LEROY FUJII (June 11, 1925 – November 1, 1998)
RJB, Leroy and Elsie Andrade at Matsuri (February 1996 or 1997)
Things We Learned From Leroy
(an ongoing compilation of various members’ memories of our sensei.)
“Begin where you’re at…not where you want to be.”
“Learn from your trees: they are a reflection of you.”
“First you must know the rules — the underlying principles of your art —
and then you can break the rules.”
“When you go to a show or demonstration, don’t try to learn a lot of new things.
Just learn one new thing each time. Then come back and apply that until you know it well.”
“If you’re trying to make a cascade with a branch that has been growing more upright,
you can help it by tipping the container on its side for a while
so that nutrients flow easier to the tip of the cascade-branch-to-be.”
“If you have several cascades in your collection,
consciously try to redesign one or more so that they curve in a different direction:
we inadvertently tend to develop trees in a particular individual pattern
which can be related to which type of handedness we have.”
“Slant style – Trunk line should form an angle of about 45 degrees with the vertical.
The first branch should be located at about half the height of the tree.
For a tree slanting to the right, the first three branches go left, back, and right.”
“When you plant a forest, you should stand the trees in their relative positions
and pick the branches and their positions before planting.
The branches should progress in level from one tree to the next.”
[The lowest branch is on the shortest tree and the highest branch is on the tallest tree.]
“Natural taper is obtained faster by lifting up a long limb [to be the new apex]
rather than by lifting up a short limb.”
“To encourage back budding on a pine branch, prune back almost all of the foliage on the end.
Then put the branch down horizontal or even sloping slightly downward.
Then it will bud back toward the trunk. Do this in the spring.”
“The three most important things are: material, material, material.
It’s a lot easier if you start with something of interest that draws your eye in,
a tree with good rootage, thick trunk, quality, rather that spending a lot of time
trying to develop poor material, leggy, spindly, with weak or clumped roots.”
“Develop the existing material rather than attempt to bend branches to get movement.”
“When you see a bonsai, you should always look closely at how it was developed,
how it was created. Try to figure out what the artist was trying to convey.”
“First, keep the tree alive. Second, cut it back often.”
“Keep your tools in good repair. Clean them and respect them.”
“A good master is not doing his job if he’s not learning from his students.”
“The greatest compliment a master can receive
is when his trees cannot be told apart from those of some of his students.”
Leroy Fujii at a workshop, Spring 1975. (B&w version in Designing Dwarfs, pg. 51)