True Bonsai Artisans

Artisan: ‘A worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.’

Ryan and Chelsea Neil put everything on the line to make the Artisans Cup a success and I think they are true Artisans in every sense of the word. Both are skilled in their own way and together have pulled off the impossible, a truly original and innovative bonsai exhibition.

But…. It doesn’t stop here, oh no, they have yet again put together something totally original to follow on from the success of the exhibition. They have created a website that includes a ‘Retrospective Exhibit Pass for all those who attended and want to look back at the event, or in my case, for those who didn’t make it over and want to see more about the bonsai.

ScreenHunter_190 Feb. 02 18.26

Ryan was kind enough to allow me access to this for review purposes and I have taken full advantage of it!

OK, at this point some will see the $$$ sign and think what can be worth me spending $65 on? I’ll be honest, I thought the same. I have now waded through roughly half of the content over the last 2 days. No easy task as there must be in excess of 15 hours worth of content available. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can now state that it’s worth the money in my view. Let me explain why….

On entering the paid content area you get to view all the images of the exhibition trees nicely laid out which additional links for the other content.

ScreenHunter_188 Feb. 02 18.24 ScreenHunter_189 Feb. 02 18.25

But this is the tip of the iceberg. By clicking on any tree it opens up a new page showing the tree in close up and offers 5 audio files to listen to from each of the judges! How did he manage to get them to do that!! Well done to all the judges for fitting this in on the day. I love watching tree critiques when visiting exhibitions and even watch dodgy camcorder ones on youtube for shows I can’t get to. This however takes it to a whole other level. A top quality image to study and not just one judge critique, but five! Even better, they don’t know what the other four judges have said, thus giving totally different points of view. Well, not totally different, but it was fascinating to listen to the differences of opinion regarding pot choice, accent selection or styling of any given tree.  Audio clips vary in length from 1 to 5 minutes usually giving a good 15 minutes of critique for each display. This concept if a fantastic tool for learning and I have no doubt that the exhibitors themselves will benefit greatly from this feedback.

Here’s a screen grab of what to expect.

ScreenHunter_139 Feb. 01 15.11 ScreenHunter_140 Feb. 01 15.12


I’m roughly half way through the judges critiques and can’t help myself! I always say, “just one more then I’ll go and do something”. 🙂 The beauty of buying the site pass is that it’s for life. At any stage you can come back and dip into this knowledge base. I think there’s a few things that could be added to improve this portion of the pass content if we are aiming higher. I’d like to hear the thoughts on each display from the exhibitors as well. Some had text accompanying the information about the tree but it would be great to hear exactly what they were trying to achieve and compare that with what the judges conclusions were. I’m an accent guy and I’d also love the accents named as part of the info content. I also feel having the tree dimensions here as well would help give us some idea of the massive scale of many of the exhibits. Just my 2 cents worth (see what I did there, I used cents instead of pennies ;-))

So what else is on offer? You can also view video of all three panels held over the weekend.

The Judges panel has some very interesting views on how bonsai should be judged and an explanation of just how they made The Artisans Cup unbiased with their score system. With a few characters on the panel this was always going to be good viewing.

ScreenHunter_194 Feb. 02 19.16


The Creatives Panel has pulled together all the brains behind the event and is truly an eye opener to see the lengths that have been taken to create this exhibition.

ScreenHunter_192 Feb. 02 18.57


But the stand out Panel for me was the Founders Panel with Ryan and Chelsea. I’m not even an American and I took so much inspiration from what these two said and their approach to bonsai. To the extent that I have taken time today to sit down and think seriously where I want to go with bonsai, for myself as a hobby, and also promoting and teaching it here in Ireland. Some may roll their eyes at that statement but honestly, have you even sat and thought about what exactly it is you want from bonsai? Much of the other topics touched on in the panel would benefit bonsai worldwide, not just in America. Having watched this video I’ll give Ryan one piece of advice from one married man to another, Chelsea is right, do what she says. You can fight it, but you know you’ll do it in the end anyway 🙂

ScreenHunter_193 Feb. 02 19.15

Also available as part of the pass are some fantastic photographs from Chris Hornbecker capturing the essence of the show. This one was the stand out ones for me. Counting Peter Warren as a friend, I hope it’s mutual 😀 I thought this one said a lot about the atmosphere of the event.


I hope you’ve found this review useful and perhaps put you in a better position to make a decision on the Retrospective Pass. You can also check out Jonas Dupuich’s Review over on Bonsai Tonight. He’s a lot more eloquent than I am. I normally keep text to a minimum on the blog and this post has given me a nose bleed 🙂 Only you can decide if the Retrospective Exhibit Pass is worth the money, I think it is, but that’s cheeky of me as I got a 7 day free pass to review it. However I’ll say this, when my 7 days are up I will feel a loss at not being able to go back into the pass area and peruse the audio critiques, I may have to stump up the funds and pay anyway, but perhaps not until I’ve bought the book.

Ryan, thanks for the opportunity and I can honestly say that I fully intend to be at the next Artisans Cup in New York in 2025. Keep me a seat.

I’m away now to listen to the rest of the critiques……

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s