Art museum displays bonsai tree exhibition


Trees fill the IU Art Museum Sunday afternoon as part of the Art of Bonsai exhibit. Briana Petty Buy Photos

Members of the community were able to view the work of local bonsai artists and learn about the background and care of the trees.

Scott Yelich, owner of Eagle Creek Bonsai and president of the Indianapolis Bonsai Club, performed a tree-shaping demonstration and spoke about his experiences during a presentation Saturday afternoon.

Yelich first became interested in bonsai after watching “The Karate Kid” and has worked as a bonsai artist for the last 22 years.

He said he frequently made mistakes at the beginning of his career, such as trying to grow outdoor trees indoors.

“I was killing stuff right and left when I first started out,” he said.

He said he eventually improved his skills and found a mentor who specialized in tropical trees, his current specialty.

Bonsai is traditionally a Japanese art form but is currently practiced in many countries around the world.

“The Japanese are really known for holding it and perfecting it, but it has really gone beyond Japan,” Yelich said.

“One of the nice things about doing this in America is we get a little taste of this and a little taste of that, but we get a mix of styles and cultures that culminate into one.”

Bonsai trees can range in size, type and shape, but are all classified as bonsai because they are trees in a pot.

Yelich said there are several ways artists shape the trees.

It is mainly done through the use of temporary training wire.

The length of time a wire stays on a tree depends on how fast the tree grows, and it can range from a few months to several year.

Not every tree is ideal, so artists frequently have to adapt to a certain tree’s conditions.

“Sometimes we have to bend the bonsai rules a bit and think about things like balance and positive and negative space,” Yelich said.

While it is possible to perform a bonsai tree shaping on many types of trees, some are easier than others.

Yelich said certain types, such as sycamores, are not usually successful.

He also discussed general guidelines for bonsai pots and said it is important that a pot does not overshadow a tree.

“You want the pot to add to the visual appeal of the tree, not distract from it,” he said.

As someone who looks at hundreds of bonsai trees every day, Yelich said he enjoys when trees get individual attention.

“To single them out and have people look at them and appreciate them, it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Follow reporter Rachel Osman on Twitter @rachosman.

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