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 Post subject: Profile: Christine Hayward
PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 5:23 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
Profile: Christine Hayward
Christine Hayward
Photograph by Walter Pall

Christine, child of a Naval Officer, grew up moving around the United States and many parts of the world. After her parents visited Japan in the fifties, bringing home kimonos, block prints, ceramics and other items, she has had a strong attraction to the Japanese and other Asian cultures since she was quite young. She also expressed a strong artistic inclination as a child, which was encouraged. This interest has continued throughout her life, education, and developed into a decorative arts business which she has maintained for more than 20 years, painting in mostly high end residential situations, in a wide range of styles and painting techniques. Her specialty is the art of illusion called trompe l'oeil. Her fascination with bonsai came about from seeing Yuji Yoshimura's original book that her mother had been given in the late 50's, but she did not begin growing trees until the mid 70's, continuing on since then. Christine's bonsai collection is mostly small to medium sized trees of a variety of species and cultivars. She is an experienced collector of wild trees, enjoys accessory plants and also propagates. Her trees have been exhibited at both the Boston and Philadelphia Horticultural Shows, and other bonsai seminars and exhibitions around the North East where she resides.

The following is an on-line interview conducted with Christine Hayward:

AoB: Christine, having been trained by many teachers in the traditional Japanese bonsai aesthetic, how do you view the direction that bonsai is taking in non-Asian countries?

Christine: With great interest! I am paying close attention to what is being currently presented in Europe, at the exhibitions. They are creating many newly designed bonsai from wild-collected, alpine trees. This is very interesting to me. Many of them have a very dynamic appearance, as if barely tamed, almost demanding to be released from their containers to run back to the mountains!

I have seen early Japanese books in which the trees photographed had a similar feeling. However over decades, under constant garden/container cultivation, regular watering and feeding and meticulous grooming; this wild appearance slowly dissipates and is replaced with high refinement and elegance. I can appreciate both of these aspects of bonsai, but currently am enjoying the creative adventure and demands of newly collected trees. They are more of a challenge, artistically.

Now many interesting species are being presented on internet forums from all over the world, such as Africa, South America, Australia, that had previously not been used for bonsai... or at least not shown here in America. This is expanding the creative and stylistic motivations of many bonsai people in the US as they adapt the art of bonsai to new shapes and forms better related to their own native species.

But I must add that I am delighted to see what is coming out of Indonesia, Taiwan, China and other regional areas of Asia. There are many tropical and subtropical species I have never seen, and the styling is at times quite different to the traditional Japanese styles to which we are accustomed. At times, the words lyrical and poetic come to my mind with some of these beautiful bonsai. And I do envy their long, moist growing season!

Door, handpainted on gold leaf, with a painted illusion of a 'brocade' edge, created by Christine Hayward Schmalenberg
Photograph by Christine Hayward

AoB: Christine, I imagine your other great love, painting, has had a significant influence on your preparation and styling of bonsai. In fact, it is where you have long made your living. Do you see parallels between the two art forms? How, if at all, has it influenced you?

Christine: Well, I suppose without actually thinking too much about it, my art background has had an influence in my bonsai design, primarily in proportion, balance and also with color, which I have a great attraction to. Although I do study bonsai design, some of my art skills would be included naturally in my styling choices, probably without much conscious thought, since it is so much a part of my occupational work. However, unlike a painting project, with plants I can enjoy the horticultural aspect of having a living, growing, ever changing being in front of me; that requires my constant interaction and attention to create a healthy, beautiful bonsai. I derive great joy from that aspect of this art.

AoB: Many will be surprised to learn that you are very experienced in collecting and growing very old American trees. Can you tell us more about this?

