Ever January, Mas is a guest artist at the Bay Island Bonsai exhibit at the Lakeside Garden Center in Oakland. Boon Manakitivipart, our founder and teacher, gives Mas two six foot tables and no restrictions on what he can exhibit. In this setting, surrounded by some of the finest bonsai in the country, Mas feels the freedom to experiment in ways that he can’t at our suiseki club exhibits. He often uses challenging stones or settings, which would not fit within a traditional suiseki display. Instead of antique Japanese scrolls, Mas uses his own paintings to create the displays.
Mas and I found this stone in May of 2015. We had gone up to the Eel River early in the morning, the day before a club collecting trip. The particular spot we went has some excellent stone material, but is not suitable for a large group. It’s a small area and difficult to access, requiring a fairly steep, slippery, climb. On that day neither of us was feeling good, and having climbed down with difficulty, the stone seemed large and heavy, and maybe not very attractive.
Once we got home though Mas couldn’t get this stone out of his mind, he didn’t want to just leave it. It seemed like it might be one of those once-in-a-lifetime stones. So the next weekend we went back to get it. Naturally we couldn’t remember where we had found it, and wasted the morning at a different location. But luckily I had snapped a photo on my phone and, when I finally thought to check, the time-stamp told me right where to go. So after a nice picnic lunch, we finally made it back.
This time we both felt much better, the climb down was actually fairly easy, as long as we could hold a rope to keep us from slipping on the dry grass, and the stone isn’t really all that big – Mas carried it easily in a backpack up the hill.
The human mind seems to naturally see images in abstract patterns such as clouds – and stones, turning abstract pieces into figurative sculptures. When we first found this stone we immediately started calling it “The Mushroom”. Then after getting it home and watching it for a few days, Mas pointed out that it really looks like a black pine bonsai. After he set it upright we started seeing a dinosaur, or perhaps a “rising dragon”. Several viewers at the BIB exhibit started calling it “E.T.” As the stone ages over the next few years, and the black color on the neck starts to develop, I’ll be interested to see if other images emerge.