Just a quick update on what’s been happening recently here at Kaizen Bonsai world headquarters. It’s nice to know that when things are uncertain, to quote a modern idiom ‘ We’ve got your back‘, or at least someone has.
None of us really know what’s just around the corner as we go through our lives. Most of the time nothing happens, life goes on. Sometimes there is a nice surprise waiting to shower us in blessings, rare but it does happen. And then, there is what most often seems to happen. Life is going along nicely and just as you turn a corner life lays you out like you were caught in the side of the head by Joe Root swinging for the perimeter wall.
2021 has been a thoroughly shit year for Catherine and myself for any number of life changing reasons I don’t need to go into. However last week will prove entertaining for those who take joy in other peoples misery, in this case mine.
It was a long tale of abuse that started in me resurrecting a big 1980’s Suzuki dirt bike from several years of slumber. It’s big, very tall (i’m short) and hard to kick start (no electric foot). Couple that with a carburettor containing several years of nastiness and some tired electrics and even though I got it going just fine, eventually, I was left with a very sore lower back and hip on my right side. I am a bit odd in that I am left footed and right handed.
Next day was a long dog walk and then I had a couple of days of hard graft with new imports of goods arriving from overseas. Tuesday saw me humping a couple of tons of wire into a confined space before wrestling tons of pots into storage. The following day, a bit beaten up, i thought a gentle dog walk through the local woods would settle down my aching joints but, as always I overdid it. By lunch time I was laid out and terrified at the pain with which I was wracked.
Now, as regular followers of my nonsense will know I have had some run in’s with injury and pain before. You name it I have done it. I have cut, burned, crushed and busted everything in my time. I have had a bout of sciatica that, had it not been for my good lady, would have seen me dropping headfirst out of an upstairs window onto the concrete below.
However this time was a new experience. In retrospect I know I hyper extended my hip wrecking tendons in the process and that caused the sciatic nerve within my hip to get nipped up. Anyone who has done something like this will now be wincing in sympathy. So after 3 days laid out on a hard floor, screaming down the house and crying like a baby with a full nappy, and without a wink of sleep, I found myself in the back of a vehicle impressively operated by the East of England Ambulance Service. Thank GOD for Entonox.
Interestingly as the ambulance crew and I sat/laid in the back of their van sharing an hour in an NHS queue the lovely lady present was sharing her experiences of back related sciatica (which I have also suffered with). “i’ve had five kids and that was NOTHING compared to the bouts of sciatica I have suffered with.” So, ostensibly I have been in child birth for the last 10 days which just might explain why I have been hard to get a hold of. Please accept my apologies for abandoning my post but thankfully I’m getting short periods of vertical time now which is just as well because there is a lot to do.
I have been banging on for ages about how hard I felt things were going to get here in Blighty and sadly that’s now all coming to pass. Thanks to an unprecedented rise in the cost of everything from raw materials to shipping cost and the inexorable and entirely unreasonable increase in government bureaucracy and endless pointless paperwork and levies placed upon businesses, costs are rising fast. That’s fuelling inflation which means likely interest rate rises, one of the dumbest responses imaginable in this current climate and experts in the forwarding industry agree there is unlikely to be any easing of the situation until at least the end of next year or into the next.
Just look at the cost of Akadama, a benchmark price in bonsai trading. Even though the price has increased 65% since the beginning of this year nobody is making additional profit except the government who’s 20% tax just goes with the price. Their cut for a bag has gone from £2.83 to £4.66 at our selling price, that’s since March this year. KB are making the same margin as always and it’s less that the tax after incoming transport and warehousing cost. So, hang on to your hats folks the pain is coming and your government is rubbing their hands and wearing a big F*ck you! grin.
Still, I guess we should all be thankful because at least most products are still available. We will all have to budget a little more carefully, consume a little less and make what we have go further (or forego some other luxury like a holiday). That’s what I had to do at the outset of my bonsai career (30 years and still no holiday) when I was as poor as a church mouse. In a strange way it was kind of fun.
So, whilst Kaizen Bonsai is slowly winding down our tree sales for a considerable number of reasons (more news on that to come soon) we are FAR from chucking in the towel. Having freed myself from the yoke of three thousand trees I can now begin to apply myself to other exciting new projects. One of those is the import of tons and tons of Bonsai Pots, thousands of Bonsai Tools and tons of Bonsai Wire and the like. From fertilisers to carving tools we are stacking our warehouse.
Our warehouse carries upward of 40 tons of soil, containers filled with wire, tens of thousands of pots and everything you can imagine or are ever likely to need in the pursuit of bonsai perfection. We buy a lot, often months in advance, so we can ensure continuity of supply to make our dear customers life as easy as possible.
