Midwest show discussion question

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Re: Midwest show discussion question

Post  Matt Berenberg on Fri Aug 24, 2012 4:07 pm

I usually do not comment on these things but the heated discussion has prompted me to jump in and say my peace. I think one of the important values of displaying trees is that you get to see them in a different setting. With a background and grass,etc. You get to show the composition off in a sense, at its most beautiful. Often times you see something different in your trees when they are taken off their benches. It is a difficult thing to continually evaluate your trees as they continue to develop,but worthy of exploration.
Whether you are a professional or amateur, bought the tree from Japan, grew it from seed or collected it in the mountains makes little difference.The value is on the journey and satisfaction you get from knowing the effort you have put into your own work. Ribbons and accolades are only an acknowledgement of your trees presence and your efforts in the their care. If you are showing to get recognition perhaps you are missing the point. If you are concerned with everyone else's trees other than to admire them and learn from them perhaps you are missing the point. The Bonsai community needs more camaraderie and brotherhood. Just my 2 cents.

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midwest show discussion question

Post  kora on Sun Aug 26, 2012 7:43 pm

I am decidedly of 2 minds about judged shows: on one hand I agree with all those, who argue, that competition improves the art and craft of bonsai. On the other hand, how can one award a prize for the best bonsai, when despite judging guidelines, there is the question of aesthetics.
I have seen paintings, and photographs of the same subject, created by different artists, exhibited side by side. Often one appealed more to me, and others had just the opposite reaction. To me, the award in a judged show merely signifies, that the judges at that particular show decided that any given tree merited the prize. If we want to take competition one step further, then a tree should be allowed to compete more than once, as bonsai change from year to year-both for better and sometimes alas for worse, and presumably other trees enter the competition. In sports events,the olympics come to mind, we don't say, you competed 4 years ago and are therefor not eligible to run again. Tell that to Usain Bolt and countless of other olympians. Yes, sometimes, the one who has the most marbles wins, but not always, again the olympics as analogy.
Finally, I think its ok to disagree with the judges, better luck next time with presumably different judges at different venues. kora

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Re: Midwest show discussion question

Post  coh on Sun Aug 26, 2012 8:26 pm

kora wrote:To me, the award in a judged show merely signifies, that the judges at that particular show decided that any given tree merited the prize.
As an artist (painter), I would agree that there is a large amount of subjectivity in the process. I have watched judges in the process of selecting paintings for awards. At one show, the judge had selected about 16 paintings for awards. The process took her over an hour. She had the selected paintings lined up on the floor, apart from the remaining paintings. Then, just about when she was ready to stop, she went over and grabbed another painting off the wall and placed it with the group of higher awards. It's not like this painting was already going to get an award, and she bumped it up to the next level - it went directly from the unawarded pile to the high award group. I asked her about it later and she said that all of a sudden she just saw "something" in the painting that she hadn't seen in the previous couple of hours.

I've often wondered how different the group of awards might look even from the same judge on a different day - depending on mood, lighting, etc. As for different judges - I've had paintings get rejected from even being in a show by one judge, and then the same painting receives best of show in another (comparable quality) show.

It's a very interesting process, that's for sure!

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Re: Midwest show discussion question

Post  centaura on Sun Aug 26, 2012 10:38 pm

The Mid-America brings in a different judge every year, swapping whether they are from inside the country to outside the country. The goal of this is to get different opinions and different viewpoints. I've found this discussion interesting, it was just brought to my attention today. To add an organizer's point of view, we are pulled aside with "concerns about fairness" throughout the entire show, and I, for the life of me, cannot figure out where we can all find common ground & agreement. Common concerns heard every year are:

-A one to five year novice against a 10 to 15 year novice.
-A 20 year hobbyist who wants to still be defined as a novice.
-In our show, once you win a ribbon you move up to open – but we have folks in open who don’t want to show against others in open with decades more experience than them.
-Someone who regularly works with some sort of sensei or did a workshop with a guest master verses someone who works alone.
-Someone who bought/won at raffle/etc. a preworked on tree verses someone who did all the work themselves from the raw beginning.
-Someone who’s imported a tree from Japan or bought some other sort of "finished tree".
-Someone who’s dropped $xxxx amount of money for a tree.
-Someone who’s been a professional for 5 or less years verses 30 year professionals.
-Someone who’s done a small amount of teaching, writing, etc. though not as their primary occupation; and whether that would make them a professional or not.
-You need to prejudge the trees before letting them enter to keep "unready" trees out.
-You can’t prejudge the trees because we won’t be able to get folks to enter.

