'The Great Wave'
Updated: Dec 22, 2019
A couple years ago, I purchased a fantastic Rocky Mountain juniper from Backcountry Bonsai. The tree was collected by Dan Wiederrecht, and thankfully for the sake of provenance he took some photos after the collection.
Some time after it was stabilized in its box, it made its way to Michael Hagedorn's garden, where I purchased it. After a few years of undisturbed growth, the tree was ready to be styled in the fall of 2017. I created an initial design and concept that fall, and repotted it the following spring in 2018 to start reducing the root mass.
2017 - before any work, untouched since collection
2017 - after initial design
This winter while performing regular maintenance of cleaning the deadwood and polishing the live-vein, I discovered a striking resemblance in the tree to a famous art piece...
First edition print of Hokusai's Great Wave off Kanagawa, in the Met Museum collection
I was completely shocked when I saw it... but very clearly it was hiding in the bones of the tree. I had no intention of redesigning this tree from its original styling, but after making this connection I had no choice. Hokusai's Great Wave has been a favorite of mine since many years ago when I saw two different copies from its first edition printing, one it the Art Institute of Chicago and the other in the Met Museum in New York.
before redesign - Hokusai's Great Wave revealed in the deadwood
After redesign and new front choice, inspired by Hokusai
Right away I set about redesigning the tree to the new front, and thankfully most of the branches were near where they needed to be from its original styling. I see not only the entire print captured in the final product, but the flow of the tree feels like the wave itself. I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome. When it was collected the Backcountry guys nicknamed the tree Sharky & The Great White, but after this design change (and with their permission of course) I'm naming this tree 'The Great Wave'.
And although it's heavily inspired by the Hokusai print that I love so dearly, the irony is that this tree's age predates Hokusai's famous masterpiece by about 450 years...