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GBS Workshop Information

Workshops are provided on a periodic basis by experienced club members on various topics of interest.

In addition, respected bonsai masters from all over the United States are invited to present workshops and demonstrations for the club.

Tips for Attending a Workshop


  1. Feel free to ask someone in the club to help you decide which of your trees to bring for the workshop.
  2. Plan to sit next to a more experienced club member at the workshop so you can ask for assistance.
  3. If you don’t have any tools/soil/pots yet, ask a more experienced club member to help you learn what to buy so you are getting the best quality for the best price.
  4. Come to the workshop even if you don’t know what to expect – it is a good way to learn!

General tips for participation in a workshop with a visiting artist.

Ten steps you can take to make a workshop more productive for you.

  1. Look at photos of trees in bonsai books and have an idea of what you might like your tree to look like.

  2. Bring the tools you will need - soil, wire, pots. If you are a beginner and don’t know what you should bring, ask a more experienced club member.

  3. If you are bringing your own tree, bring the best material you can. The better the material the more you will get out of the workshop.

  4. Clean your tree/pot up before the workshop. Get the weeds out and clean out the dead twigs and foliage from the inside. Check to see that you don’t have insects or disease in the tree.

  5. Get to the workshop on time or a little early and set up if you can. Have paper and pencil ready to take notes, sketch a design, make observations about your tree or take down the assigned tasks from the instructor. When the instructor comes around, tell him who you are. Give him the history of the tree, i.e. when you got it, who had it before, what you’ve done with it so far, etc. Tell the instructor what you see in the tree and let him know whether you will do the work there, or take it back and work on it at home.

  6. Communicate. Tell the instructor whether or not you want him/her to make any cuts on your tree, put on wire, etc. If you want to ask for advice, but do the work yourself, make that known. Ask about taking care of your tree after the workshop, depending on what was done to it.

  7. Do the work. Once the teacher has gone on to the next person and tree, it is your responsibility to perform the task you have been assigned by the instructor. You can listen to the discussion of the next tree but it is expected that you work on your tree so that the next time the instructor comes by you can take the tree to the next step in the styling process.

  8. Be courteous. When the instructor is talking, please keep other conversations down or take them outside the workshop. That way everyone can hear and learn while they work on their trees.

  9. After the workshop: Clean up your area, pack up your things but continue to listen or ask other questions that you couldn’t get in before.

  10. Take photos – keep records.

    Make it a practice to photograph your tree in its initial state. Then, after you have cleaned it up (as in point 4 previous) and before the workshop, take photos from different sides and angles of the tree. Put an ID number on a plastic tag in the photo so you can keep the tree straight in your records later. During the workshop, photograph the tree when significant work has been done and again at the end of the workshop. Continue the photos after the workshop as you refine the tree.

Adapted from an article by John Thompson from San Jose, California

John Thompson (JT) lives in San Jose, California. He loves to work with collected oaks, junipers and boxwoods. He has studied with Kathy Shaner for years and recently with Harunabu Tokita in Kasukabe, Japan. He is currently a member of the ABS board and is active in GSBF conventions and their Northern Collection at Lake Merritt in Oakland as well as clubs through-out northern California.