The above list are all real concerns that have been brought to my attention as unfair situations, and are routinely commented on every year. The comments in this thread where folks are suggesting no categories at all are very interesting to me; since all the show feedback I get from exhibitors is that we don't define things enough nor have enough 'rules'. Any and all attempts to define categories/entries more specifically results in deadlocked shouting matches at board meetings. Yet we still have people who are unhappy, which is not what an organizer wants to hear. It's hard enough to get folks to exhibit trees, having people say they never will again because of a perceived unfairness is a terribly disheartening situation to be trapped in. Suggestions of how to make everyone happy, that would be approved by both a board and a general membership with all it's inherent politics, would be greatly appreciated.

Attempts to create a "local club show" (in MBS's case, a small show in May) to help separate the August show as a regional show verses a club show has created a situation where we have an event weekend we are required by our Garden contract to fill, and few members who are willing to bring trees and fill it. Since it's not judged, we have to beg & plead (literally, we pull out the membership lists around 6pm and start calling) to get trees in to fill tables and heavily rely on two individuals to fill in more than 40% of the space. If it were not for our Garden commitments, we would have canceled it by now because there is very little willingness to exhibit if there is no judging going on.

As well, attempts to spread out the August show and possibly help the novices to feel more comfortable displaying their trees by moving the novice trees to another room was met with comments that we were discriminating against novices. We'd been asked to spread out the show and fill another room by the Garden, but any attempts to get any category moved over there was met with profound unhappiness. So then you throw in an unhappy venue as well as unhappy exhibitors.

I want to say thank you to everyone who had a positive comment on the 35th Mid-America, it's nice to hear that there are folks who enjoyed the show. For those with unanswered concerns, I appreciate the time that you take to tell me what your feelings are and they are listened to, even if circumstances or politics prohibit me from acting on them. I do remember and am able to use the comments as reference in discussions. For the folks at IBC, please keep the discussion going - it's something that we really need to think about in the US, but distance keeps us from really considering. All the regional shows have evolved independently, and there is not much consistency. I am hoping that by adding some perspectives from 'behind the scenes' that it can help round out the discussion productively.

-Cat Nelson

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Re: Midwest show discussion question

Post  coh on Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:11 pm

Very interesting "insiders" perspective! It's too bad you have to deal with all those complaints every year. No wonder people don't want to volunteer to run clubs, shows, etc.

Varying the judges from year to year is the best way to even things out over time, all of the art clubs I'm affiliated with do the same thing.

Also interesting that no one wants to put their trees in the unjudged show. Sounds like too much emphasis on awards and competition. A little is a good thing...it's a fine line.

coh
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mid-america bonsai exhibit discussion

Post  kora on Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:26 pm

Cat:
Wow there seems to be a lot of disagreement on how to structure your judged exhibit. I would like to offer some suggestions, which may help to alleviate some of the carping? Maybe, maybe not.
1. Instead of one judge, make it 3, they don't have to be outside the country, but at least then there is the argument, that there was some consensus in the decision.
2. Novice category is someone who has worked with bonsai no more than 3 years. In that time they should be sufficiently learned in the art of bonsai.
3. Define professional, as someone who's primary income is derived from bonsai, be it as a vendor or creator. (I know that category will be argued about-but I believe in KISS-which for non Americans spells Keep It Simple Stupid)
All other trees to be entered in the open category.
As Bill Valavanis stated, we are judging the tree, not the pocketbook-there are plenty of bad , expensive trees out there, lets face it money alone does not guarantee a good tree-it also has to be cared for properly.
Instead of putting the novice exhibit into a separate room, put the professionals in the separate room, hey, we all want to see those, right? So go around the corner, down the stairs etc. but go see the trees!
kora

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Re: Midwest show discussion question

Post  fiona on Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:34 am

It seems to me that the KISS principle should be applied to this idea of a "novice": instead of putting arbitrary time restrictions on it, why not simply make it someone who has never shown a tree before? There are basic bonsai skills and there are the skills required to take a tree to show quality - you can't put a time limit on that. Some folk can be, say, twenty years in bonsai before they have the skills level (or indeed the inclination) to develop a tree to show quality; others can do it in a couple of years.

