One more prize awarded for the 2015 Artisans Cup


We couldn’t have asked for a more seamless, successful inaugural exhibition for The Artisans Cup. For being the first of its kind, the weekend went extremely well thanks to the tireless efforts of the incredible team of people who made it happen. Thank you once again to those involved.

However, it came to our attention this week that an oversight had been made in the competition’s final score tally. Amy Blanton’s Rocky Mountain Juniper was awarded 3rd Prize with 50 points, and it was discovered later that the same score had been marked for Konnor Jenson’s Japanese White Pine. Due to this oversight, Mr. Jenson was not considered in a tie-breaking decision that would otherwise have been conducted by jurors Michael Hagedorn and Ryan Neil. 

In response, we have decided to award third prize position along with the accompanying award certificate, plaque, and $3,000 purse to both Mr. Jenson and Ms. Blanton. Congratulations to them both, as well as all of the exhibitors who poured their hearts and souls into making the inaugural Artisans Cup the incredibly special event that it was!

Ryan & Chelsea Neil

Analyzing The Artisans Cup: Evolving Methodologies for Judging Bonsai

It’s been nearly three weeks since the inaugural Artisans Cup, and we’ve had ample time to hear people’s feedback and process the event in its entirety. Chelsea and I poured our hearts into doing everything we possibly could have to make The Artisans Cup a success as an exhibition of art and a benchmark of quality that American bonsai can build on. This is not to say The Artisans Cup was in any way a finished product, a capstone achievement, or a normative prescription for how bonsai exhibitions should look. Instead, our aim with The Artisans Cup was to raise the level of thought and consideration with which we approach the art form, and to present the elevated product to the broader public in a manner that helped define bonsai as art. 

There are a lot of discussions to be had about each aspect of the exhibition and the conversation it’s generated. However, the aspect that seems to have evoked the greatest response, and perhaps has the potential to impose the greatest sway on western bonsai’s evolution, is that of exhibition judging and its components. Following the exhibition, Dan Yamins, a bonsai enthusiast who attended the exhibition, offered to share his feedback on the scoring results with us. Dan holds a PhD in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University, and had some very interesting insight into the varying methods of judging calculation and some potential advice for how The Artisans Cup could further improve its judging methodology. We are excited by Dan’s analysis and we sincerely appreciate his willingness to offer constructive insight.

Dan Yamins currently works as a Postdoctoral Associate at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Excitingly for the west coast bonsai community, Dan accepted a professorship position at Stanford and will be moving to California in September 2016. In future Artisans Cup exhibitions, to further evolve and improve our judging methodology, we plan to adopt the z-scoring method that he advocates. It’s through this continued expansion of collaborative knowledge and technique that American bonsai will advance and improve. 

Ryan Neil

Download Dr. Yamins' Analysis

The Results Are In!

Our greatest thanks to all of the exhibitors, your tremendous work helped to make The Artisans Cup the success that it was. We are thrilled with the response from the bonsai community and the attendees experiencing bonsai of this calibre for the first time. 

First Place:
Randy Knight's Rocky Mountain Juniper

Second Place:
Tim Priest's Sierra Juniper


Third Place:
Amy Blanton's Rocky Mountain Juniper (with Mike Blanton in memoriam)

Best Companion Piece:
Randy Knight's Companion Plant with Coastal Redwood

The scores from our judges as well as our judges rubric for scoring trees are shared below. 



If you didn't pick up a printed event program — download the PDF here which contains the tree details that correspond with the tree numbers on the judges scores. 

Sponsor Feature: Bonsai Mirai

Mirai is a premier full-service American bonsai nursery and school located just outside of Portland, Oregon. The secluded garden and facilities are overseen and operated by Bonsai Professional Ryan Neil. Through his rigorous six-year apprenticeship under world-renowned Bonsai Master Mr. Masahiko Kimura (of Saitama prefecture, Japan), Ryan obtained a deep and refined knowledge of the history, practice and art of bonsai. With an honest approach and American innovation, Ryan is now pushing the limits of what bonsai can be.

Bonsai Mirai

We create high-end, finished bonsai trees; we curate public and private bonsai collections; and we educate the most dedicated bonsai practitioners in the world.

