Repotting Season – Bonsai as an Aesthetic Apply – Ideas on the Artwork of Bonsai: Artistree Bonsai Weblog

It’s this cycle, this rhythm of stress after which restoration and the tree’s “reminiscence” of those occasions, as embodied by its type, that results in the creation of nice, previous bonsai…

Walter Scott

The altering of the seasons alerts to bonsai practitioners that it’s time to carry out a sure set of actions on our bushes. Late winter/early spring is the beginning of repotting season. Repotting is among the most labor-intensive actions in all of bonsai, an artwork type full of labor intensive actions.

Primarily based on one’s particular location and assets (comparable to gaining access to a temperature-controlled surroundings, a greenhouse, for instance), the repotting course of has a) been ongoing for quite a few weeks, b) solely not too long ago began, or c) should be weeks away. It due to this fact appeared to be an acceptable time to contemplate repotting for example of the work that the bonsai artwork type, the apply of bonsai, requires of us, and the way we expertise it. 

Omiya Bonsai Artwork Museum

The Expertise of the Bonsai Practitioner

Take into account how a lot time we spend really admiring a well-groomed bonsai (an aesthetic object). This isn’t to say that we don’t take pleasure in our bushes between reveals or reveals. It’s simply to level out that more often than not we spend interacting with our bushes is, nicely, work. Nonetheless, the alternatives we make whereas working are made so as to advance the tree artistically, aesthetically. Subsequently, doing bonsai is an aesthetic apply. In different phrases, once we work on bushes we’re having (and hopefully having fun with)  an aesthetic expertise. John Dewey, an American thinker and educator, explored these concepts in his e book Artwork as Expertise, initially printed in 1934. (1)

Omiya Bonsai Artwork Museum

Bonsai as an Aesthetic Apply

Based on Dewey, the idea of the aesthetic-artistic human expertise is rooted in on a regular basis experiences. On the most simple stage, he describes a residing organism interacting with its surroundings; the organism experiences starvation for instance, after which finds meals, efficiently fulfilling its want.  All organisms search to seek out equilibrium with their surroundings. 

People have experiences the entire time as we work together with our surroundings. Dewey considers the experiences that one undertakes with a selected objective in thoughts, and that then end in a decision of some form, to be aesthetic experiences.  For Dewey, such decision is related to the identical emotion that one feels when appreciating an paintings or an attractive pure scene, it’s an aesthetic feeling. Are there actions that aren’t appropriate for aesthetic appreciation, that don’t produce an aesthetic feeling? Dewey would say that actions which can be carried out in an incomplete, “slapdash” method or these carried out with an detached perspective,  with out consideration for the standard of the result, will not be aesthetic. (1) 

Omiya Bonsai Artwork Museum

The experiences that bonsai practitioners endure whereas caring for his or her bushes can all produce aesthetic emotions. Actions comparable to partial defoliation, department choice, buying soil, sustaining instruments, fertilizing bushes, monitoring for pests, selecting a pot, deciding on a show desk, even watering, are all able to being aesthetic experiences. Repotting is a type of actions.


Repotting is a crucial course of. It’s best carried out at a sure time, typically not of our personal selecting, and it may be time-consuming. Repotting is  related to anxiousness for many people as a result of, together with the necessity to repot our bushes inside a selected timeframe, the way in which through which repotting is carried out determines the progress of the tree for the foreseeable future, assuming that it survives. Keep in mind that repotting disrupts the concord that the residing organism (our tree on this case) has achieved inside its surroundings (the pot or container). After all, the explanation we’re repotting is as a result of we imagine that the tree will quickly lose the equilibrium it has established inside its container because of impending soil particle collapse or compaction, root development, and so forth.

Omiya Bonsai Artwork Museum

The act of repotting a bonsai consists of a kind of frequent set of actions (sifting soil, mixing, cleansing pots, maybe selecting new pots, releasing the tree, trimming roots, separating roots, cleansing and raking the floor soil, trimming roots once more, making ready the pot, including soil, arranging the roots, including extra soil and chopsticking, securing the tree, including some sort of high dressing, watering completely, offering aftercare).  It’s the means through which one performs these actions, the preparation beforehand, the care and a spotlight to element whereas working, that determines whether or not the expertise of repotting is an aesthetic expertise; i.e., one which preserves and promotes the tree’s well being and vigor, one which advances the tree in direction of the aesthetic objectives, the design, that we’ve got chosen for it.

With respect to at least one’s aesthetic objectives when engaged on a tree, Dewey writes [regarding the making of any object] that, “the doing or making is creative when the result’s of such a nature that [the object’s] qualities as perceived [by the viewer] have managed the…manufacturing [of the object]. The aesthetic expertise…is thus seen to be inherently linked to the expertise of constructing.” Whereas engaged on their bushes, then, bonsai artists should undertake and preserve an appreciation for the expertise of the viewer of the tree; in doing so, the practitioner undergoes one more type of aesthetic expertise. (1)

Omiya Bonsai Artwork Museum


If the tree is wholesome and our aftercare is sweet, then the tree recovers from repotting, grows new roots and foliage, and begins to occupy the container as soon as once more because it regains power. A brand new state of equilibrium within the container is ultimately reached. This course of is repeated all through the lifetime of the tree, and never simply in response to repotting. Leaf pruning, department pruning, responses to excessive chilly, excessive warmth, drying winds, insect assaults, and any variety of occasions can disturb the equilibrium that the tree strives to attain. 

It’s this cycle, this rhythm of stress after which restoration and the tree’s “reminiscence” of those occasions, as embodied by its type, that results in the creation of nice, previous bonsai by the hands of nature or aided by our personal palms. The Japanese idea of mochikomi refers back to the high quality possessed by a bonsai after years of cultivation in a container, present process many cycles of wiring, root pruning, repotting, department coaching,  and loving care by a talented artist. [Literal translation Mochi= to carry and komi = into or inside. “…the bonsai appears to meld with the pot, it appears to belong where it is”- Bjorn Bjorholm, podcast].(2)

This cycle of bonsai apply additionally adjustments the artist. The method of residing, throughout which we work together with our surroundings and the surroundings in flip acts on us, results in an accumulation of expertise. Dewey wrote, “…issues and occasions skilled cross and are gone, However one thing of their which means and worth is retained as an integral a part of the self.” (1)


I wrote beforehand about appreciating a longtime bonsai as an aesthetic object, an paintings.  I’ve tried to point out right here that “doing” bonsai gives the practitioner with a number of further alternatives to expertise an aesthetic feeling whereas performing the frequent actions required to each preserve a bonsai and to advance it artistically. We will then see that these actions of seasonal bonsai apply will not be mundane or routine. After we strategy them rigorously, performing full actions, and with the standard of the result in thoughts, we can’t solely recognize them extra however even really feel exhilarated as we carry out these aesthetic actions.


  1. Dewey, John. Artwork as Expertise (paperback) TarcherPerigee; 1st version (July 5, 2005)
  2. Bjorholm, Bjorn. Mochikomi, Bonsai Community Podcast, YouTube,
  3. Scott, Walter. Appreciating Bonsai as Aesthetic Objects, Artistreebonsai.weblog, 2023.

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