And why do we insist on assuming a bonsai professional is so much better than an amateur that they need a class of their own? In my experience there are as many if not more amateurs producing excellent quality trees as there are professionals. When/if they are selected for shows, I personally would want my trees to sit alongside all the others in the show and I care not whose they are. If my tree is good enough to be in the show, then it is good enough already to sit beside the professionals.

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Re: Midwest show discussion question

Post  Leo Schordje on Mon Aug 27, 2012 10:54 pm

@ Cat Nelson and all the others who helped stage this show. Thank you for all the work. It was a beautiful as always show. Trust me, especially in the past this show wasn't always as nicely staged, nor did it always have the high quality overall of entries. You and the rest of the crew have done a yeoman's job of putting on this show. Thank you.

I for one like the Midwest Bonsai Society definition of 'Novice'. Once you have won a ribbon you have to move up to open. Not everyone puts the same amount of time or effort into learning a new hobby. Even for the same effort, not all learn at the same rate. Not having a time limit on novice is acceptable to me. Winning a ribbon is an acceptable measure of how much has been learned, and it also measures the quality of material the person is working with. The material the person is working with does play into the number of years spent as a novice also. Not everyone starts out with quality material, some beginners starting on the cheap, often with poor choices for trees, will not have decent material in 3 years, or 5 years, or possibly even 20 years. One of my best trees now, was a stick in a pot 40 years ago, when I first started (yes, I am that old, and I started that young). The tree looked like a stick in a pot for its first 25 years. I was just dabbling back then. So finally 15 years ago I joined a club and actually began to learn something about bonsai. Only now is this tree becoming something decent (and one or two others of mine). I could enter myself in novice, as I have not exhibited more than 3 times in judged shows, and I have never won any ribbons. But my ego won't let me put anything in as novice, I want to compete in open, because the standards are higher, I want to run with the "big dogs". I'm good at horticulture, lousy at the artistic art of bonsai. For (myself only) to show in the novice class would be a public admission I am slow learner. lol!

If somebody after 25 or even 40 years in the hobby has never produced a tree worthy of a ribbon, their knowledge/skill/talent/material level is still really at a novice level. But then once they win that one ribbon, it is an acknowledgement of their evolving skill. Open class for them from that ribbon on out.

As to the other complaints between whether a tree should be in open or professional, I can understand the complaints, but I really think the system in place is about as good as any club can do without making it excessively complicated. No matter what, somebody will be unhappy.

People do pay attention to the names of the exhibitors when they show a good tree. The Midwest show is definitely a show in which people can build a reputation, good or bad.

So I for one think you have a system that really keeps a large number of people happy, the complaints you hear are from a vocal minority. Yes, it would be nice if that minority was smaller, but as you have said, any changes tried so far have not worked so the return to this template has been the best so far.

Keep up the good work. Thanks

Leo Schordje
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Re: Midwest show discussion question

Post  Chisky on Tue Aug 28, 2012 1:54 am

This was the first show I've ever attended. I think anyone who had a tree on exhibit is a winner. It is like being in the Olympics. Just being there is an honor. I really hope that I'm not too old to learn and to eventually show a tree. I'm hoping to get to the show at the Morten Arboretum next month. They are having workshops and maybe I'll learn something. If any of you will be there wear a carnation or something and I'll say hi. Or maybe I should wear the carnation and you can say hi.

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Re: Midwest show discussion question

Post  Treedwarfer on Tue Aug 28, 2012 5:16 am

centaura wrote:The comments in this thread where folks are suggesting no categories at all are very interesting to me; since all the show feedback I get from exhibitors is that we don't define things enough nor have enough 'rules'.

Cat, My sympathies. You do all you can and those who don't are never happy.

First, it it never ever necessary to define professional (how would you verify it - ask for ten years' tax returns? Twisted Evil ). The upper level shows are open where, as BillV. said, the beauty of the tree is the only qualification, so we can put that aside. One set of rules eliminated.

