Pots and other colours in the display


A formal and traditional Japanese display using the pot colours to underline the beauty of the season, still adding peace and simplicity to the display. The top tree is a traditional conifer with a red-brown unglazed pot. The secondary tree at the right with its green glazed colour keeps colours to the display both down toned and not very expressive. The other trees fill in and supplements the two leading bonsai in tone and colours. Formal set up but still working well. Making these displays using more than two bonsai often demands some conifers and earth coloured unglazed pots to tone down the expression.

With base in the Japanese way of  displaying Shohin bonsai, are here some guidelines for displaying. Conifers are always placed on top of the shohin rack by tradition, and because it is wanted to show the strongest tree at that position. Conifers are considered as strong trees and conifers are best supported by brown or earth toned pots unglazed.

An example of a classic shohin display made by Mark Cooper (UK) for the All Japan Shohin Bonsai Association photo competition at Gafu-ten.

Using an earth coloured pot/conifer will add peace to that position, and underline the importance of the top tree looking stable, strong and peaceful. The strongest tree should also bring peace to a display using several trees. The assistant tree that always expresses the beauty of the season (fruiting/flowering e.g.), has a glazed coloured pot underlining the beauty of the flowers/berries/leaves e.g.). This pot (in a perfect world), is coloured but not overdone. Blue colour underlines red berries/green leaves e.g.

The substituting bonsai within the rack may play more vibrantly with the colours at the fruiting/flowering/deciduous trees. Because the other trees add the calmer feeling they will tone down the effect of the vibrant colours used. These also can be toned down by using another conifer with an earth coloured and unglazed pot.
Depending on how expressive or formal the artist wants her/his display, the trees with fitting pots are mixed, as well as the use of conifers and expressive fruits or flowers e.g.

Advantages of using this way of selecting pots for the trees by traditional choice gives a possibility to control the effect of the display and avoid a Tivoli coloured mess, that neglects the peace and simplicity wanted from the display.
Of course the clever artist will succeed bending and twisting these guidelines set up, but as a basic guideline it will make a more controlled expression possible.

A much more lively display, avoiding the unglazed earth toned pots/conifers. Possible, therefore fewer trees are shown in order not to overdo the colourful display and keep peace and simplicity. No conifers as normally seen, but a bright feast of the season. In the typical display with two bonsai and an accent (or other object) often the need of a conifer is not necessary, so more freedom is available without making a colourful mess so to speak.