Christine: This is hard, time consuming work and not for the faint of heart. Most areas to collect are hard to find, remote and difficult to get to... never mind getting a tree out of the ground, roots wrapped up, strapped onto your back, through the woods and then hopefully you can remember your way back to your car! Then, you can't let them just sit when you get home! You need to have boxes or other containers prepared with soil and wire, to get them settled in properly and quickly as possible, drenched with water, and left in a protected area for several days, or more, to recover, before being placed in a semi sunny area to adjust to garden cultivation.

Depending on the tree, within one to three years the old natural soil is completely washed off the roots during the spring repotting season and replaced entirely with well draining bonsai soil. This is imperative to the future health and new growth of the collected tree: any old dense black soil will eventually cause rotting and death of the fine feeder roots, and the decline of the tree. All of this soil must be removed.

It's a lot of work to collect wild trees, not always successful, but when it is it is so rewarding to have a tree with age and natural character. Plus, these trees provide a lot of mental exercise in styling! Collected trees rarely follow any recognizable format of standard bonsai design, so one must often be highly creative in assessing how to present these wild creatures as bonsai. It is a very good exercise in evaluating aspects that cannot be altered on the tree, and decide what is the best feature, how to pose this to the best advantage, and how to minimize the flaws.

AoB: When selecting stock for Shohin what do you look for that is different from selecting stock for larger bonsai?

Christine: Although most of my trees are on the small side, many do not fall under the measurements that seem to be required for Shohin classification. However, for any smaller bonsai I take into consideration a species' ability to bud back with ease, have smallish leaves or foliage that reduces well, and can live in a small container. Specialty cultivars of common plants often fall into this category, such as (Acer palmatum) 'Koto hime'; the Japanese quince variety called 'Cho chubai', and various Chamaecyparis varieties. I recently purchased a cultivar of a local, native deciduous holly, (Ilex verticillata), It has tiny berries and smallish leaves. I chopped it down and am watching to see what it will do.

I am also playing with a dwarf Red Barberry that sprouted by itself in the growing container of another plant. I yanked it out, intending to plant it into the garden, only to see that it had a rather nice trunk developing, so I kept it instead. It has done quite well with severe root pruning and the cramped conditions of a tiny pot. It is a bit tricky to style since it has rather brittle branches with nasty, sharp thorns, but I do love the reddish color and small leaves.

Seedlings and rooted cuttings are fine for small group or rock plantings. However, in general I feel that a larger plant cut down to a smaller size is better for an individual Shohin bonsai since you will have a larger trunk to begin with, which will give a feeling of more substance and the illusion of larger size.

I find the smaller the bonsai the more problematic it is to keep it alive and happy. I have lost several tiny ones from the wind blowing them off my benches, and I didn't find them in time. Also occasionally they get misplaced behind a larger bonsai in winter storage and don't get watered!

(Chamaecyparis thyoides 'Valavanis')
Photograph by Christine Hayward

AoB: When styling Shohin bonsai what would say was the most important consideration?

Christine: On a Shohin bonsai it is rather difficult to camouflage flaws since there are usually few branches and little foliage, so proportion and details become very important. But you can get away with more liberal shapes and fun colors for pots than would be generally acceptable for larger bonsai.

AoB: Christine, you seem to be especially strong with groups, forests, and rock plantings, what is it that appeals to you so much about these?

Christine: I enjoy the imagery of the landscape effect that is so apparent in a forest or rock planting. More than a solitary bonsai, to me a forest establishes the feeling of a real environment that one can imagine stepping into. It creates a small world.

My parents enjoyed camping in the wild as I was growing up, and we spent a lot of time in the National Parks all over the US, and also many other beautiful countries around the world. As a result I have a great love of wild landscapes and beautiful, natural vistas with rocks, mountains and rivers.
I also like placing many trees into a pleasing group arrangement.

AoB: It seems that you have "sprung out of nowhere", in relation to the international bonsai scene. Why is it that many are only now hearing about you? Is there a reason you have been hiding so far?

