Due to popular demand we have started this series to help Bonsai artists and our loyal customers in their choice of a bonsai container. There are many factors that need to be taken into account when selecting a bonsai pot and we will be diving into the way we select a container for our trees and customers trees.
Masculine or Feminine
The main consideration in choosing a pot is to work out if the tree is masculine or feminine. This is determined by multiple characteristics of each tree, for example the nebari, trunk line, bark texture, leaf density and much more.
A tree that has characteristics of strength, power, formality, harshness, roughness and struggle can be considered masculine
A tree that has characteristics of calm, delicacy, instability, informality and finesse can be considered feminine.
Please note that these are merely guidelines and form a basis on how to break down the elements of tree and pot to help in choosing a correct Bonsai container. Every artist and bonsai enthusiast will have their own opinions and artistic flair which will create a different composition of their own.
Current pot size: 250mm wide x 80mm high
Tree Size: 600mm long
Lets start by listing some of the characteristics of this tree and how they fit into the masculine or feminine approach.
Nebari - Feminine, slender and delicate base
Trunk line - Feminine, long slender trunk line with a gentle taper.
Bark texture - Feminine, smooth trunk with very little flaky bark left on this tree for display.
Bark colour - Masculine, Nice deep red tones to lighter red in places which highlight and contrast the foliage.
Primary branches - Feminine, Fine branch design that will improve with time. More should be done in the future to showcase the structure more with foliage on top.
Ramification - Feminine, Delicate fine branch structure that will improve.
Leaf size/density - Masculine, The dense compact foliage gives more visual weight to the tree but the fineness of the foliage hints at a feminine feel.
Leaf colour New/Old - Feminine, The light green highlighted with darker green with age has a lightening effect on the composition.
Other features - Deadwood, Masculine, The future deadwood of the tree(in the picture it is edited to show deadwood for the future image) gives great contrast to the more feminine approach of this tree.
Masculine 3 - Feminine 6
On the scale below the tree is at no 4 on the feminine side.
Option A: Moon Pot XL 26cm x 23cm - Willow Bonsai Pots
Glazed effect: Manganese
A. Pot characteristics:
1. Top View - Feminine, Roundish shape
2. Side Profile - Feminine, Roundish shape with natural cutout sections
3. Rim effect - N/A
4. Feet of pot - Masculine, Rocky, hard features. Natural
5. Feet design - Masculine, Indented round design with natural and rough textured feet
6. Details and special features - Masculine, Textured effect all over with sharp natural profile cutout for the opening.
7. Glazed/Unglazed - Masculine, Unglazed Manganese with dark colouration
Masculine 4 - Feminine 2
1. Contrast and Harmony - If you have noticed that this pot is more masculine than our tree then you are right. However being handmade pot we can edit a few details to create the right pot. First of all lets take the textured effect of the pot and rather opt for more of a smooth finish with just slight texturing for contrast. Secondly we can remove the feet of the pot and have the moon sit on a flattened base simplifying and reducing visual weight. Thirdly we can make the edge of the pot more flowing and less jagged to emulate the trees flow a little. In this way we can create feminine pot that fits the tree.
2. Composition/ Telling a story - Using a moon pot helps create drama for the viewer, a very unique yet controlled starting point for the viewer. From here it may be able to meander through the trunk and into the foliage before being able to visualize the entire composition.
When planting the tree I would adjust the angle to about 5degrees lower than currently. In this way it will age the tree more and showcase the trunk better.
We can then visualize a tree that has overcome harsh conditions, growing from a crevice or rock face out towards the light. The tree has been there for a long time and has shifted position in great weather events(hence the angle change). The deadwood will showcase the struggle and once the foliage is refined will show even more age and give this composition a much greater depth.
Option B: Round FF 22cm x 8cm high - Willow Bonsai Pots
Glazed effect: Unglazed Manganese or Peacock as below
B. Pot characteristics:
1. Top View - Feminine, Round pot shape.
2. Side Profile - Feminine, Tapering from top to bottom at a nice angle to reduce visual weight.
3. Rim effect - Masculine, Rim is well accentuated and gives a nice stance to the pot.
4. Feet of pot - Feminine, Dainty carved feet indented from side profile.
5. Feet design - Feminine, Very similar to cloud feet with some detailing and lightness.
6. Details and special features - Masculine, The lines or bands around the pot help to divide the pot depth up reducing the visual weight. They also help give more interest and curvature to the pot.
7. Glazed/Unglazed - Masculine for the unglazed option and feminine for the glazed option.
Masculine 2 - Feminine 5
1. Contrast and Harmony - Lets first discuss the unglazed pot. In this case the pot will contrast the very green foliage and highlight the lushness of it. When the pot is used a slight mound of soil can be used with moss to help create a clump of soil that the tree is growing from. In the glazed version the blue peacock glaze highlights the blue spectrum of colour in the foliage while contrasting and bring out the reddish tones in the bark. The blue will also showcase the white deadwood well by its contrast.
2. Composition/ Telling a story - Using this pot will help to portray the feminine side of the tree more than the moon pot. It emphasizes the dramatic poise of the tree and the precariousness it is dealing with. With the unglazed pot we can portray a more subdued stark scene devoid of colour as the foliage is our only spark of life in this composition. Whereas the Peacock glaze brings life into the composition in 2 ways, 1 being that is can be likened to a clear blue sky that the tree is growing into. The other being the emphasis on the foliage and the blue colour spectrum. In this way our composition is more vibrant, interesting and lush.
This tree is a very unique abstract piece and therefore can be put into various boxes by pot choice, tweaking features and emphasizing certain key elements. I am in 2 minds on this one but making a clear decision will depend on the femininity of the moon pot. If the design of the moon pot gains more femininity it will be the obvious choice. However if the look is still to textured and rough then Option B with the Peacock glaze will be the better alternative. Just my opinion. The owner may have a certain feature he wants to showcase more which will change the decidion.
As always this is an opinion and is just a guideline to what can work and the reason thereof. In art we need to take a set of choices and make them tangible and easy to understand. Breaking up the characteristics of the tree and pot makes this easier to explain the options and choices made in a constructive manner. Not just saying it looks nice or not, but using the above to tell a story and convey the image in the artists mind to the viewer.
Want to participate?
We plan on doing a case study on a tree like the above each week for our customers and collection trees. If you would like to participate and have us choose a pot for your tree with explanations please send us an email with the following details:
Photo of tree taken from the front and at eyelevel
Size of the tree
Size of current pot
Future growth and compositional remarks for the future.
What story do you have in mind for the tree or what feature do you want to enhance.
Send the above to firstname.lastname@example.org