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