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Idaho Enterprise

Evening of Arts Spotlight—Brian Llewelyn

Brian poses with a ficus, fern bush, and Japanese Boxwood

The Evening of the Arts, sponsored by the Nell J. Redfield Memorial Hospital Foundation, will be held on Thursday, April 6 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  The event is both a chance to show off the artistic talents of several local artists, as well as to raise funds for the remodeling of the patient wings at the hospital.  An auction will be held for many donated lots, as well as some of the art on display.

This week, the Enterprise caught up with local bonsai practitioner Brian Llewelyn, who will be displaying some of his potted tree “living art” at the event.  The art of bonsai is a patient practice, in which a variety of trees are potted and shaped to reflect an artistically curated example of small scale horticulture.  As Lleweyn explains, “bon means ‘pot’ and sai means ‘planting’—so a bonsai is any potted plant.”  This means that the bonsai approach can be used on any tree, and Llewelyn uses a wide variety in his art, including pomegranate, ficus (latin for fig), schefflera, Japanese box wood, fern bush, maple, lavender star flower, and many more.

Where bonsai started as an art is something of a mystery.  “It depends on who you talk to,” Llewelyn said.  “They say that China is where most of it started.  Doctors would take clippings off of their plants and then need to care for the plants afterward to keep them going.”  

Many of Llewelyn’s plants are trimmings from originals, with many being trimmings from trees he has been working with for years.  “I really like the propagation part of it,” he said.

The process involves trimming some branches and starts to create interesting shapes in the “living art” of sculpting their growth.  “This one here,” Llewelyn said, “if I just let it grow would grow straight up, and it would also on maturity drop aerial roots down and continue to get massive.  To make the tree interesting, the S curve is introduced.  Along with that, you like to give a representation of age, and try to give it a natural appearance.  There’s also a balance to it, where most of them are dome shaped, if you get a little further down you can see there’s a layering to it.  Branch position is also developed using wires.”  While some trees do not take to wires very well, according to Llewelyn, most arrangements use wiring to shape the direction of the growth.

Llewelyn showed off a number of different examples of wiring that guide the tree’s growth into specific, but still organic forms.  There are a variety of styles in the art, including formal, broom style, clump style, and forests.  He will be attempting a forest style arrangement soon. 

Llewelyn has been involved in the art for many decades.  After serving in the Marine Corps, Llewelyn spent many years with the Burbank Police Department, retiring as a Sergeant.  During his time on the force, he “was working commercial auto theft in the San Fernando Valley and I went by a place called Kimura Bonsai Nursery and stopped in and took a look around and saw they were offering classes.  So, I had an interest but I really didn’t know a lot about it.  I took the classes and after getting to know Robert Pressler, the guy who owned it, I ended up joining the bonsai society down in Los Angeles.  When I moved here I probably had thirty trees…and the very first winter wiped them all out.”  After that setback, it took Llewelyn a while to get back into it, but ever since he did, he’s been going strong.

Many of the trees he is working on, he’s been working on for years.  Despite the sometimes inclement weather in Malad, Llewelyn has adjusted to the needs of a number of local and regional trees that require colder winter temperatures to mature.  Many of them were under snow outside his in-home nursery.  “The winds can be a problem,” he said.  “Of course the cats don’t help.  And the deer like to come by and nibble every now and then.  But it usually goes pretty well.”

Along with the tree, a display will also involve a companion plant, such as a fern, and another art form called suiseki, which involves a complementary rock formation.

Brian Llewelyn will be showing off a selection of some of his favorite displays, and educating those interested on the art itself at the Evening of the Arts.

Other artists featured at the event will include Patrick Werk (who is involved in leatherworking), Lad Neilsen (who creates metalwork sculptures), Joan Hawkins (who is an oil painter), the 4th and 5th grade classes of Malad Elementary School, as well as Malad Middle and High School art students. 

Confections will be created and provided by the Malad High School Culinary Arts students.

Baskets for auction have been donated by a number of local businesses, organizations, and families, and include such things as trips, food coupons, household items, vehicle accessories, art and decorations, gardening supplies, and other unique and interesting gifts and surprises. 

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