I love nature which means I definitely love plants and trees, especially the Bonsai Tree with its unique features and look. Who can resist a miniature tree? Unfortunately, I am not great at looking after house plants. Once I came across some flowers made from Japanese Clay and noticed how natural and realistic they looked. I have seen flowers made from other materials, but the Japanese Clay gave them another dimension in my view. This got me thinking, I would love to have a Bonsai Tree made from Japanese Clay as a houseplant. It would give me the pleasure of seeing something beautiful while not having to worry about the daily care a real plant would need. I searched for while to buy a Bonsai tree made from Japanese clay, but everything I came across was rather disappointing. So I decided to make my own as a gift for my mum to mark the Lunar New Year, this is the biggest holiday in Vietnam and is one of the most important occasions for families, who come together to share this special day.
My ideal Bonsai Tree is a Bougainvillea which amazingly has five different colour flowers that bloom on the same plant. The five different colours represent each of the basic elements that form the universe; Yellow/Orange for earth; White for metal; Blue for water; Green for wood and Pink (or Red) for fire. The five colours coming together represent a full and complete life. That was my wish for mum, for her to have a life full of all the basic elements so she felt healthy and happy for the New Year. My mum helped me pick the stones from the area around our home, we used these as the base the roots of the tree form around. I always love strong trees which grow through rock.
Before I could begin making the Bonsai Tree, I needed to do some research. This involved finding out about the techniques and the tools I would need to complete the Bonsai Tree. I haven’t worked with Japanese Clay before, so it was a great learning experience. After I had completed my research and bought all the tools I needed, my studio looked like a small shop for Japanese Clay tools!
The process for making the flowers and leaves is a long and slow one. It involves milling the clay with a machine and then cutting out the shapes with a metal cutter. Once this is done, the clay is put on a mold to add the details of the veins. Finally, the clay is attached to zinc wires. I really enjoyed making the main stem as this part requires using large zinc wires and this process decides the overall shape of the tree. The power to mould the tree into the exact shape I wanted was magical.
I carefully attached each of the flowers and leaves to the branches using glue. It was great fun and gave me immense pleasure as I added each flower blossom to the tree. The satisfaction from watching the tree grow as I added to it, kept me going even though the task was difficult and required great care.
The final step in the process, after forming the main trunk of the tree and its branches, attaching the leaves and blossoms, was to paint and retouch the colour on each leaf and blossom. I used oil colours to complete this step.
And here is the final completed Bonsai Tree that I made for my mum. I remember during the process how my mum would give me encouragement after I completed each small step and kept me going. Each small step was a victory. My sister on the other hand was very sceptical. She knows that I am not a big fan of this type of handicraft. In my mind this was a form of encouragement too!
My mum placed the Bonsai Tree in our front room as a part of our decorations for the Lunar New Year, or Tet as we call it in Vietnam. Seeing my mum happy was the best gift she could have given me on this special day for our family.
I still have many ideas for bonsai sculptures and even some surreal ideas. I hope I’ll have time to make more sculptures using Japanese clay again.
Thank you for taking time to read this post, I hope you enjoyed it. It gives me great joy to be able to share my experiences with you all. If you enjoyed reading this, please share it with others.