Christine: I wouldn't say that I have been hiding, I just don't generally seek the 'limelight'. I have never pursued a career in this scene, I simply love to create bonsai and 'play' with plants of all sorts, and have done this for myself for 30 years. I have regularly attended seminars and conventions here on the East Coast, visited Japan twice, and Europe several times, seeing many well known bonsai gardens and interacted with many other artists in this field. I have exhibited my bonsai at Bill Valavanis's seminars, both the Philadelphia and Boston Flower Shows and other events. I have also entertained many well known bonsai people at my home in New Jersey. I have recently come to realize that many of my oldest friends are in the bonsai community! Although perhaps not well known in the larger bonsai venues, I am a familiar face in my Eastern US region.

In the last 5 years I became acquainted with computer usage which expanded my avenues for connecting to others within the world-wide bonsai community via the web. This is most likely why more individuals are becoming familiar with me, more recently. With some helpful assistance, I also gained experience in using computer photo imaging programs which became a delightful avenue for me to express my artistic inclinations in bonsai design and also exercise, within a public forum, my ideas about styling trees. I have posted numerous bonsai 'virtuals' on the web for design discussion. Although it can be somewhat time consuming to create these, I feel it is very useful for examining different possibilities of styling options without actually taking a concave pruner to the tree... and brings about lively discourse with other individuals around the world. The saying goes: "A picture is worth a thousand words", and as a highly visual person, an image conveys ideas much faster than a paragraph of explanation in any web posting!

AoB: Have you made a conscious decision to raise your profile as a bonsai artist, rather than as a painter?

Christine: I have made more of an effort recently to define myself more clearly as an individual within the bonsai community, and to be more interactive with others, but not over my profession of being an artist. This is how I make my living. I have not pursued published recognition in this field either, instead enjoying the appreciation of my many clients, and gaining further work through 'word of mouth'.

AoB: Christine, you have extensive experience in many native American species, would you say that our own native species are largely underestimated and overlooked compared to non-native species?

Christine: Certainly: It stands to reason that the species that have been most used and documented... mostly Japanese... would be the first to be attempted by any bonsai grower simply because it is considered, in general, to be the 'norm', and the standard by which to learn the basics of the art, and thus are the most commonly acquired. As one's collection fills out and perhaps knowledge and interest increases, then an individual may expand beyond the usual to experiment with more odd, and less commonly used, species.
With any sense of adventure, acquiring or actually collecting native species might become more appealing... and create further challenge for the artist. However, there is less written documentation as to how to develop bonsai from our North American natives. Collecting methods, growth habits, soil preferences, climatic conditions, pruning and pinching technique information is just harder to find.

Nick Lenz's book, "Bonsai From the Wild" is one excellent, but rare, example of such information about native American species. His writing about years of the direct experience he's had, collecting and creating bonsai from our native species, is invaluable and a must for a well stocked library on bonsai. Although this book is currently out of print, I understand that it may soon be re-issued by Stone Lantern Publishing. I certainly hope it is, and that other bonsai writers will follow with other direct growing experiences, perhaps with information about Western American trees. For now, relying on personal experience is the most likely path.

Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) in a pot by Nick Lenz
Photograph by Walter Pall

AoB: Do you feel that America has any native pines that compare with the long-loved Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii) and Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora)?

Christine: Yes. My experience is primarily with (Pinus rigida), the Eastern Pitch Pine, since this is very common where I live. Although considered a junk tree by the lumber industry since it is brittle, grows in a very irregular shape and is very resinous, it has qualities that make it an interesting subject for bonsai.

Pitch pine is what is known as a 'frontier' tree species, one that will take hold on barren rocky or sandy landscapes that only Scrub Oak, and other salt and/or draught tolerant species will grow. They grow in a very long region, both inland and on the shoreline, along the Eastern part of the US, extending from Canada down to Virginia. There is a subspecies in the south called (Pinus virginiana) which is very similar in growth and appearance.

