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  • Writer's picturepeacelovebonsai

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Being a Student at Eisei-en, But Were Afraid To Ask

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

Since I start­ed writ­ing the PLB blog, the most com­mon ques­tion I receive is “What’s it like be­ing a stu­dent at Bjorn’s”?

I just com­plet­ed the first week­end of cour­ses since the pan­dem­ic. It’s hard to believe, but we were off for two years. It was great be­ing back, so let's answer all your Eisie-en intensive class questions!

How much does it cost?

This is pret­ty much what every­one wants to know, but doesn’t want to ask, so let's start there. Be­fore I do, let me share with you the struc­ture of the classes. We meet for four days over two week­ends a year. Once in the spring and once in the fall. Each day is 9-5pm with a 1 hour lunch. The cost is $950/week­end or $1,900/year. Or, put an­oth­er way, 56 hours of work­ing with Bjorn at a cost of $33/hour. The class size ranges, but is usually 6-8 people per class.

What’s a typ­i­cal in­ten­sive day look like?

The gar­den opens at 8, class starts at 9. Most days we have a top­ic in the morn­ing. For ex­am­ple, we’ll dis­cuss the botany of trees or the tech­nique of graft­ing. In the case of graft­ing, af­ter class, we’ll put that knowl­edge into prac­tice. Ei­ther on our own trees or Bjorn’s. The af­ter­noons are tree work. Wiring, styling, prun­ing, bend­ing, re­pot­ting, etc. What­ev­er is ap­pro­pri­ate for that time of year.

Do you work on your own trees or the trees of the nurs­ery?

You can do either, it’s up to you. Those that are able, will bring their own trees. Bjorn gives us the scope of work for the weekend, so we bring trees that are in need of the work that will be out­lined in the class. I’m sure there’s some rule about bring­ing bad ma­te­r­i­al, but I can’t imag­ine that’s ever been a prob­lem. My class­mates and I are always try­ing to push our skills. That can­not be done on cheap or bad trees. As for Bjorn’s trees, he has amaz­ing ma­te­r­i­al. This last course, I de­cid­ed to work on one of his trees. I want­ed to test my skills and see how I could work on some­thing from his gar­den. I’m proud of the work. Of course, you can buy trees at the nursery, then work them.

Do you have to be an ex­pe­ri­enced bon­sai prac­ti­tion­er to take class­es?

I would not rec­om­mend intensives for an ab­so­lute be­gin­ner, some­one 6 months or less. But it is a school, so it’s de­signed to start at the be­gin­ning and build your skills. I think ex­pe­ri­ence is less im­por­tant than your com­mit­ment to the craft. The aftercare on the work you do is very important. Understanding your level of commitment takes time to mea­sure and un­der­stand for your­self.

What have you learned since start­ing the class­es?

Plen­ty. What has pushed my skills the most has been be­ing around great trees. To be in the gar­den, sur­round­ed by amaz­ing trees, trees that you’ve seen de­vel­oped first hand, gives you both the per­spec­tive that it can be done and also the feel­ing that you’ve got to up your game. This weekend, in particular, I saw so many trees in such good shape. It reminds you that bonsai is more than just wiring & styling. You must learn to water, fertilize, apply pesticides & fungicides and become great at growing trees.

What’s Bjorn like as a teacher?

Pa­tient. Ex­pe­ri­enced. And very laid back. Like any good teacher, he be­gins by demon­strat­ing. He then ex­pects you to take over as your skills al­low. All of this done in a pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment with every­thing you need to suc­ceed. He also does a great job of working with each participant equally and meeting them where they are.

What’s the best part of the class­es?

That’s easy, my class­mates. The more I prac­tice bon­sai, the more I re­al­ize that I’m wired a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. And so is every­one else in bon­sai. We’re like the toys on the is­land of misfits. A bit dif­fer­ent, a bit dam­aged, by life and love. But we all come to­geth­er un­der the um­brel­la of play­ing with lit­tle trees. We’re kin­dred spirits, hanging out together, in our happy place. And that’s worth all the money in the world!

What questions do you have about being a student at Eisei-en? Post them below and I'll be sure to respond. And don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter for all my latest bonsai updates. Until next time, Peace Love Bonsai!

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