Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  BigDave on Wed Nov 21, 2012 2:14 pm

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote:
I do Bonsai, notice me, hear me roar.

Lets hear it for those who love trees quietly.
Khaimraj,

You are doing exactly as you should, that suits you. But from you forum personality I find it hard to believe you do anything quietly, am I far off? Very Happy

Personally I have the same history as Mr. Billy, some many years strugggling, then incredible growth after joining in. These have become my best friends and like family. But the jealousy and egos has to be put aside for it to work, people giving not taking.

You are an interesting forum participant, keep up the good posts

--big D

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Wed Nov 21, 2012 3:06 pm

Big Dave,

I was trained to be polite, but direct. I will soften what I have to say, so as not to destroy the person, if need be, but I will try to speak as truthfully as I can, and yes I move quietly, avoiding loud people.
When I was younger, the other teenagers used to call me the hermit, because I seldom went to parties given around the neighbour and preferred small get togethers.

I hope you found the pottery information of use, as I never got a response.
I use the philosophy --- teach you to fish, and not just give you a fish for the day.
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  BigDave on Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:54 pm

I was trained to be polite, but direct. I will soften what I have to
say, so as not to destroy the person, if need be, but I will try to
speak as truthfully as I can, and yes I move quietly, avoiding loud
people.
When I was younger, the other teenagers used to call me the
hermit, because I seldom went to parties given around the neighbour and
preferred small get togethers.

Okay, that's just fine-to each his own

I hope you found the pottery information of use, as I never got a response.
I use the philosophy --- teach you to fish, and not just give you a fish for the day.
Later.

Sorry If I left you hanging, don't recall, Ill look back at pot forum.

--D

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  BigDave on Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:58 pm

Sorry Ticklesan to hi-Jack this thread, back to topic

Why Clubs may be losing members and how we can fix it !

pirat

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  marcus watts on Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:02 pm

this is such a good topic

having commented directly on Tonys site, then slept on it etc I think we have a huge division within the hobby at club level. I think a large majority of club attendants are basically garden club / horticulturists who enjoy the pleasure of having tree species in pots as well as flowers in borders. When this makes up the majority of the membership it is extremely frustrating for the few individuals who want to take the hobby and their trees to higher levels as you end up being viewed as elitest.

Then you get the scenario of wanting to keep everyone happy and not offend so the club becomes 'non competitive' in everything it does - this leads to an absolute lack of quality, falling standards and no improvement within the group. The club show is a perfect example - you either vote / decide whos trees are show worthy and the others who were unkucky this time go away and work harder so the show is a great example of what the hobby can acheive or it is every member can plonk what they like on the table................I hope some of our members are reading this as the difference is as blatant as 'bonsai show or car boot sale'. A collection of the best trees the region has is something for all members to be proud of and to aspire to but a show where the criteria is 'you can all put what you like down' is just an embarresment and does nothing good for the hobby or the club in question

i am an active club member and get on well with members at the meetings but to be fair most dont really want to learn or improve their trees, or even invest properly in material, soil, fertilisers etc - We have about 15-20% who make an above average efffort and a core of 10% who look for and have nice material, attend quality teaching days and go out of their way to make an effort. I think the breakaway factions keep the keen people satisfied but they still go to club nights for the tea and buscuits and to try and keep the club focused on bonsai, but without individuals making the effort outside the club scenario nothing much would happen - i remember one agm where more time was spent discussing why the fee should not go over £10 than anything related to trees!

it is hard to create a happy balance though - the club needs members so if 4 are extra keen and 36 are not that fussed who really is in the right?

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:10 pm

Marcus,

Bonsai should never been offered as a Popular Hobby, it is too expensive for the average person [ unless you do as I do, seed, compost and potter ] all I can see eventually happening is it will return to what it was before.
As Russell typed sometime ago - the playthings of rich men.

As small as we are, we already have men who can buy costly Bonsai [ not neccessarily valuable ] and employ some of the die-hards are gardeners.

It just is.
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Dave Murphy on Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:00 am

marcus watts wrote:this is such a good topic

having commented directly on Tonys site, then slept on it etc I think we have a huge division within the hobby at club level. I think a large majority of club attendants are basically garden club / horticulturists who enjoy the pleasure of having tree species in pots as well as flowers in borders. When this makes up the majority of the membership it is extremely frustrating for the few individuals who want to take the hobby and their trees to higher levels as you end up being viewed as elitest.

