My interview on Europeanbonsai Forum

Nicola Crivelli. Switzerland. Kitora’s Bonsai School

by willbaddeley » Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:08 am
Chris R asked Nicola Crivelli if he would be kind enough to spare some thoughts to our questions and Nicola kindly accepted

Nicola lives in Switzerland where he teaches bonsai through his school.


1) What is your favourite species of tree to work with, & why?

I do not have a real essence favourite, but I really like working with junipers (Shimpaku), which are one of the species that are most generous and quick to develop in the bonsai world.
I love the hardwood species that are among the most difficult and time consuming to work with.
In recent years, I’m passionate about firs, an essence that lives very well in my climate zone but that takes a lot more time in his training bonsai.

(2) How do you view the current state of bonsai in your country, & that of other countries – are there any other countries outside of Japan That Particularly stand out in the approach / standard to you?

My country is Switzerland, but bonsaisticamente attend more of the world of Italian bonsai, having attended the School of Art Bonsai in Italy. A school that still comes under Japanese teachers (Hideo Suzuki Keizo and Ando) and follows the path of traditional Japanese bonsai.
Europe at the moment is very strong in bonsai and still see with pleasure that some ‘all nations are returning to the model of Japanese bonsai.

(3) Is there any Particular piece of work that you are most proud of, & what is / was it?

My fir yamadori gave me a lot of satisfaction. I probably have more “imported” trees in my garden and I do not particularly like the large bonsai. I am more in favour of shohin and chuhin (Small and medium).
In fact one of bonsai that I care about most is a small maple size shohin I grow since 1988 and was practically created by seed, a plant which by the way I have not yet shown. It’ss because the hardwood cultivation times are much longer.


(4) How did you discover bonsai, & what keeps you interested?

Fixed my meeting with the bonsai in 1988, perhaps a few years earlier, it was the golden age of the bonsai in Italy, there was a time in Italy in the eighties, they were three or four magazines devoted to bonsai on sale now on sale if it is only one. In those years there was also the commercial boom of bonsai.

Often told that my love for bonsai is related to Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s books you feel a love for the world of plants that may not have been caught in the Jackson movies. If I remember Galadriel gave to Samwise Gamgee a seed Mallorn then sowed on his return to the Shire.

Frodo Baggins explained that he could feel the life of the tree when he touched a mallorn to Lothlórien.

Making bonsai you very close to the plant world, it makes you almost enter into symbiosis with nature. (5) Do you have a favorite potter, who are they, & what attracts you to Their Work?

The vessel for a bonsai is very important, in fact, the kanji Bon indicates a tray bottom. I have several friends potters and when I do I make a pot of measure for my bonsai.
I had an artistic background, years ago I dedicated myself to creating jars for bonsai, especially in pots and shitakusa kusamono, making pots for bonsai requires a good mastery of technique. For now, I set aside the way of ceramics.

(6) If you could only give one piece of advice to a bonsai enthusiast to keep them on the right path, what would it be?

I think the most important concept of bonsai you never lose sight of is the NATURAL. As I said above, I have an artistic background, the artistic side in me is very strong, if I want to express my creativity, design, paint or do I take photographs with the bonsai is another thing, there is certainly a creative side in doing bonsai, but creativity should not forget about the botany and natural.
At my school, the typical point is the very essence, Rashisa is the Japanese term for the typical essence.
When a pine reminiscent of a bonsai is not a bonsai tree, a pine must evoke a pine tree in its natural environment. Another important thing is to always remember that you are dealing with a living thing in its own time. When you understand the timing of the response of a plant is already at a good point in the way of bonsai.

(7) Are there any species of Which you still struggle with?

There are some species that are avoided because of their reputation, I avoid the juniper needles, I only one nursed and it was enough for me. In reality it would be enough just to find the right way to grow them.
One good thing is dedicate to the essences of your climate zone, in this way you avoid many disappointments.

