Bonsai is the ancient art of utilizing horticulture techniques to create miniature replicas of trees as they are found in nature. It’s a Japanese art inspired by the Chinese art of Penjing (“pot landscape”). The art of bonsai is said to have strong symbolism in many different cultures and for many people it also represents harmony in life and the balance of nature.
Bonsai is treasured as an art used to communicate ideas and represent complex emotions. The aesthetic elements of a bonsai tree has significant symbolism. A bonsai gardener is considered an artist because bonsai's require both horticultural and artistic techniques. Refinement in both techniques over centuries reflect the aesthetic qualities in nature through balance, simplicity, and peace.
Creating a wire bonsai is a very time-consuming yet rewarding process. Putting 10 to 14 hours of time into any project requires planning, vision and discipline. My hopes are that the end-result is a beautiful piece of art that will bring joy to whoever sees it, respecting it's representation of nature.
Below are the steps I take in the creation of a wire-art tree. Planning is the key, and a lot of patience!
First stop is determining what kind of sculpture I'm going to make then draw up a rough draft on paper. Sometimes I use a photo as inspiration. I then will estimate how many branches will be going where which will tell me how many pieces of wire I will need for that section. It is here that I also determine what the approximate dimensions will be and try to estimate how long to make each piece of wire. It's all an estimate, especially the first time making that particular type of tree.
The next step will be determining what color or colors it will use. This will also make a difference in how long and how many pieces must be cut of the wire. If two different colors are used it requires more wire. Based on an average 8-10 inch tree I will use anywhere from 220 - 440+ feet of wire. If the blossoms are a different color than the trunk and branches it will take more wire and time due to attaching the blossoms to the tree.
Once I've determined the approximate size of what I am making and the color scheme, I will cut individual pieces of appropriate wire and place them in holes on a wood guide that I made to keep the wires from getting bunched up and make room for roots beneath.
This is the most important and time consuming step. I begin twisting the wire as one large group for the trunk then go from there. I must determine how large and high the trunk will be and where the branches are going to be, pulling those sections out as I proceed to the top. This is similar to how a bonsai artist must determine where their cuts will be to lead the tree to growth in that direction. Counting the number of wires in each section is crucial to leave enough room for each branch to reach a certain place..
If the tree is all one color then the wires are cut super long and the foliage will be twisted up as a continuation of each wire. However, if the foliage/flowers will be a different color than the branches then they are twisted up separately and attached to the ends of the individual branches by twisting the pieces together. This leaves more room for flexibility since different colored foliage can be added as accent, or other twisting of the wire such as curls and dips.
Each branch is worked until all foliage is attached and twisted at the ends. Once all of the foliage is attached then I will shape the branches.
Once the top of the tree has been completed I remove it from the working base and start trimming and twisting the wires into what type of root system I prefer.
Pieces of natural wood can be used for the bases. I currently use purple orchid and oak tree pieces, both of which are from trees growing in my back yard. The pieces of wood are dried thoroughly then have three coats of polyurethane rubbed into them for protection and sealing. Other items I use are wooden pedestals that I stain and seal and other times a shallow bowl or vase.
One of the final processes is attaching the tree to the base. For most of my trees I attach them first to a real stone or one made of clay or polymer clay that has been custom colored for that particular tree.
I then attach the tree to the wood or "rock" at the base of the trunk to keep it where I want it and then start positioning the wires, twisting and turning them, to fit the particular piece of wood. I choose the base for the tree based on the tree's "personality".
Once the tree is completed it's important to take some photos. This is where imperfections or odd pieces of the tree may not be laying properly so I can adjust it. Lighting is also very important since his is how the piece of art will be displayed. (See "Lighting is Everything)
This is the tough part since the sculpture can be very delicate. And shipping is very expensive so I want to make sure the tree arrives in perfect shape. Most of the time I have to create a custom box of foam board that the tree will be attached to inside the box. That box in turn will be placed in a shipping box to make the final destination. (See "Unpacking Your Tree" for an example of how they are packed and unpacked).
There is no "best" place for this art to be placed in your home or office. It's wherever you want it to be. If the tree can be positioned to have an accent light pointed at it the shadows work wonderfully and make it it look even more realistic.