The Artisans Cup– An Exhibition of American Bonsai

Valavanis Bonsai Blog



The inaugural Artisans Cup Exhibition was held at the Portland Art Museum on September 25-27, 2015. The well attended and dramatic show of 72 exhibits featured nearly 100 individual trees, if all the shohin and three point bonsai are counted. The black unique metal and wood individual tables were professionally designed and installed by a fabricator. The exhibition gallery was darkened and was only lighted by two small lights adjusted by a professional photographer to highlight the focal point of each bonsai display.

The successful Artisan Cup exhibition was organized and tightly controlled by Chelsea Neil. Congratulations to Ryan and Chelsea Neil, sponsors of the Artisans Cup Exhibition.

Like my other blog entries, this is my informal personal report with my amateur photographs. These photos do NOT fairly represent the Artisans Cup Exhibition, which featured numerous large native juniper bonsai, but rather bonsai, which interested and impressed me during the…

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It’s In The Grain

I have a tree making it’s way over to the Bonsai Europa Exhibition in a few weeks time and a while back I had to start looking for a suitable table for it. This proved harder than expected with many of the usual stand makers being snowed under with work and most of the tables I seen for sale being wrong for the tree.

Then out of the blue, a local chap on Facebook started to chat about bonsai with me and after doing a bit of stalking on his profile I saw he was rather good with wood (oh er!). Did this mean that he was already making stands and tables? No. Did he have any experience in this? No. In fact most of his work was done with a chainsaw!!!

So we got chatting about stands, his names Jeff by the way, and Jeff said he’d give it ago.

Would you trust this man with a delicate job?!


I had my doubts that he’d be able to turn out a table for Europa. However, I also saw these that he had made, and the finish achieved impressed me and gave me hope.



This one was craved out with a chainsaw!! The book not the text 😉


I’d been looking around to try and find some nice wood for the table to be made from and after chatting with my parents this old table was acquired.



My Grandmother bought this table second hand in 1920 and I have many childhood memories of crawling under it. It had been placed against a radiator and over the years the drop leaf had warped and was no longer usable. I asked Jeff if he could use it and got the nod. Turns out it’s Oak, none of us were sure.

I gave the table to Jeff with a rough idea of what I was after knowing that he was going to be restricted in what he could achieve with the material given, I kept my fingers crossed. This is it coming together.

Dismantled, some nice grain there



The natural wood colour after some sanding


Some edge detail added



Leg work


Starting to come together, can you tell what it is yet?





Some decisions about colour



and then…





Final colour finish



Jeff’s skills in finishing car body work, did I mention he does that too, really paid off in getting a great finish to the table. There’s still a little waxing to be done and the transit box to be made for it but I’m absolutely delighted with it and the history of the wood makes it even better for me.

Jeff has now been bitten by the bonsai bug and I’m helping him on the road to having some nice wee trees and the bonus is, he actually enjoyed making this bad boy, and and has already started on other projects for me with a few club members queuing up with orders too. Watch this space for more about Jeff’s work.

Jeff, thanks for the hours you put into this project, I’m delighted with the result. You had to work with dodgy wood, no idea what this was all about, and the size was restricted by what we had and yet you still achieved a fantastic result. I can’t wait to see this next one if this is your first attempt!!

As usual the photos don’t really do the table justice, why not see it for yourself at Bonsai Europa in October….

The Bonsai Kid

Here’s a link to a fantastic article on about Ryan Neil and his journey towards this weekend’s Artisan Cup in Portland.

I’ve read a lot about Ryan in the past and some of that’s in here too but in a very open interview you can see just how much he’s put on the line for bonsai in America. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with him and can only wish him great success in his endeavours this weekend.

Click on the photo below to visit the article or ant of the links on this page.

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


On Wednesday I was released from the hospital after a five day visit having “Acute Heart Failure.” I’m feeling good now after being told my left heart bundle is only pumping 14% rather than 55%. Against recommendations I’m making the road trip to Portland for the Artisan’s Cup exhibition. But, I’m not driving the 3,000 miles this time. Good friends Marc Arpag from Rochester and Les Allen from Erie, PA, are doing all the driving. I’m sitting in the back seat “resting” and working on the magazine and articles for my magazine on my MacPro Laptop.

Both Marc and I have two bonsai each accepted for the Artisan’s Cup exhibition. We have been preparing and grooming the bonsai for several months. Many different companion plantings have been created, adjusted and finalized, hoping the best looks good when we set up on Thursday.

The exhibition bonsai are in the car, while…

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Root Over Rock Cotoneaster



Trident Root over Rock


Shohin Japanese Maple


Japanese Maple


Trident Maple



In Training – Final Push

A California Juniper bonsai (in training since 1985) at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, DC.

Stephen Voss is a photographer based in Washington, DC and has been photographing bonsai for the past year at the National Bonsai Museum & Penjing Museum in DC.

He wants to make a book of the photographs and I could really use your help. He is nearly there and just needs a final push to reach his target.

You can see more about the project here:

A Toringo Crab Apple bonsai (in training since 1905) at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, DC.

If you find the project interesting, he’d love to have your support.

He’d also very much appreciate if you would share this within your bonsai community if you think it would be of interest.

You can also see the project on Facebook:

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Crab Apple

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