I think it was back in 2007 that Jim Gremel did a workshop for BSSF, the somewhat-infamous Yamadori-style juniper workshops where he takes young trees and wires them into crazy shapes. His concept is great, it’s just that the execution takes a long time. I wired a couple trees during that workshop and recall him looking at the bends and commenting “not sure where you’re headed with this but go for it.”
While an initial styling of a juniper whip will give you a good start with adding movement to the trunk, it’s only one of many steps before you reach the point of having a good refined tree. Here are a few things to consider along the way:
- The trunk section that you initially wire is only one element, as more branching grows add movement to compliment the movement of the trunk.
- You are going to have some large jin that will need reduction later. Make sure that the parts that you are going to keep will have enough movement and interest to make them a feature rather than a liability.
- The hardest thing to do is wait. But you just have to. If you go picking off foliage all the time and cutting off branching you wont get the wood growth as quickly. (Having more trees is a good way of learning to ignore long-term projects)
- When you start reducing things, do it in stages. Remove some large branches, wait a year and then remove the rest. Eliminating all of them can cause juvenile growth, or dieback on the roots.
For this tree, after wiring some additional branching I let it grow for years, once potting it up into a large wooden box to allow for ample room for root growth.
When I decided it was time to reduce the branching I initially just chopped off half the tops of the long branches and then put it back on the bench to continue growing. A few months later in July 2014 I reduced the rest of the sacrifice branches and wired all the remaining small branching to give the tree more directionality and personality.
During repotting in January 2015 I went from the large box to a much smaller container. At this point, after repotting I spotted what I thought might be a better front. I had some time to think it over since it was winter and I wouldn’t be doing any branch work until mid-summer. Since then, every time I looked at the tree I would rotate it, consider the original front against the new possibility and evaluate which was more interesting. I concluded that the new front had a more interesting trunk line because it will feel more dynamic than the original front.
Eight years after Jim’s workshop I’m finally nearing the end of the creation of a quality shohin tree. Now I find myself wishing I had a batch of 20 of these rather than just one.