By Jose Guillen
Ken Teh, a bonsai artist, prefers to be referred to as a bonsai enthusiast. The art of bonsai is growing a variety of dwarfed ornamental trees or shrubs in small shallow pots or trays by selective pruning. Similar to other art forms, it follows design principles.
Teh’s involvement with bonsai began 30 years ago. In addition to being a bonsai artist, adjunct professor in the Modern Language Department at East Los Angeles College, Teh is also an oriental brush painter. He is certified and a long time member of the Golden State Bonsai Federation in California or GSBF, which promotes the art of bonsai.
The depth of Tehs’ experience is impressive. Throughout his childhood, enjoying watching his father as a Hobbyist, might have been the spark, but it’s the hands-on experience that creates a path. GSBF currently maintains three bonsai collections. One is in Northern California at the Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt, another in Southern California at the Huntington Botanical Gardens and one located at the Shinzen Japanese Friendship Garden in Fresno.
Teh’s work is interesting and well regarded in the bonsai community. He is often hired by Bonsai clubs and organizations to teach the art of Bonsai. He is a frequent presenter at The Huntington Botanical Gardens. Conventions like “Bonzaia-Thon” and he is part of the annual convention which gives “bonsai enthusiast” an opportunity to watch bonsai masters at work. He frequently does workshops and demonstrations at public events. Teh is dedicated and hopes to inspire others to shared his enthusiasm for bonsai.
He began this endeavor early in his life, although in the beginning it took some time due to his constant moving.
Given his unusual beginnings and his current and longtime involvement, developing with American approach in comparison to the Japanese masters. “I do not think there was any single event that cemented my enthusiasm for bonsai. I had a hobby that I enjoyed and wanted to learn more about it. But I move around a lot, it was difficult to practice until having a yard,” said Ken.
The approach is different for everyone. While there are rules to follow, each tree is different. You must observe the design of the tree in order to see what there is. There are many factors to consider, but the tree is a living thing. The more involved you get with bonsai, the more you will discover.
“One thing will lead to another and it keeps going that way. You must connect to it and work with it to reach its full potential, which is changing constantly. It’s a good path to mediation,” said Teh.
His work will be featured at The Huntington Botanical Gardens during March. Visit http://www.gsbfconvention. org for further education or recreational purpose here. For more information you can visit http://www.gsbfbonsai.org/ default.asp.