Bonsai display tables are used to highlight the importance of the tree. Much like a pot, a stand should complement both your bonsai and the container -- not draw attention to itself.
Although this stand is large and detailed, the strength of the bonsai tree is still the first thing you see. Bonsai display “tables” come in many shapes, sizes and styles and usually lift the tree up for better viewing.
It is not unusual to see flat stones and finely finished boards or even metal used for stands.
Dark woods such as rosewood and walnut are traditional and are still some of the most desirable.
These guidelines are very basic:
Just as there are cascade pots, there are cascade tables. Like the containers, the stands are often tall to allow the “cascading” branch a place to fall.
Bunjin style bonsai are usually placed on round stands. Containers should never hang over the edge of any shape stand.
Shohin bonsai (very small) are frequently displayed in groups.
Thin slabs of burl and other fine woods can be appropriate for displaying a forest or windswept bonsai.
Accent and companion plants also deserve to be highlighted. In Japan, dark colored lacquer discs have been used for many years for this purpose. Today, there are artists creating glazed and fired ceramic circles, as well as thin pieces of wood with glossy paint and/or wax that work beautifully.
If you are involved in planning a formal exhibit, bonsai artist Attila Soos, in California, wrote an illustrated article on “The Role of the Stand” that may be especially helpful.
When members do not have traditional bonsai display tables, sometimes something as simple as a bamboo place mat has a better appearance than a bonsai sitting directly on a bench or table (and often very effective!)
Many artists have several stands and take more than one to the exhibit. It is a good idea to practice at home, however, what looks good at home, doesn’t always work in the show.
It is a common practice in many clubs to share bonsai display tables. It's wise to have your name or mark on the bottom for identification.
Don't have the perfect bonsai stand? Can't afford the fancy ones? A nicely shaped piece of cork may be the perfect answer. You can often find cork (available in packs) at craft and home improvement stores.
They can be easily shaped to fit your special tree. (Idea and photo from Bill Valavanis blog.)
As in any art form, there are controversies over what is right and wrong. Some tables are formal and very traditional, others are more modern and often unique.
By traditional standards, there are a few that (although fun) may seem bizarre. After all, I guess rules really are made to be broken.
Bonsai display tables and slabs are also perfect for displaying valued figurines, stones and even groups of items – such as small bonsai pots.
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