michael enjoys teaching and works well with beginners to advanced level students.
“Best Shohin” – Wigert’s Cup 2010
“Runner Up” – Bonsai Societies of Florida Scholarship Competition 2010
“Viewer’s Choice” – Selby Garden’s Asian Fest 2011
Featured Artist – Bonsai Societies of Florida state convention 2011
“Best Ogata” – Southeast Regional Bonsai Show 2011 Nashville, TN
“Viewer’s Choice” – Southeast Regional Bonsai show 2011 Nashville, TN
Headlining Artist – Bonsai Societies of Southwest Florida Convention 2011 Headlining Artist – Bonsai Societies of Florida State Convention 2012
“Finest Bonsai and Companion Plant Combination” – 3rd US National Exhibition 2012 First Place Winner – Joshua Roth New Talent Competition, ABS/BCI Convention 2012
ofBonsai: 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 with it?
Michael: My first real experience with bonsai was in 2008 on a visit to Disney’s EPCOT in Orlando, Florida. The park is separated into many sections, each modeled after a different country. Having trained in Martial Arts and studied Asian culture, I was most interested in seeing the Japan Pavilion. On display in front of a beautiful Tori Gate framing the lake were several bonsai trees. I was immediately captivated by them and had to learn more. That evening I did some online research that turned out to be the beginning of my never ending journey to learn all that I can about this art form.
ofBonsai: Why Ryan Neil? Certainly you could have apprenticed with another, some even closer to home, so what made you choose Ryan?
Michael: While answering, I must clarify, I am not an apprentice. I am however a very dedicated and loyal student. But being a student that studies for months out of the year and being an apprentice that lives at the garden full time are very different. I contacted Ryan because he has spent nearly half of his life pursuing excellence in bonsai. He also spent six of those years apprenticing in Japan with arguably the best artist in the world, under the most disciplined of conditions. In my opinion, his garden and his work are the best I have seen anywhere in the country. Working with Ryan has helped my artistic eye and technical ability to grow by leaps and bounds over the past year and a half, and I see no end in sight. I guess you could say it was meant to be.
ofBonsai: What was the first thing you learned to do at the nursery and how long was it before you were trusted to do actual design work on bonsai? What earned this trust?
Michael: Two very important things were taught immediately upon arriving at Bonsai Mirai. First, have respect for the tree in every aspect, for without the tree there is no bonsai. Second, no matter what task we undertake, we perform to our best ability, as cleanly, professionally, and perfectly as possible.
After proving myself on a sample branch, I was invited to assist with fine wiring on an actual tree during my first session. But it was nearly a year later before I was assigned a large Hollywood Juniper group planting to finish wiring and styling. It was a long twelve hour day and I must say his critique gave me more opportunities to learn than Atta boys. My second opportunity, nearly four months later yielded a much better result. To earn this trust requires unwavering dedication to improving, hundreds of hours of wiring, and working on nearly as many trees.
ofBonsai: Did you think that you had a chanse at winning the Joshua Roth New Talent Competition in Denver,2012? What was your immediate reaction? Has this changed you in any way?
Michael: I went into the competition with the confidence that I would do my very best. I only knew one of the competitors and had seen some of his work and it was quite good. I had no idea what to expect from the others. But I did realize that you have to earn the opportunity to participate. Everyone had obviously paid their dues to be there. This in itself lends credibility to their being capable of the win. With that in mind I focused on doing bonsai and applied what I have learned. I was happy with the work done on my tree but the others all had their strong suits. That being said, I was honestly uncertain until they announced me as the winner. I was immediately overcome with joy and couldn’t wait to let my family know. I wouldn’t say that the experience has changed me. But I would absolutely say that it has helped me grow.
ofBonsai: If you could only teach one thing to those interested in bonsai, what would it be?
Michael: You get out of it what you put into it.
ofBonsai: This is for the question you wish I would have asked.
Michael: I would have you ask what I ask myself. “Where will you be in the world of bonsai five or ten years from now?” My answer, or my hope I should say, is that I will be working as a professional artist contributing to the education and pursuit of excellence and quality in bonsai around the world.