Mirai — We create trees that connect you

Close to Portland, OR

I've practiced bonsai since he was 14 years old. I conceptualized Mirai to be the resource that I  always wished for as a young bonsai enthusiast. It is an incubator where the most innovative, highly-skilled bonsai is being created. It is also an educational resource for the most dedicated individuals who, regardless of whether they’ve practiced bonsai for 2 months or 20 years, are willing to start from the ground up to build a solid foundation of horticultural knowledge, design savvy, and technical proficiency.  

The Artisans Cup is the most exciting outgrowth of Mirai that I'm currently focused on. After The Cup, I'll shift my attention to other endeavors that will continue to innovate the practice of American Bonsai. Stay tuned!

I'm not only sponsoring The Artisans Cup, it’s my brainchild! 

We are all looking for some way to slow down and reconnect, with each other, with the earth. Bonsai forces you to be patient, to slow down to the pace of the trees. Bonsai is an art form that entices us to reflect on and foster our symbiotic relationship with the natural world. It is also a generational practice that transcends the boundaries of time and culture.  

Patron of American Bonsai: Jerry Curtis

Jerry Curtis was born and raised in Rochester, NY.  He served as a combat medic in Vietnam and served 17 years in the Army Medical Corps. After he was discharged from the military, Jerry moved to Oregon and worked for the state in the mental health field for 14 years before retiring. Today, Jerry lives in Salem, Oregon with his partner of 17 years, Jan Campbell. He is active in the bonsai club in Salem, and served as a board member for years. In addition to working on his trees, Jerry is an avid stamp collector, and enjoys building classic military models such as tanks and other armored vehicles. 

Here's a recent interview we had with Jerry to ask him more about his passion for American Bonsai.

Favorite tree species.
Trident Maple because it is a sturdy tree and there are lots of shapes and forms that can be brought on it. 

How did you get started in bonsai?
I saw a bonsai tree on display by the Salem Bonsai Club about ten years ago. I attended a meeting, and I’ve been hooked ever since. 

Most influential mentors
Richard Johnson (Salem, Oregon). I’ve attended his bonsai classes, and he has become a close friend and mentor.

Why are you passionate about bonsai?
Not only is it a form of art, it is living art. You can actually watch it develop and grow into something that you’re creating.

Most important lesson I’ve learned through practicing bonsai is…
Patience. It takes time to create and form a tree into how you want it to look. It’s a long process, sometimes it takes up to ten years.

What do you hope for the future of bonsai?
I think it would be nice to see the expansion of bonsai as it touches the younger generation. Mostly individuals involved in bonsai are middle-aged on up. It would be nice to see the younger generation get involved, from teenage years. What a neat idea it would be to have a merit badge for bonsai in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts?

Why did you want to become a Patron of American Bonsai? 
In order for the idea of the art of bonsai to become successful, people have to support it and get involved. Unfortunately, not enough people have been involved in bonsai to this point, and it’s a shame. So, I decided to set the example. 

American Bonsai is…
an art form that really needs to be rediscovered and brought to life. 

What are you most excited about for The Artisans Cup?
I think it will be interesting to observe how the judges are going to judge the different types of trees. What do they look for? If you take five judges and show them a tree, each one of them will come up with a different answer.

The Artisans Cup is made possible by the generous support of Patrons of American Bonsai. 

Mirai Silent Auction Online

The Mirai Silent Auction is an Artisans Cup-related event that achieves one of the exhibition's primary goals: to elevate American bonsai. As we say at Mirai, the high tide raises all ships. So, in one fell swoop with this auction, we're going to infuse hundreds of incredible trees into the American bonsai community's hands. Some of these trees are very hard for us to let go, but we trust that their next owners will love them immeasurably. 

The auction is functioning both in-person and online. Online bidding will go live at Noon (PST) on Monday 9/21. On Friday 9/25, fifty lucky individuals will be bussed to Mirai to experience the close of the auction in person: browsing our world-class garden, nibbling on some pastries while sipping mimosas, and bidding on trees. There will be a handful of amazing trees that only the in-person auction participants will get to bid on. The auction will officially close on Friday 9/25 at 11AM (PST), and winners will be notified shortly after. 

Can't make it to the Mirai Tour? No worries! You can bid on the fantastic bonsai from the comfort of your own home.  

How it works: 
1. Register HERE!
2. Enter your contact and payment information into the appropriate fields
3. You will receive a confirmation e-mail and text message with a link to the Silent Auction page where you can browse and place bids
4. Place your bid on a selected item, with an option of setting maximum bids
5. You will be notified on your smartphone if you have been outbid