Then you get the scenario of wanting to keep everyone happy and not offend so the club becomes 'non competitive' in everything it does - this leads to an absolute lack of quality, falling standards and no improvement within the group. The club show is a perfect example - you either vote / decide whos trees are show worthy and the others who were unkucky this time go away and work harder so the show is a great example of what the hobby can acheive or it is every member can plonk what they like on the table................I hope some of our members are reading this as the difference is as blatant as 'bonsai show or car boot sale'. A collection of the best trees the region has is something for all members to be proud of and to aspire to but a show where the criteria is 'you can all put what you like down' is just an embarresment and does nothing good for the hobby or the club in question

i am an active club member and get on well with members at the meetings but to be fair most dont really want to learn or improve their trees, or even invest properly in material, soil, fertilisers etc - We have about 15-20% who make an above average efffort and a core of 10% who look for and have nice material, attend quality teaching days and go out of their way to make an effort. I think the breakaway factions keep the keen people satisfied but they still go to club nights for the tea and buscuits and to try and keep the club focused on bonsai, but without individuals making the effort outside the club scenario nothing much would happen - i remember one agm where more time was spent discussing why the fee should not go over £10 than anything related to trees!

it is hard to create a happy balance though - the club needs members so if 4 are extra keen and 36 are not that fussed who really is in the right?

I couldn't have said it better, Marcus...this describes my club to a tee. The only difference is we have cookies, potato chips, and soda instead of tea and biscuits Shocked .

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:45 am

I think that we need to decide why you have a show.

If the answer is, "A show should be the best trees appreciated by experienced bonsai growers"

or

"A show that attracts the public (most of whom will not know a great tree if it fell on their head) but who might become interested in Bonsai and join the club."

I think we have a successful club and we don't judge trees or tell people they can't display.

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:19 am

Billy,

in the world of other than life saving, it really does not matter about better and best.
So if your trees look like crap and no one is injured or dies ---- who really cares?

What you get down too is personal pride.

An exceptional tree can be grown from seed at no cost, but an exceptional pot to put that tree into will cost, more than you have or wish to spend, then there is the display if you are into tables and scrolls .................

If your club does not actively selected for quality, then you may end up with the reputation of just not so good.

High standards are personal pride and National displays are folk who have high standards as established worldwide, and a good deal of personal pride.
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Tony on Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:54 am

Well put Marcus.

The premise of my post was that ‘Clubs’ do not hold back those that want to excel, drive the club on to create better trees and to raise the standard of the trees within the club.

From conversations outside of this forum I have had with folk I am aware that the frustration with entrenched members is huge.

Observe what happened in the period 1987-1997 (I call it the lost decade) in the UK. Prior to 1987 (I use this date loosely) the UK and Holland were THE European nations at the top of the bonsai tree. We thought we had it all, the best teachers, access to good imported material and at least 25 years of ‘experience’ under our belt.

In 1997 came ‘The Ginkgo Award’ in Belgium when our trees were compared to the best in Europe. Danny Use did a great job in pulling together a large number of countries; the ‘missing’ two were the sleeping giants Italy and Spain. When these guys turned up in force two years later it was a step change in European Bonsai. We saw the kind of raw material they used, how they styled and the boldness of their work. FORTUNATELY and due to a handful of artists and schools in the UK we raised our game. Though it pains me to say it... apart from a couple of noted exceptions Holland is still playing catch up.

I am mentioning this because the legacy of many UK clubs is still stuck in the lost decade because they have not witnessed anything outside of their narrow experience, and worse… when they do they believe it outside of their capabilities… a belief that “if you do not try it you will not fail”.

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  fiona on Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:20 am

Ahhhhhh. This thread has now landed on all my major bugbears and I cannot refrain from posting any more. Laughing Well done to Marcus for hitting the nail so well on the head - I agree with everything he says. This aspect, however, is probably my biggest bugbear:

Billy M. Rhodes wrote: or "A show that attracts the public (most of whom will not know a great tree if it fell on their head) but who might become interested in Bonsai and join the club."

Tony wrote:...they have not witnessed anything outside of their narrow experience, and worse… when they do they believe it outside of their capabilities… a belief that “if you do not try it you will not fail”.

