A Lesson In Display

One morning while we were cleaning the nursery and preparing for the day, Oyakata asked me to help set a display in the Tea Room. I was very excited because he is very good at displays and this is one are of bonsai that I am eager to learn more about. To begin, a suiseki in a suiban atop a stand and a scroll were in the display.

What is wrong with this? How can you improve it?

The scroll is of a full moon on a cloudy night.

Oyakata asked me, “what is wrong with the display?” I stepped back and thought about it for a minute. I am accustom to seeing three-point displays so I replied that there needed to be another element on the left side. This was not the correct answer. He told me that the suiban was too small and a larger one would be better. So I was off to find a larger one.

A larger doban for the stone

 After a few minutes of searching, I found this doban. A doban is different from a suiban in that dobans are made from copper or bronze while suibans are made from ceramic.

After placing new doban into display...now okay?

I filled the doban with sand and placed the rock in it and returned it to the display. Again Oyakata asked me what was wrong with the display. I stepped back and took a look. Again my eye was drawn to the empty space to the left and again I said that there needed to be a third element. And again I was wrong. He told me that now with the larger doban, the stand was too small. So I was off to find a better fitting stand.

A better suited stand for the display.

After searching through the plethora of stands we have here at the nursery, I found this one. I felt that a simple stand would be best and allow the viewer’s eye to move freely around the display. I also felt that a low one would be more solid and provide a better balance with the stone.

How about now...better?

I placed the doban and stone on the new stand and stood back to have a look. I immediately began to search for the next thing I could fix in order to make the display better. But Oykata said it looked nice and told me to get back to my cleaning. With the larger doban one can imagine the open ocean off a rocky coast or a spralling plain around a mountain range. But I could not figure out why there was not a third element, so I asked. He told me that in this instance he felt like leaving it up to the viewer to imagine that element. An interesting idea, allowing the viewer to take part in the display rather than simply showing what you want them to see. He said that a figurine of a boat would be an appropriate piece to add.

In a display, it is key to relay to the viewer a feeling and in this instance it is of a cool Fall evening. Oyakata encouraged me to often try setting up displays on my own as practice and he would critique them. With more practice maybe I can begin to understand how to relay these “feelings” to viewer.

Every so often Oyakata or the apprentices set up new displays in the Tea Room and I will post them as we do. Here are a few other displays that have been set up since I have begun my apprenticeship.

A juniper, kanji scroll and accent plant. (not sure what the kanji says)

A trident maple, Mt. Fuji scroll, and suiseki.

Close-up of suiseki. Maybe a man pondering the wonders of life?

As always thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the post!

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10 Responses to A Lesson In Display

  1. Peter Tea says:

    Very nice Tyler. Great practice in display. It was a good lesson for me too. Thanks for sharing!

    • tylersherrod says:

      No problem Peter. This is an area of bonsai that will become very important when it comes time to exhibit our trees. Its difficult because its not like learning to put wire on a tree, there is more of those “feelings” that come into play. I think it will take a lot of trial and error to figure this out. I plan on posting more of the displays as we set them up so keep tuned for more lessons.

  2. Bonsai Boon says:

    very good Tyler,
    feeling is the most difficult thing to capture.

  3. Kenny says:

    A good lesson Tyler…feeling is everything!

  4. I feel you, Dawg. Great post!

  5. Owen Reich says:

    Cool idea to show the progression of how to “fix” a display to improve it. When I arrived here to study, one of the first things I told Fujikawa-san was my knowledge of display was super weak. Still working on learning the significance of different scolls. Kanji itsumo wakarimasen. Muzukashi nah! One thing that has helped me immensely with display is learning about classic Japanese literature and art. My sempai, Naoki Maoeka, is very well versed in art in general and is always helpful.

    Owen Reich

  6. Morten Albek says:

    This is a very good way you show the difficulties and appreciation of the displays. Thanks.
    Morten Albek

  7. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  8. John Kirby says:

    Really well done Tyler, this is a very well thought out and delivered piece. Plenty to think about as we get ready for the winter show. Thanks, John

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