New Jersey, where I currently live, has a large area in the southern part of the state that is called the 'Pine Barrens'. This is all stunted Pitch Pine. Also, in New England, out on Cape Cod where I used to live, the trees are also mainly Pitch Pine and Scrub Oak (Quercus spp.) {ed. There are no fewer than 7 distinct species known as "Scrub Oak"}. Inland they are generally in a mixed forest that includes North American White Pine (Pinus strobus) and various other species, but the White Pine disappears as the environment gets harsher further out on the sandy, salty cape, and Pitch Pine dominates.
They also gradually dwarf in size as one travels further out on the cape where it is very windy and the soil is very poor. As delightful as they appear, I have found these fruitless to collect as in the sandy dune soil the roots are impossibly lengthy! One must go up onto the ridges of mountains where they grow in pockets of exposed rock faces. This is not so easy to access, but there they can usually be collected with no more than a sharp pruner to cut the tap root out of the rock. Feeder roots are generally in a nice neat pad of the tree's own needle debris.

Pitch Pines have marvellous flaky bark, delicate needles in sets of three that may tend towards a slightly yellowish hue, and a very interesting characteristic of back budding on old wood. This particular characteristic allows them to regenerate from as little as a remaining stump after natural fires... and also provides ample opportunity for new branches just about wherever the bonsai artist may want! Older specimens require patience, to develop foliage, as they don't tend to grow with a density that is natural to the Japanese Black Pine.
I also have a North American White Pine, (Pinus strobus). This is a species not normally used for bonsai, since the needles are rather long and floppy and it doesn't ramify particularly well. It is also much rarer to find a collectable tree of a reasonably small size with interesting, old bark. However it is still an interesting and unusual tree to add to a collection.

AoB: There has been a recent trend towards the pairing of bonsai with painted artworks, in shows, particularly in the West. Do you have a particular view on this practice?

Christine: It is somewhat interesting, but often I feel that the artwork competes with the bonsai for center stage and thus undermines the display. Backgrounds should have simplicity to set off the tree to its best advantage.

What I have seen mainly from internet pictures in Europe, exhibitions sometimes can look great but I doubt the practicality. Huge abstract paintings are not easy to place, and good lighting becomes a crucial component. Maybe smaller, plainer backdrops could be interesting. Thinking about it now, I, as a painter could well be doing some for myself and maybe for others. Thank you for bringing that idea up.

AoB: It has long seemed that women have been discriminated against, in what many perceive to be a male dominated art form? Have you found this to be the case? (You can be honest with us!) Have you any advice for aspiring female bonsai artists, from your many years experience?

Christine: Yes and no. It is obvious that the general bonsai crowd is rather evenly spread between genders but the people in the limelight do seem to be mostly male. Am I bothered by this? Not really.
Do the males hinder the females? Well, probably not more than in other parts of our society. If a woman has the ability and wants to achieve she can always find a way. It seems that bonsai is a competitive game at this time. Not in the open so much, but underneath there is serious competition. Males seem to enjoy this more and seem to be more aggressive.

There is certainly more room for female bonsai artists. They should not necessarily try to "beat" the men in the established fields. There are aspects in bonsai which need subtlety, fine feeling for delicate forms and such. In this area women could possibly have an advantage.

Men seem to have a different taste. A preference for larger, even huge trees, lots of deadwood and drama... often, not as refined as could be... and often to establish a big impact upon first viewing. Women could be creatively more subtle and more aware of fine details.

There are a lot of women present and active, politically, in the bonsai scene, but this is has not been my area of interest. In the early days of bonsai in the USA there were actually quite a few women who heightened and spread awareness of this art form. Lynn Perry, Connie Dederian and Dorie Froning come to my mind right away. Later Deborah Koreshoff from Australia and Professor Amy Liang of California established recognition with their wonderful books. And today we have the only American recognized by the Nippon Bonsai Association, who is a woman: Kathy Shaner. Not bad!

Christine's signature on door shown above
Photograph by Christine Hayward

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