by Daan Giphart and Levon Arzooyan
Cover art by Irene Chang
No Publisher Listed
Reviewed by Will Heath*
The art of bonsai pottery has always seemed to exist in the background of the bonsai community. Pot selection was a mystery to beginners, who often potted in whatever was available and affordable, with little thought at all given to aesthetics. It seems the master potters of the art were selling the majority of their pots to the master bonsai artists. Meanwhile the cheaper, mass produced imports common with the mallsai sellers, and the low end retailers, were also purchased by the beginner, who had not yet learned the value of well made and well designed bonsai pottery matched to the plant.
Other than randomly running across quality bonsai pottery at shows, or exhibitions, the serious bonsai artist in the past would either have to travel to acquire, or mail order, pots from the best potters. Potters gained recognition only when a tree was displayed in their pottery. Lately some potters have created web sites where their wares can be seen and sold; yet, many remain virtually unknown and largely unappreciated in the community.
The problem is that many quality potters remain unintentionally hidden from bonsaists. Finding a nearby source for pottery is a hit miss affair involving web searches, local shows, and recommendations from other bonsaist, who, for the most part, can name only a few. The internet is a big help these days, but only the tech savvy potters can be found there, leaving a majority of excellent potters depending solely on shows, events, or word of mouth.
Pottery by Peter Krebs
Daan Giphart and Levon Arzooyan has made a valiant effort to close the gap between the seeker and the sought with their book, "Bonsai potters." The title was aptly chosen for this is not a book about bonsai pottery; instead, it is about the artists featured. Biographies, contact information, and a photograph of the potter introduce the pictures of the artist's work. While this gives the reader some basic information on the potter and how they were introduced to bonsai pottery, the book only features four to six photographs of each artist's pots, leaving just a small sampling to study.
Old favorites such as Dan Barton, Peter Krebs, Bryan Albright, Sara Rayner, Nick Lenz, John Pitt, and Horst Heinzlreiter, are mixed graciously with newer and sometimes more innovative artists that may well be unheard of by many bonsaists.
One of the strengths of the book is that traditional forms are displayed along side modern bonsai pottery. We not only see traditional shapes with multiple glazing techniques applied, but some new shapes and forms, some pleasing and some that look as though they were a high school pottery class project. Unfortunately, innovations in shape and form are rare, yet the book holds some wonderful surprises and may well serve to inspire as well as educate potters and non-potters alike.
Pottery by Petra Engelke
More of a catalog than a book, it still serves some very useful purposes such as providing a much needed contact source for bonsai potters and for capturing a snapshot of bonsai pottery as it exists today. A person seeking a pot for a tree would find this a useful reference for comparison of the shapes and colors being used today and aspiring potters may very well find the pottery inspiring and motivating
I would like to see future editions being more selective to make more room for quality. The value of this book would be greatly increased if only the best potters were featured, making it an honor to be included, while allowing for more photographs of the creations by those selected. I would also like to see more on the art of pottery, the creation process, and on matching pots to trees, perhaps by showing the work of the potter containing a perfectly matched bonsai, after all, isn't that the ultimate goal? As always, I would also like to see more innovations, not just in glazes, but also in shape, texture, and form.
A cross between the wonderful history of pottery presented in Glen C. Nelson's "Ceramics – A Potter's Handbook" and the detailed knowledge of pottery presented in Tony Birks' "The Complete Potter's Companion" coupled with information on matching bonsai to pots and the bios and contact information already existing in this book would make it a valuable reference for all bonsai enthusiasts.
This is a book that does fulfill a need and as such, every serious bonsai artist should have a copy in his or her library. If not for the usefulness and the inspiration, then to support the idea that could very well grow into an incredible series of books that are inspiring, informative, and educational.
for ordering information.
* About Will Heath