That leaves "the rest", where folks are unhappy with the rules as they are. Don't work hard, work smart: if a problem seems insoluble, eliminate the problem. Start by removing the novice section - it has no real place in a major show that draws such a large audience anyway. Allow that tier of display to remain at local club level. Another set of rules eliminated.

That leaves a middle range amateur show where there are still areas of contention - bought vs made, etc. Consider having this section of the exhibition comprising displays mounted by the clubs, with trees that they have selected themselves by whatever means they choose. Still have a best tree in show award, if you like, but the main competition would be between the clubs - the best overall display wins whatever prize is won at these things. No need either to define what makes a good display - let the more creative enthusiasts come up with new ideas if they wish. The definition of what's good or bad is the judges' problem. There goes another set of rules.

So - how many sets of rules are we left with? Hmmm, let me see.... None?

kora wrote:1. Instead of one judge, make it 3, they don't have to be outside the country, but at least then there is the argument, that there was some consensus in the decision.

Excellent suggestion, Kora.

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Re: Midwest show discussion question

Post  cbobgo on Tue Aug 28, 2012 5:54 am

Treedwarfer wrote:Start by removing the novice section - it has no real place in a major show that draws such a large audience anyway. Allow that tier of display to remain at local club level.

Except the problem is that this IS the local club level show. While it functions as a regional show, there is not a separate local show just for club members, except for the Spring show that no one wants to go to.

As someone who did show as a Novice at this show (10 years ago), I can tell you it was extremely valuable. I probably would not have pushed my skills as rapidly as I did, if I did not have the motivation to enter the show, and move up out of the "Novice" category.

- bob



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Re: Midwest show discussion question

Post  JudyB on Tue Aug 28, 2012 3:57 pm

Just from an ignorant outsiders perspective, it seems like the way the rules are currently set up (and have been up till now), are part of the reason this show attracts such a wide variety of exhibitors. If there was not a juried part to this show, and the divisions, would people bring in masterpieces from around the country? And this is what motivates all of us to aspire to greater works, to see what can be. It also gives the casual public that is not involved with bonsai but comes to see the show, a look at what the art is about, as opposed to the sad things that are mass marketed.

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Re: Midwest show discussion question

Post  marcus watts on Tue Aug 28, 2012 10:16 pm

this thread is proving so interesting as several people are really thinking about the current show scene and how / if it needs changing.

There is the 'Japanese do their shows this way so we should' .... but the entire western scene is totally different- I personally believe the real competition in Japan is between the nurseries, owners & apprentices, there are so many high end trees adopted by the purchaser but never worked by them that it is easy to fill every show place with material that has been equally treated.
This scenario will never happen in the UK or USA, however much the aspiring bonsai professionals would like it to as the vast majority of us want our own trees at home, we want to work them and be able to take pride in our work - I see the main place for western bonsai professionals is in teaching the trees owners how to do it for themselves. While extremely high levels of technical skill have been learnt by some of the pros in Japan if they are to hope to succeed in long term business in the west they need to learn how to fit the two cultures and mind sets together rather than trying to change one into the other. The services we are starting to see from Peter & Ryan are the right direction - offering to transport trees to shows, mossing & neatening them, drawing on their experience in actually bringing tree, stand and accent together, advising about pots etc - this level of pro assistance is within anyones budget for the big shows and is more akin to a personal trainer not a body double.!

When considering the major national show scenario further I think I'm falling towards the 'no catagory camp' - just let all trees enter as an equal - if a pro wants to enter under their own name let them - this will drive many talented amateurs to try even harder to match or better their work. Human nature being what it is some individuals will think buying a supposedly show ready tree to enter with will give them the 15 minutes of fame and mini moment of bonsai greatness, but most of us know amongst the vast majority of genuine bonsai attendants that individual gains nothing - no awe, no respect, no genuine hand shakes - in fact they probably alienate themselves from what is a mostly friendly close community.... & if a tree can only recieve one major award in its entire life normal service will resume soon enough.

Trees are actually selected for the shows too, just owning one does not give anyone a god given right to display it - organisers have the final say if they want a tree in the judged part of the show or would prefer it just displayed.

Clubs should make their own rules to suit the experience level - who wants bad feeling at club level ? - national events though should aim for continuity.

cheers Marcus



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Re: Midwest show discussion question

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