I'm afraid I have NEVER bought into the theory that people will only be attracted into bonsai (or sport or whatever) by seeing lower level trees. I was attracted by seeing advanced quality trees and I know I am not alone in that. I know I don't have the same level of skill as the top artists but it wouldn't stop me from trying to get there and ending up with something not quite up there but still better than the baseline. I am heartily peed off when people tell me that trying to be better is me being "elitist". I'm afraid I see the inevitable result of settling for mediocrity as being exactly what Khaimraj said:

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote: If your club does not actively selected for quality, then you may end up with the reputation of just not so good.

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  leatherback on Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:37 am

fiona wrote:
I'm afraid I have NEVER bought into the theory that people will only be attracted into bonsai (or sport or whatever) by seeing lower level trees. I was attracted by seeing advanced quality trees and I know I am not alone in that. I know I don't have the same level of skill as the top artists but it wouldn't stop me from trying to get there and ending up with something not quite up there but still better than the baseline. I am heartily peed off when people tell me that trying to be better is me being "elitist". I'm afraid I see the inevitable result of settling for mediocrity as being exactly what Khaimraj said:

Agreed. Even more: Even if one cannot reach the top-level, does that render his or her pleasure in it invaluable? Not in my view. Beside the quality of the work you can produce, isn't it important to try and get the best out of the material & skills you have, and strive for better all the time? The best way to achieve that, is to be somewhat selecive in what you display in your club shows.

And I am absolutely not excited byso-so trees. I got excite by seeing pictures of top-shows. That I will not reach that level within the next decade, I have already accepted. My artistic bone is just not trained enough to go to the exciting level. But above-mediocer should be within anybodies reach, if you want to try. Maybe not today, or even this year. But with time, and guidance.

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:14 am

I think I have been misunderstood.

I think we have some very nice trees at our shows, but we also have some that are not as great.

The large bonsai that that takes two men and a fork lift to move impresses the visitors, but they also some smaller more doable trees at our shows.

In my post I was trying to say a couple of things:

1. You have to reach out to the public, not just bonsai people.

2. We make space for trees from all members.

3. We are working to encourage youth/kids.

I would post photos from our last show to demonstrate my point but they are on my other computer in Florida and I am in NC (600+) miles away.


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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:15 am

Yes,

but one must accept that the way it works historically, less than 0.01% of the entire world will ever have the potential or even achieve a level of true creativity. In Fine Art it is Imaginative work at the highest level and in Science it is Research into the unknown.

The ability to simply step off.....................

So if you try to achieve that in Bonsai, you will only end up with an Elitist club or society and you have not only gone directly against the work of Yuji Yoshimura for the Americans [ Bonsai for All ] but killed all the thousands of acres under Chinese and Japanese cultivation to service the Bonsai for All market. See a pattern?

Bonsai is a luxury and it can cost.
Only those who truly believe in it will keep high standards.
You are beating a deaf drum.
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  fiona on Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:38 pm

Billy M. Rhodes wrote:I think I have been misunderstood. I think we have some very nice trees at our shows, but we also have some that are not as great. The large bonsai that that takes two men and a fork lift to move impresses the visitors, but they also some smaller more doable trees at our shows.

I don't think I misunderstood you and I'd make one observation about good and less good trees - this is entirely subjective and from the pics you have posted in the past, I'd say your clubs "not as great" trees could still knock spots off the bulk of what is displayed in Scotland at our "national" shows.

All I am saying is that in my experience those members of the public (not bonsai people) who have gone on to take up bonsai and have stuck with it have done so because of the top quality trees rather than the lesser ones. They are the ones who are trying to produce more than sticks in pots and who expand their bonsai experience by visiting top shows. Whether or not they have gone through the phase of producing sticks in pots ( and let's be honest, we probably all have done this at some point) is irrelevant as the point is they have not been satisfied with sticking at this level and have all aspired to doing more.

