I find myself wondering why I don’t just “crank out” a load of wire tree sculptures and make money doing it, today I learned why.
Another talented wire tree artist has run a kickstarter campaign and within this he offered 30 low level trees for x amount of £, amount many other higher offerings. Everyone looked identical and at this point I must admit I was quite jealous. He exceeded his campaign and I am very happy for him.
This brought me to a question, can I make clone trees, can I make two identitcal trees? No, the answer is no! Even when I am producuing identical 2 trees they end up different, and I am not 100% why.
To clarify this was a twist for twist production line style creation of the two trees, I started as always with a batch of wire which I spun into a nice and simple root cluster. From there I created the trunks and stared splitting off the branches. Now even with a ruler it is impossible to make the splits the same and so the differences would eventually emerge. Once at the top of the tree I would then work back down making the foliage clumps.
There are a few factors at play here with regard to why I cannot make them the same, one of which is I use far significantly thinner wire than our example artist. My style seems to be the opposite to other wire tree artist, as is the way I do it (as above) and my foliage style (which is original as far as I am aware?!) The other may be my subconscious knowing that every tree in nature is unique, and even the same species will grow differently every time. Uniqueness.
I even intended our example to be identical, so where does that leave me? Well I am happy creating one of a kind wire tree sculptures and that is all that matters. I don’t feel the need to pursue a crowd funding campaign, and our example artist may have £25+k in the bank I am sure the creativity will slowly drain from the artist. I may be wrong but it is simply something that won’t work for me. This is not to say I don’t wish I could achieve that style of promotion myself but with the variety of the wire trees I create I couldnt produce as such a realiable result.
Anyway, below is a picture of my two “clones”, bad arnt they! Enjoy!
So this first quarter of the year I have been experimenting with crystal beads on wire trees as the foliage instead of my normal style. After being making trees for a year, and cranking out about 200 in 2016, I decided I would switch it up a little. I have made a decent amount of crystal trees and feel they look great, if a bit different to my normal.
Why do it, why not! I have evolved very quickly with my original style and re-setting back to not knowing what to do it good for the mind, if a bit frustrating at times! The crystal trees have to be built in the opposite way to my normal all wire trees. Typically the all wires trees will be built from the root up to the branches and foliage, if applicable, whereas I cannot do this with the crystals and have to build it from foliage down to the root. (which I believe is the common way to make wire trees anyway!) This presented a couple of problems for me but with the creation of a custom tool I have got over them.
I have worked with variety of crystal sizes to get a feel for them, from 3mm faceted glass, 5mm, 6mm and 8mm which is on the dark green tree. Those 8mm beads, when you have 800 of them on a huge chunk of driftwood can make for one heavy sculpture! Currently the wire I am using, 0.315mm anodised copper seems strong enough to hold the weight but as I make larger trees I feel I with either need more wire per tree or a slightly thicker gauge. I am not too keen on thicker wires because last year I hurt my hand using a 0.6mm silver wire which has left me with a clicking tendon in my left hand! However the glass faceted beads have been hard going on my fingers but they have toughened up quickly!
Enough chat, time for some images! But if you have any feedback, I would love to hear it! Thanks.
So a new year and the beginning of experiments in the form of glass faceted bead trees!
It occurrd to me to give this a try after spending the whole of 2016 making wire only trees. Immediately I noticed a few things, the creation process is opposite to how I make wire only trees; wire only I go root to tip vs beads are tip/ bead to root. This caused a few issues but a new custom tool has helped the process. Also the glass beads are pretty tough on the fingers and I am only now building up calluses to help with this problem.
I think I will keep playing with this style of tree for the meantime but will certainly make some of my original style also, even just to give my fingers a rest!
Do you like these trees? I’d love to get your thoughts.
I am very proud to announce my work is now in a new gallery, the Wayland Dragonfly Gallery in Watton, Norfolk. Susan at the gallery have been fantastic and very receptive of my work and I appreciate the opportunity to share my work within the gallery.
The Dragonfly Gallery and Visitor Centre is one of the many local attractions that make Wayland unique and distinctive. Owned and managed by the community charity the Wayland Partnership, a not-for-profit Community Partnership, is a part of Wayland House and situated in Watton High Street.
If you manage to visit, do tell them Matthew from Metal Bonsai sent you!
Although it may seem that the quality of the trees I produce are those honed over many years of experience … they are not. I am among one of the lucky few to pick up a hobby and excel at it. I have had many many years experience working with miniatures (wargaming and display) and with my hands at that level which primed me for this recent endeavour.
Even I struggle to believe I only started this adventure only 6 months ago when at a family meal and decided to play with the muselet from a bottle of champagne. Naturally the little metal cap would make a perfect “pot” to the “tree” I tried to create from the wire. (I wish I kept it!)
So the seed was planted and a few days later I purchased some galvanised steel wire, now if you don’t know this stuff is, it’s tough and sharp when cut. After nearly killing myself with the steel wire I did some research and discovered I would be better working with aluminium wire. I had decided I only wanted to make small trees, due to preferring the scale and also knowing it would be quicker to make. I got the wire and started the process. To the right is my very first tree! Pretty good right?! (sarcasm!)
