A David Knittle table

Note: This post was written in March 2018. I had not published it yet because I wanted to wait until the stand made its appearance at the US National Bonsai Exhibition. I withdrew my entry in 2018 due to freeze damage, and the 2020 show was postponed until 2021. So this post sat in my “Drafts” folder for over 3.5 years. There are others in that folder…but for now, let’s look at this David Knittle table.

I have seen several of David’s tables at Nationals, and a couple in our local club. He is definitely a craftsman, who isn’t afraid to challenge the very traditional “norms” of display tables. Back in 2016, I decided to prepare my Japanese Black Pine for entry in the 2018 US Nationals. I knew it would need a table that elevated the tree so it wouldn’t be lost among the Goliaths that have appeared over the last few shows. I also thought a 3-point display would help the overall effect, and I had been growing a root-over rock trident maple for 10 years, over a rock I picked up somewhere in Washington state back in 1996. The two trees look good together.

As it worked out, Bill’s call for entries in 2018 was for smaller trees, fewer junipers, more refinement, more root over rocks, and more cascades. Good fortune.

In June of 2017 I began working with David on some ideas for a table for the pine. I had some ideas in mind, but I also didn’t want to limit David’s creativity. We agreed on dimensions rather quickly. The pot is an antique Chinese pot; narrow from front to back, so the table would be 22″ x 14″ x 13″ high. The height of the table would make the height of the overall display 34″ tall.

I also wanted to use a live edge element in the table, but since the tree and pot are rather formal, I wanted at least one corner of the table to be finished, and not live, with the live edge continuing the line in the foot of the pot.

This table, by David, belongs to John Kirby, and was displayed under a massive Juniper. It is beautiful, but the live edge was more even and predictable than the image I was trying to achieve.

Here is another David table, this one is maple. The live edge is definitely wilder, and it has a finished corner to the right:

So, with those discussions complete, I didn’t bug David much over the next 6 months. And then one frigid day in January [2018], it arrived.

Here is the table, paired with the pine for the first time:

And another shot adding the ROR trident:

The dimensions are perfect, and the live edge is special. It plays well with the pot, but what I didn’t expect, and you can’t see from the front-on shots, is the fact that the live edge is not concave, but a peninsula. It took me a minute to wrap my head around it, but I couldn’t stop admiring it, which meant it was something special.

David was a bit cryptic about this, and only told me he had some ideas, and was finding just the right pieces of wood for the live edge. And then he went dark, until it was time to ship, but then all he told me was he would send me photos of the build after I had a chance to see the table in person. Intrigued? I sure was. So here it is:

What do you think?

Here are the shots he sent me of the build:

So, after a long wait, the stand is finally on display in NY.

Preparing for the USNBE

Finally, a little insight into the last day of my preparation for the US National Bonsai Exhibition.

The display stands were commissioned from David Knittle several years ago, in preparation for the 2018 USNBE. However, I ended up withdrawing due to the health of the pine, and then the 2020 show was pushed to 2021. So finally, I am eager to share the display.

Here is the first stand, made by David after several email exchanges to get dimensions and the live edge run into the right spot to compliment the lines of the pot’s feet. even though we spent time discussing where the live edge would be, and where the finished edge would be, I was still completely surprised when I unboxed it in January 2018. A more in-depth post on this stand is forthcoming…and has actually been in the hopper for several years now.

Here is the second stand, David’s first ‘keyhole’ stand and it turned out really nice.

And a few slabs to choose from for the accent plant. They were made by David Lowman.

Now, to the trees, a Japanese Black Pine I bought at Brussel’s in 2007 as a 5-gallon nursery can. Until this year, all the work was mine. In January, I sent it to Eisei-en to be wired out in preparation for this show. The pot is antique Chinese, pre-1880s from the ShoYouKouSei kiln.

And, a trident maple I’ve grown from a cutting in 2006, and then seated over a rock in 2008. I collected the rock in 1996 on a trip out west to Seattle, and have moved it with us over the years. The pot is a first generation Ino Shukuho.

The accent plant is mixed grasses, ferns, and ajuga, in a red pot by Sharaku. Originally I planned to use an oribe round Tofukuji that I used in 2016, but decided the shape and pop of color would be nice with the display.

These were just brought inside after a couple days of Tropical Storm Ida rain, and ready to be cleaned up. First the trident. A little pruning to remove large and damaged leaves, and to add a little negative space to see into the tree. This only took a few minutes, but mainly because I’ve been working on developing this for years, and pruned it several times this season. While it looked a little ratty, there was some method to the madness

After trimming
Clean the pot well
Moss applied

Placed on the stand custom-made for this bonsai, so it’s a perfect fit.

The accent, cleaned up…and Ji-ita selected

Next up, the pine. Now, this pine is headed back up to Eisei-en this week, and Bjorn is taking it on up to New York. He will remove the guy-wires and handle some last-minute needle pulling, so I’ll be eager to see it in-situ.

Cleaning off the moss from the trunk
The base is widening nicely, the top layer of soil was scraped away to make room for moss…which needs to lay level with the rim of the pot. Then the pot was cleaned and lightly oiled.
Mossed up

And now, putting it all together…my formal 3-point display for the 7th US National Bonsai Exhibition.