(8) What do you consider raises the standard of bonsai, & what holds it back?

Recently, the European bonsai has reached high levels, thanks also to those who have large plants imported from Japan and has focused on the Master of European Yamadori, I think, however, that we must realize that the bonsai is not valued by the kilo, even with lesser materials, more time and the right technique, you can achieve excellent results, at least that is my thought. Focusing only bonsai visually striking, very beautiful but also very expensive, you may lose a large portion of the fans who can not afford, especially in these times of crisis. I am a fan of Tokokazari, the creation of bonsai in the tokonoma; Bonsai that are too big in Tokanoma, too important, too artistic, too obtrusive do not work, they should be evocative, remember the landscape in nature. They are beautiful and are admired for themselves, for what they are, a piece of art, a sculpture.


(9) Whom has influenced your work?

Definitely ahead of all my Master Hideo Suzuki, then the secret is to “steal” a bit ‘all. I love the great Japanese masters like Kimura and Kobayashi, who made the history of the bonsai world, I like to steal the craft but also the craftsmen in the industry, I have done many seminars with Japanese masters, often with less famous take home something new and important, perhaps a “secret” on the cultivation of a particular essence.

Then, as my teacher used to say you learn a lot from the students, the workshops will captain under the hands of many of the most diverse materials, being able to make the best of every material is definitely a great exercise.

(10) What is your view of collecting Yamadori, & the price of yamadori?

In Switzerland you collect many yamadori, but I’m not a collector, many of my bonsai trees are nursery or pre-bonsai. Doubtless, the yamadori has its own charm, conifers yamadori are unparalleled. The issue of hardwoods is much different, a hardwood is important to have a good nebari and you know that in nature, the nebari are often not beautiful. The problem of the high price of yamadori is typically Western, often pay the potential and not what is really the material, the market of bonsai is a very complicated talking point.

(11) What are your favourite, least favourite aspects of & bonsai?

Like all things, even the world of bonsai has its dark side, but it’s hard to say what’s wrong.
The prizes in the show?
– A lot of them would like to delete, exhibitions without prizes you can breathe a more friendly atmosphere. However I’m not completely against the pressure, because the pressure still help you grow.
The business in bonsai?
-Although this is debatable, but in any case, without those who invest, buy and sell bonsai, bonsai the world would stagnate.

I really like the philosophical side of bonsai, the bonsai is this that I am exploring and I like to share.


(12) Are there any influential texts / books That You might Consider recommending?

I can certainly recommend the book by Abe Kurakichi, HOW TO CREATE A PINE BONSAI
In addition to the Italian edition there is also a French edition. It is a book very enjoyable to read, where it captures the spirit of traditional Japanese bonsai.

(13) Is there an elusive tree that you’re looking for (A species, style, & size of your dreams), & if so, what would it be?

Lately I am fascinated by the plants mature, those with long years of Mochikomi, those who have had little or no wire, the ones you see at major exhibitions like the Japanese Taikan Ten

(14) Do you have any interests outside of bonsai?

The bonsai has taken a lot of time devoted to my various interests, I still investigated for several years, various Eastern disciplines, I practiced shodo for 5 years with Master Norio Nagayama, and I find that this discipline has helped me to understand certain aspects of bonsai that a Westerner is still struggling to understand.

I am a lover of film, photography and animation films that would later my training.

(15) What is your view of one day demonstrations?

A bonsai is not built in a day, with juniper essence they are very fast in 4 or 5 years you can take a tree on display, with a hardwood 20 years are still few.
I’m not against the demonstrations, but we must consider it as a first step, in general it is rare that the first setting in a bonsai is the definitive one. Suzuki told me that it takes at least three before you define the shape.

It is important however to realize that you always work on a living thing evolving, we are not doing a sculpture but working so that this plant can grow in the future and become a bonsai of good quality.


Thank you Nicola and Chris  The spirituality and depth of the artists is coming across very well I think. Great stuff.