|2010 ABS Joshua Roth New Talent Contest|
By Harold Johnson Jr
Judges for the 2010 Joshua Roth New Talent Bonsai Competition select you as a finalist. Step one conquered. You enter the competition room and locate a table where you set up your tools. There are still a few minutes before the competition begins so you look at each of the junipers in the blind draw for the competition material. Tree number two is the one you like the least. Of course, you draw tree number two.
Oh well, you have found the remote site of the 2010 Competition, the MidAtlantic Bonsai 2010 Societies Spring Festival in Kerhonksen, NY (step two conquered) so might as well see what you can do with the juniper.
That test of confidence is what Geoffery Holmes, the competition winner, endured at the 2010 Joshua Roth Competition. By the end of the day, four experienced bonsai artists and the conference attendees voted the design and execution of bonsai skills as demonstrated by Holmes was the best of the nine finalists. Confidence rewarded.
Geoff Holmes, from Sheffield, MA, is a maker of quality custom furniture. Photographs of several pieces are in homes featured in "Architectural Digest". When asked, "How did you discover the art of bonsai?" Holmes answered, "My grandmother had 'mallsai' she tried to keep alive indoors-but really it was when I saw an article in the Smithsonian magazine on bonsai featuring Chase Rosade, Dan Robinson and Larry Jackel." He went on to say that he was amazed by what Dan did and the whole idea of adding age to the trees, especially the use of dead wood to make a tree look ancient.
Geoff has experience adding age to his custom furniture by reading the wood grain so transferring that experience was easy. Bonsai is a living art form, and learning how to survive trees over the winter was an early challenge to overcome. His unheated garage is the key. His collection consists of a large number of trees in some stage of development, including tropical species and, of course his favorite, junipers. Their bendable branches and relatively quick development are desirable features.
Geoff created his first real bonsai in a workshop with Mike Novak of Cape Cod Bonsai Studio. While it did not survive, bonsai had hooked him. He read an online article by Andy Rutledge about Nick Lenz and vowed to meet this character. Learning that Nick would conduct a workshop at a Bonsai Society of Greater Hartford show, he joined the club and took the workshop. That was seven years ago and many more hours with Nick. By the way, that workshop tree is still thriving.
Geoff is giving back to bonsai serving as vice-president and event coordinator for the Bonsai Society of Greater Hartford. In the future, he hopes to share his bonsai knowledge and skills with others and dreams that it would become possible to have a full time career making bonsai stands, creating bonsai and teaching others.
He says that he has adopted Colin Lewis's rule that if you buy a tree it should be better than your current trees and then you should sell three you currently own. (How many of us should practice Colin's rule?)
Geoff says that he is fortunate to have an understanding wife who enjoys gardening, appreciates the art of bonsai and endures his frequent stops at bonsai nurseries and garden centers.
In addition to receiving the title of "Best New Bonsai Talent of 2010," his efforts with the juniper resulted in winning the "Peoples' Choice Award" as well.
Named runner-up new talent was Brian Kelly of Dalton, MA. Finalists included one each from Canada, Florida, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Three finalists reside in Massachusetts, forming the most diverse group in several years. The bonsai artists providing comments and votes on the display of design and bonsai skills were a diverse group: Charles Ceronio, South Africa; Michele Andolofo, Italy; Michele Phaneuf, Canada; and Jim Doyle, United State. Each finalist received the complete comments of the judges in order to help them continue their bonsai development.
As the first place award winner Geoff was asked who he wanted to study with, he said Ryan Neil. Ryan has recently concluded six years of study with Masahiko Kimura who is referred to as the "Magician."
Turning a bit philosophical in the interview, Geoff says he has always liked to work with bonsai so it has not seemed like work. "Bonsai has seemed like a natural progression for me, almost like something I did in a former life maybe. I really like to bring out the best in a tree. I would like to learn more about designing great bonsai. Thanks for the opportunity to show off what I can do."