Khaimraj is of course right in saying only a small proportion of those will ever become "artists" - that is a given. It's the same in most arts, hobbies and sports. I know I'll never be Victoria Pendleton but I know I can be a better cyclist than I am currently. I know I'll never be Kimura but I know I can be better than I am currently. All I ask is that I am not judged as "elitist" "jumped up" or whatever just because I try to be better. And as far as the expense is concerned, if I wish to pay money to get better then I don't see why I shouldn't - it is entirely my choice. I don't begrudge the chap with the £5000 Pinarello any more than I grudge anyone for spending money on a better quality piece of raw material. I aspire to that "better". You can make any hobby as expensive or inexpensive as you like. It's just up to me to recognise where the fine line is between spending and making genuine improvement and where I am wasting my time. In bonsai, as in cycling, I haven't reached that point. Not just yet anyway. Wink

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  jgeanangel on Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:05 pm

In my experience, there seems to be two types of groups that gather regularly in bonsai... First, and by far the more prevalent, is the social bonsai club...these groups use bonsai to attract members...the underlying purpose is to grow the group...every event has the intention of bringing together more people....attract more members...lots of focus on beginner activities.... raising money for more events to attract more people. Its not really about getting better at bonsai but more of the pleasure of socializing and fellowship around bonsai. It sounds to me as if this case with many of the UK clubs...and most of the clubs in the area which I am from... for me these are people clubs...bonsai is just the common factor around which the people come together.

The second type is the group for which "doing bonsai" is the primary focus. Again, in my experience, these are often the smaller groups...study groups...sometimes they are part of a larger social bonsai group, but not always. There is generally a need to limit membership in order to focus on learning and participation. There are no meetings, no newsletters, no hospitality committee...instead just opportunities to work on trees...sometimes with just the group members and sometimes with a guest artist but the focus is always making our trees better. Members are typically much more experienced and certainly bitten by a passion/drive for getting better. The most difficult part now is turning away people that want to join our group. Again, in my experience this is by far the more rare of these two types of groups...but for me the far more desirable. (I think of it as kind of like Tony's Burrs but on a smaller and more regular basis...btw, Tony I am so jealous of the Burrs' experience) I drive 50 miles each way just to meet with my group...and would gladly drive further!

Personally I am no longer interested in being an active participant in the monthly social bonsai scene. However, I completely support the notion of personal choice. After 15 years of spending a weekend a month, or more, trying to "promote" bonsai in a social type club, several friends and I formed a study group so that we could stop promoting and start doing bonsai...we haven't looked back....I and my trees are better for it!

Just my .02 cents
John


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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  JimLewis on Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:11 pm

I've been doing bonsai now for 40+ years. I will NEVER be a "bonsai artist," but a few of my trees have grown well despite my efforts. Time does help! To me, doing bonsai has always been FUN. If it ever stops being fun, I'll quit (and I came all-too-close this last summer).

In my experience with clubs -- the two I've belonged to and the 2 or 3 that have asked me to visit for this or that reason -- they are always a mixed bag. Some want to do; others enjoy plants (including bonsai) and just want to belong. You live with it. Those who want to "do" tend to group together at the meetings and occasionally at each others' houses and actually do bonsai. They are the ones whose trees usually show up at the bigger (other-than-club) shows.

(Mind you, my "local" club draws members from a several-hundred-square-mile mountinous area so it sometimes is difficult to get many of us together at someone's home because this place is just so damned big and it tends to be time consuming to get from point A to point X.)

Anyway, the point of this is just to say that Marcus' 4 people who want to do should just try to get together and just do it. They may pull some of the other cub members in after them.

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:21 pm

I didn't mention our study group which meets monthly at a member's home. Again this is open to everyone but is a hands on experience with help from senior members of the club.
We also run a beginners series from time to time, depending upon interest from new members. There is a charge for this and the club bulk buys starter trees such as Willow Leaf Figs from a bonsai nursery and starter pots.
Again, we have some unique access to supplies that other clubs might not have.
I don't think the quality of some of our member trees suffers from our open attitude. I also think we have great opportunities for growth in the art.

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:48 pm

Fiona,

the problem with doing your best and always trying to better your efforts, is the trees/shrubs will get better and this will deserve better pots, all the way up to often Antique pots or Best potter one offs.
If you are into displays, the same will happen with tables etc.

For my part, I have stayed with the stuff from Lotus international. Mostly very simple shapes, a brownish greenish body, with fine grogging showing, they also do a muted reddish body and so on. Glazes, I just let the stuff grow over it and it becomes more subtle.
Simple, does not compete and lies there doing what it should.
Perhaps they are classical shapes based on days of old in China?

Anyhow, no matter what you do, you will end up as elitist, you may never, ever say it, but it will be said or mumbled behind your back.