Well being the sort of person that I am, obsessing over something for a period of time before typically moving on, I tried again and again. Before I knew it I was making a tree a day when I could fit it in and I started to improve. At this point it is worth noting there there isn’t any real way to learn this, no in-depth tutorials (with the exception of Kevin Iris on youtube) so I just started to find my own style. This is important because everyone will have their own way of doing things and it allows for creators to come up with styles different to their peers.
Making the basic shape of a tree in wire, after some practice, is actually quite easy however knowing the proportions of the tree you are making and the wire length you are using does need some concentration. After some time I had made about 30 trees or so and decided I should really create a website for them, to see if there was any interest from people to purchase them. Having a hobby of messing around with websites this was an easy feat and so Metalbonsai.com was born.
And then the day when I discovered copper! Copper was a lovely change to the aluminium I was using and was easy to adapt to. The thing about copper, especially raw wire is that it oxidises (which can be cool). Trees were then created with this and are currently oxidising I am sure. I have a wire tree in the garden currently going blue and cannot wait to share the results. At this point it should be noted that I started with wire around 1mm diameter and progressed down to a fiddly .3mm thick.
From here, knowing how I wished to proceed with my evolution, I started using coloured copper wire. Having been in the throws of this for a few months now I can say I am happy I discovered the coloured copper but there are a few cases where things… “got out go hand!” After a few crazy moments I found my groove and a large selection of trees made, some of which can be seen on the website still.
Composing trees to match mame bonsai pots ( note- my first trees were placed in soy sauce dishes!) is a really interesting process but was limited by the use of cheap import pots. At this point I decided to seek the quality of Walsall Studio Ceramics and this opened up my artist ability even further. From here it was only natural to obtain a pot/ container addiction! I eventually found the
talented Yoshiyuki Kawada, a Japanese mame bonsai pot sculptor who creates every pot from a solid block of clay. The price of his work is high, as it should be, and I am lucky enough to have a few of which some trees sit in.
Where to next you may ask? Well right where I am now, only 6 months in is to try mounting wire trees onto canvas backings. There have been a few failures and a few successes. I am very excited about the future because the world has been opened up to me. I always wished I had that natural talent to be able to draw but alas it was never to be, which is fine because I accept I am what I am. In wire creation I have found a way to express myself in a way I never even knew existed before.
What comes next? I don’t know at the time of writing this but I am sure it will be exciting.
PS- Evolution? Take a quick look back at the pictures, the first was at day 1, the next at month 2 and the last three at month 5 onwards. I’m pretty chuffed how far I have come!
Alarik Greenland is an amazing wire sculptor with a style that take his trees to the next level. Built out of wire, Alarik’s trees have a natural looks to them with very organic style roots, moving up to the foliage his trees are covered with thousands of glass leaves. Each leaf is individually threaded and an entire tree can take a month to complete. Just when you think his work cannot get any better, Alarik sources is basing material of driftwood from the riverbed in his local area in Devon. He dives under the water and looks for a piece of wood which could be a couple of hundreds of years old and mounts his beautiful trees on top.
Featured on BBC’s Country File, Alarik Greenland is a master wire tree sculptor injecting new style into the traditional “wire bead tree”, certainly an inspiration to me and anyone who encounters his work.
In bonsai, the pot or container is as important as the tree, both completing the whole composition. A tree without a pot is just a tree. The word bonsai literally means plant in a pot, bon being a tray or pot and sai a planting or plant. Many enthusiasts will tell you one can experience the want for more and more pots and this can become an addiction when talented artists like Yoshiyuki Kawada exist.
Kawada’s work is simply amazing and has been tooted as one of the best pot makers in Japan. Kawada specialises in small mame and shohin pots which at this size he carves out of blocks of clay. Using traditional ways like slab technique would just be too fiddley to do. The intricate shapes of his pots are sketched out on to the clay and then cut to shape, they are then hollowed out and ready for glaze. Shapes include octagonal pots (see purple pot in images), Flower shape (white pot), ancient mirror shape, kenmokkou (sword Japanese quince shape) among many others. Most of these pot shapes are unique to Kawada as far as I am aware.
Not only does he make beautiful shaped pots, equal skill and attention is given to the glazes used on the pots. From bright colours, to subtle, glazing really brings out the shapes of the containers, pinks and purples can be seen along with unglazed. Crackle glaze and glitter type glazes also feature but the thing I like most how the use of various colours on a single pot. The effect I like to call flower where there are spots, shapes and other designs are made in the glaze (see white pot below for example). More recently reduction firing using the charcoal have brought out some stunning effect in his glazes. I have barely scratched the surface of this highly renowned artist and to see more of the beautiful work of Yoshiyuki Kawada, visit his Facebook page and marvel at the craftsmanship or go to his website which catalogues every pot he has ever made.
The pots are few and far between with production of only a few each day makes them hard to come by. I was lucky enough to get some shipped to the UK from Japan and below you can see images of the pots I got. These are available for use in commissioned wire trees, if you are interested please feel free to contact me.