Willow Bonsai had the great opportunity to collaborate with one of the prime shopping centres in Pretoria. Brooklyn Mall hosted our first Bonsai Expo on 23 and 24 June. Willow Bonsai and Bonsai Addicts teamed up to get just shy of 100 trees on show. We wanted to create a show where the public and future bonsai enthusiasts could learn from the trees on show and understand the techniques that we often take for granted.
Every Bonsai Addicts’ club member wrote a short description of what the plan is for each tree and why certain items were being used the way that they were (like wire, growing containers, or pull-down wires). This gave an insight to what the grower was wanting to accomplish in the future. It was a bit of a gamble as people are usually accustomed to bonsai displays having nothing but very old and refined trees. In very stark contrast to this norm, about 70% of the trees on show were still in some sort of training phase and most were shown by members with less than five years’ experience.
The Bonsai Addicts club is only three years old, so to expect every member to have exceptional trees is impossible. However, we still wanted to give every member an opportunity to show their trees and learn from the experience. Exposure is so important in building people’s passion and enthusiasm for the artform.
We were absolutely humbled by the reaction of the public and fellow bonsai enthusiasts. They loved it! We observed from our sales table how everyone was reading the information cards and looking more closely at each individual tree to understand the concept for their future. One experience that has stuck with me occurred on Saturday around lunchtime. A lady came up to me and asked if I was Antony. Another member had told her that “Antony” was the owner of Willow Bonsai, and she felt she had to speak to me. She explained that she was trying to get to work but could not walk past the show without being drawn in. She spent the next two hours there, looking at all the trees.
We made sure we had a sales table with the necessities, such as soil, fertilisers, pots, tools, and some trees from the nursery. This helped bring the idea home that anyone can learn to enjoy this artform. We hope we properly showed that the public had everything they needed to bring their bonsai ideas to life, particularly after seeing what can be done, beautifully demonstrated by the show. We would like to thank all of those involved in making the weekend such a success.
Our next Brooklyn Bonsai Expo will be in 2019, and we have so many ideas to make it even better. We are looking at collaborating with other artforms to make our next show bigger and better. We hope to see you there!