With folk who just like a shaped thing in a pot, I just suggest 3 to 6 US $. ceramic slip cast wares with stoneware type glazes, easily available down here as we have tons of folk who bought into, the you can get rich making moulded wares from Hobby companies.
The bodies, never designed for use fall apart in under 10 years, but most of those trees are long dead or given away.
If they have survived, the pride of having the tree for soooooooooooooooooo long takes over and I suggest a Lotus pot.
Some do, some don't purchase a new pot.

As is being said, many clubs are sociable, and perhaps the others evolve into study groups [ back to good friends together ? and as it was in Ancient China ?]
To the future.
Khaimraj

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  fiona on Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:28 pm

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote:Fiona, the problem with doing your best and always trying to better your efforts, is the trees/shrubs will get better and this will deserve better pots, all the way up to often Antique pots or Best potter one offs.
If you are into displays, the same will happen with tables etc.
With the exception of the first few words of that statement what you say accurately reflects my own personal bonsai experience. The only difference I am seeing is that I don't view this as a "problem". As I progressed in any of my many hobbies over the years, the amount I spent on them increased in direct proportion. The $20 entry level Dunlop tennis racket is now a reasonably top of the range Head. The old rattletrap bike is now a carbon fibre job. And in bonsai the pots I use are John Pitt, Erin, Ian Baillie, Walsall Ceramics, Stone Monkey etc. as opposed to blue glazed mass produced ones and I'd rather save up and spend on a better quality piece of raw material than pop down to the garden centre for something. I don't drink or smoke or spend money on lots of holidays - I'd rather put my money into hobbies. But as I say, that has been my personal choice - all I'm doing is defending my right to make that choice without being branded as elitist.

To each his or her own I guess and I really don't think there's a "right and wrong" to this. I think John G's 0.02 cents about two types of club are bang on the money, and I don't actually see why we should be looking to change the situation. People will find their own way irrespectively. Let them have at it as Jim L would say.

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Tony on Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:57 pm

Nobody will every change the current situation because not everyone wished to reach the dizzy heights of showing in a national/international exhibition, BUT... and this is a BIG BUT there is nothing wrong with being elitist.

When UK cycling set up the National Cycling Centre at the then 'NEW' Manchester Velodrome the UK began to win medals... LOTS of medals, The same was for canoeing (my sport) when the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham was set up...again the results started to come.

Not everyone can be an elite athlete, not everyone wishes to be the best in bonsai... BUT we should not stifle ambition, nor condemn those who choose to go for it!

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Hans van Meer. on Thu Nov 22, 2012 8:15 pm

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote:

Anyhow, no matter what you do, you will end up as elitist, you may never, ever say it, but it will be said or mumbled behind your back.

Khaimraj

Dear Khaimraj, how those one become a elitist in Bonsai? Didn't you call it "a Garden Craft"?
Hans van Meer.

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Thu Nov 22, 2012 8:32 pm

Hans,

I kinda left this topic when it went a bit silly.
Apologies.
Khaimraj

* I admire your work by the way.







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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  fiona on Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:31 pm

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote:Hans, I kinda left this topic when it went a bit silly. Apologies. Khaimraj
* I admire your work by the way.
Mea culpa - posts removed.

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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

Post  Hans van Meer. on Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:50 pm

tony wrote:Nobody will every change the current situation because not everyone wished to reach the dizzy heights of showing in a national/international exhibition, BUT... and this is a BIG BUT there is nothing wrong with being elitist.
Not everyone can be an elite athlete, not everyone wishes to be the best in bonsai... BUT we should not stifle ambition, nor condemn those who choose to go for it!

Well sad!!! And might I add: that there is absolutely no reason why any person in this world from East or West, be it man or female, rich or poor, could not eventually turn out to be a true Bonsai Artist! But you will only know for sure, if you go for it, in any way or form, but go for it! Don't be poet off by all the Nee Sayer's that you will find in every bonsai club around the world or on the Bonsai Internet forums, who thrive on discouraging the ambitious ones, with their blackened narrow view and fancy theories or philosophies! If it is your hobby: than get the best out off your hobby! If it is your passion: than get the best out off your passion! If it is your whole live to creat a thing of beauty or interest out off a bush or tree: well....than get the best out of your hearth and soul and you will be half way in becoming a Bonsai artist! And you only have to try it to find out! And if you dont make it all the way to the top....who cares, the beautiful and exciting journey will make it more than worthwhile after all!

Message from a Ja (yes) sayer! Wink
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Re: Why most Bonsai clubs in the UK are struggling for members?

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