WALTER PALL, The Emperor of Bonsai Europe says …. There are five trends that are currently happening in the world of bonsai. Also, there is a paradigm shift.
Some time ago, Walter Pall had to undergo bypass surgery. Now he’s in the recovery process, all went was fine. “I have not had a heart attack, I was only approaching one. Now I’m back home and able to work in the bonsai garden,” says Walter Pall.
Walter Pall was born in Austria in 1944, married since 1968 with his wife Hanna, have one son. He have done bonsai as a hobby from 1979. In 1990 he retired from a good management job in electronic industry to only do bonsai.
Awards and titles mean almost nothing for him. He has won numerous national and international awards, probably more than one hundred. But they are only a side effect. He did not do bonsai for winning or award. He did not do bonsai for money.
“Someone who knows how much money how much money they have, absoulutly he has is not rich,” says Walter Pall which currently has about 1,000 trees bonsai, either already finished or semi-finished.
Well, here’s my conversation with Walter Pall who now lives in Munich, Germany:
After experiencing health problems a little while ago, you are still going to travel to give lessons on the art of bonsai?
I had very serious heart surgery three moths ago my life was in high danger but I survived. By now I am in very good shape comparatively. In many respects I can work just as I did before. I am still not supposed to carry heavy trees, but I do that more and more already. My physical shape is at 90 % of what it was before. I expect it to be over my former shape in three months.
My mental shape is very bright and I am looking forward to many things. I can drive around in Europe already and will do just as I did before. I am allowed and wiling to fly even long distance and I will certainly do it. My life will be just what it used to be very soon. I already can do a one-man show full over a weekend from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening, as I have don so two weeks ago with great success. I am in almost better shape that I used to because my blood flows much easier now. It is my plan to continue traveling for at least ten more years.
How do you think about an idea or trend bonsai in the world, today?
Today I see several trends in the bonsai world. Mind you, I can really only speak about European and North America where I have extensive hands-on experience.
Trend 1 : Bonsai is more and more done by younger people (20 to 35 years old) in Europe, not so much, but still in North America and very much so in South America. This compares drastically to the age of bonsai people in Japan as I am told. One reason for this trend may well be the development of the internet as the main communication line.
Trend 2 : Bonsai has become much more international, crossing boundaries in Europe. At all major and even many minor events one sees people from many countries , which was not the case at all only fifteen years ago. Again I account this to communication being much better now. While Americans do not go to Europe in large numbers many are well educated about what is going on there.
Trend 3 : More folks go for quality than before. While the mass of bonsai people are amateur gardeners with not much ambition there are many more now who aspire to higher quality in Europe at least; not so much in America, but still I see the same trend there. As a consequence many collections and exhibits are much better than they used to be.
Trend 4 : More European trees are used in Europe and more American trees in America to make bonsai. It has become a strong trend to work with indigenous material. While Asian trees can still be imported into Europe they are not as popular as they used to be. In America to import of trees from Asia is quite painful and people work much more with indigenous material than they used to.
Trend 5 : Modern bonsai ( meaning very thick trees with lots of deadwood and rounded plastic-like crowns) are mainstream in Europe and becoming so in America. These trees in many cases are grotesque but this does not bother the general crowd. It does not bother them YET. There is also a trend to not do stereotype bonsai anymore and contrary to mainstream do trees which look like real trees instead of like plastic statues. As I am told this is also in some quarters the case in Japan. This may well be a paradigm shift.
Previously, you still make a bonsai? Or just taking care of bonsai that you have created?
I make bonsai like I always used to. I do not make bonsai to sell but just to enjoy myself. So my collection is still growing. While folks at my age (69 very soon) are down-sizing their collection or giving up totally I still purchase and trade-in outstanding trees to work on myself. I plan to continue like this for more than ten years from now.
Life is possible without bonsai but it does not make much sense.
What’s your philosophy in Bonsai?
I don’t style bonsai, I style trees. A bonsai is a little tree in a container which has a soul. That’s my job to find the right material and to make the souls shine.
What’s your favorite tree to make a Bonsai? Why?
Any tree that is on my workbench. Many big names in the West do very little with broadleaved trees. I do a lot. About 60 % of my better trees are broadleaved.
What bonsai style do you like? Cascade, windsweapt, mayogi, chokkan or deadwood?
Whatever style the material wants to be. I do everything.
Please tell me if you have a unique story in your hobby of bonsai moment
I explained in depth an oak tree of mine to an audience of sculptors and painters – not bonsai people. In the end a man said “Mr. Pall, what you are saying sounds sort of arrogant. You give us the feeling that you believe that YOU have styled that tree”. I say “thank you so much I have worked on that tree for twenty years just for someone to say exactly that.”
IWAN GAJAH I bursabonsai.com