Homebase: Gloucester, Massachusetts
Title: New England Regional Director/Study Group Facilitator
How did you find your way into bonsai?
When I moved to Maine in 2009, as with any new location, I assessed what was available to me locally for entertainment and edification. As a former adventure camp director, the outdoors was always my playground, but I’d never been so fully immersed in it before. Foraging for fiddleheads, stinging nettles, ramps, seaweed, and joining the Maine Mycological Association to hunt for edible mushrooms, were all terrific opportunities. I canoed and fly-fished the rivers (as well as jumping off the bridges to swim in them). It wasn’t until 2012 that my attention turned to the contorted trees that grew out of the rock faces along the highway corridors. I wondered if these trees could be used for bonsai, with their contortions and tormented austerity. It turns out they could! Thus began my journey. After my divorce in 2015, I left Maine and said ‘goodbye’ to many of the activities that I’d enjoyed, but not bonsai. Bonsai I brought back to Massachusetts with me. Since then, my connection to bonsai has led me to places and people I’d never imagined.
What do you enjoy most about the art of bonsai?
I truly enjoy the challenge of bonsai. While this discipline can be as easy or difficult as practitioners wish it to be, I try to push new boundaries and challenges with my own (100+ trees). Bonsai is also entirely unique in that it exists at the intersection of art, culture, science/horticulture, and the natural world — how cool is that??
What do you hope to bring to the world of bonsai with Bonsai Bar?
There are many misconceptions about bonsai, and often these lead to negative experiences where people become discouraged after losing trees. Bonsai Bar offers a new inroad with the highest probability of success to avoid that outcome. In Japan, the practice of bonsai has been dying off for decades. By comparison, in the West, bonsai has been on the rise with a sharp upturn of interest during the pandemic. As the bonsai tradition is transcultural, beginning with Penjing in China, before disseminating to Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, North America, South America, Europe, India, parts of Africa, and beyond, each with its own regional style and species to work with, the entire world can be enriched through bonsai. In Bonsai Bar, we are doing our part, taking this artform out of enclosed gardens and bringing it out to the public. Not to mention, at the same time, offering people a seriously fun time! Putting smiles on the faces of others puts a smile on my own, and that’s why I love my job.
What is your background in?
My professional background is a mosaic of unusual and eclectic jobs. The most significant of these were the ten years of working with youth in the nonprofit world, and my employment(s) within the art world. The latter includes other roles within the bonsai industry, working as a gallery framer, a private art dealer/purchasing agent, and being on the staff of a prestigious auction house. Currently, I’m writing my capstone to finish my Master’s in Museum Studies from Harvard, which ties a bow around my undergraduate degrees of Anthropology and Art History. In the future, I would like to open my own museum which celebrates cultural exchange and eliminates segregated galleries and the unnecessary drawing of lines between people. This utopian vision would include the first ever universal survey museum courtyard with a bonsai garden in it(!). My dream will take years to come to fruition, and until then, I look forward to making new friends and bringing living art to our communities via the Bonsai Bar experience.