As we start to move in different directions we have the chance to bring in products from new and different manufacturers that may not have been seen before. As far as bonsai pots go, it has been a considerable cause of concern to me for years now that what we see is most often the cheapest nasty quality available. This is because they have passed through too many hands before reaching your bonsai workshop. In order for the retail price to be acceptable the factory gate price has to be very low indeed. This results in poor quality at a high price.
Another aspect of low quality goods is the number that are simply not up to standard for UK retail. With some pot ranges we have often had to dump up to 10% right out of the box due to significant faults and that adds a lot to the final cost. I hate waste and to make a pot, ship it to the opposite side of the world and then simply drop it into the bin looked like madness to me. That is NOT what you call good husbandry of our environment and resources and it’s certainly not good business.
Pots are a funny thing. In my experience unless you are paying upwards of £8 an inch the quality is never going to be the best but then not many bonsai need the best pots. Something that looks nice and sympathetically balanced often is plenty good enough and that’s the bulk of what we sell. Some people will always want to buy a signed antique pot from a Japanese master and whilst that might be the gold standard 99% of us are content to lower our sights besides the fact that few of us can afford those beautiful items.
In my experience a bonsai pot needs to be fit for both purpose and pocket. Not too good and not too poor, it needs to be ‘just right’. But then that means entirely different things to every single person with a bonsai tree to home. To that end Kaizen Bonsai do our best to offer as wide a range of options as possible from plastic to aforesaid antiques (on rare occasions).
Last week I was very excited because we received our first shipment of Japanese made bonsai pots. Back when I started tinkering with trees bonsai pots were a lot of money and a regular subject of discussion at our local bonsai club. Nobody wanted to produce large bonsai trees because few could afford the pots. Back then we had plastic Mica bonsai pots which saved the day….at least to some degree.
Part of this reason for high prices was that by and large nobody was bringing in Chinese made pots, most were Japanese (where wages are much higher). Since the mid ’90s we have been drowning in cheap Chinese product. The Chinese can make exceptional pots every bit as good as their neighbours but sadly our importers mostly went for the cheap end of the spectrum to maximise throughput and profit margins.
Now that’s all changing. Environmental concerns are bringing huge government pressure to bear on manufacturing that consumes large volumes of energy and materials like ceramics. Back in the day I heard tell of massive Chinese, drive in pot kilns fired by everything from the local woodland to coal and bizarrely even diesel. Of course that’s all largely being stopped now and the result is more costs to producers and higher costs to you, dear customer.
It would appear we are beginning to close the circle now because here are those Japanese pots of yore once again. Thank goodness the factories survived. The Japanese have always been responsible manufacturers of quality goods and we are very pleased to be able to support their endeavours once again. To the best of my limited knowledge these good quality pots have not been imported into GB for at least twenty years and I for one think it’s very nice and reassuring to see them back again.
We have in excess of 1600 sets in over 50 designs with multiple colour ways. Here are a few pictures my lovely daughter snapped yesterday of the first sets out of the container. I will be doing my best to get them listed before Christmas assuming I can avoid kicking over any more large motorcycles for a while.
These new pot ranges are predominantly in the smaller sizes up to 12-15″. Put alongside our standard ranges of Chinese made pots from 3″ to a spectacular 40″ I am hoping we have got what you need but take my advice, if you see what you need today, buy it now because pots move fast and there is no guarantee it will be there come spring time when we are selling dozens of pots a day.
So, thanks for you attention but I now have to excuse myself and go for a lie down as sitting this long is quite literally starting to get on my nerves.
God bless y’all.
I feeel yer pain. If I concentrate on peace, love, and TOLERANCE mentally, and meditate on God’s ability to change my pain to serenity, then, outwardly, my experiences will change to reflect the inner peace that I develop. This is from Emmett Fox, one of your countrymen, I believe, in 1934. These issues are dwelt upon in the inner consciousness, and, therefore, continue to be experienced in our outer existence. The universal law is ‘Like attracts like’. And so it is until I change my inner thoughts and channel them into positive loving patient serenity. Hope this helps.
Thank goodness you don’t spend time on negatives and always bounce back from adversity. I know Cath plays a large part in all that, I also count myself lucky in having a wondeful wife who knows me more than I know myself.
On the Bonsai front, the pots look amazing and some of the new styles are going to go down a storm. I’m really looking forward to seeing them for sale, it’s easy to forget how important the pot is to the tree , I guess that like a lot of people when starting out in Bonsai I thought I was killing two birds with one stone by buying trees in pots where possible. A few years down the line the time has come to invest in some decent pots and replace those cheap second rate pots with more appropriate containers.
Hope your back to full Grumpy Old Man soon.
In the some what stuffy world of Bonsai, you are refreshing. A breath of fresh air. We, at times, take things too seriously. It’s easy to get lost in the details when you’re trying to resolve your inner self. Bonsai is a ‘religion’ and is deservedly so. This helps each and every owner appreciate even the most indescribable Bonsai. I’ve named my first tree, ‘Mireille’ (Mire-ray). She and I shall confront Life together…