Needless to say, Bonsai pots are crucial to the appearance of the tree. Several professional potters have specialized in creating Bonsai pots and in this article we list the most important Bonsai potters from North America (13 potters) and South America (2 potters).
Many thanks to Youri van Pinxteren for his help in putting this article together.
Rob Addonizio (US)
Rob Addonizio considers expressive Bonsai pottery to be an integral part of the art of Bonsai. A creative talent, Rob began an interest in Bonsai in the early nineties. After having spent a few semesters in ceramics as an education undergraduate, it was only a matter of time before he started to make his own containers. Over the next decade he would experiment with different techniques, learning what he could from professors and artists, and put it to practice with whatever means he could. He read and researched from many reputable sources during this time and was influenced by the work of very talented artists from both home and abroad. There was much information on the technical aspect of Bonsai that he read, but unfortunately very little was available to him on the aesthetics of Bonsai pottery.
Being like most artists, Rob was very open to artistic influences. He very quickly developed an interest in western and Bonsai potters of quality handmade pots and there were many good potters he fancied. In these early years there was much difficulty in finding a space to make his pottery, but when he moved to central Florida a decade later he began to very quickly convert his garage into a workshop making a home ceramics studio. As time passed Rob began to sell his own pots and his hobby grew into a real business. Rob now is a vendor at various state conventions, and his pottery has been well received by many enthusiasts and collectors alike. At his best, Rob can be found examining the aesthetic elements in a composition, and how to enhance it with one of his own ceramic creations.
Address: Lake Helen, Florida, US
Dale Cochoy (US)
Dale began studying Bonsai in 1978. He studied with Ohio Bonsai-man Keith Scott during the late ‘80’s. Dale and a partner started Wild Things Bonsai Nursery on a part-time basis in 1989 while they worked for G.E. Medical Systems, and Dale went full-time with the business in 1995. "Wild Things Bonsai Studio" is a full-service dealer of domestic and imported Bonsai. He also sells collected specimens native to the US Included in sales inventory are pottery, tools and other Bonsai accessories including oriental art objects. Dale has been producing his own hand-built, one-of-a-kind stoneware "Wild Things" Bonsai pottery for 12 years now and in 2001 won 2nd place (modern category) in the National Bonsai Foundation’s First North American Bonsai Pot Competition. In the later part of 2002 Dale renamed the pottery portion of his business to "Yakimono no Kokoro" (Heart of Fired Things) as he felt a more fitting name was needed to express that part of the business. Dale maintains his Bonsai business and garden in Hartville, Ohio. He also travels throughout the US to vend at conventions and teach Bonsai and pottery workshops and demonstrations. He has been a vendor at many national conventions and symposiums over the years.
Address: 13262 Kaufman Ave. NW, Hartville, Ohio 44632, US
Jim Gremel (US)
In 1984 I ended a 17 year career in aerospace engineering to become a full-time potter. Almost from the first, I was drawn to combine classical pottery forms with exotic glazes or firing methods. When I started, I thought I would be a functional potter, making plates and bowls for everyday use, but I always fussed more with the form or with the surface, or both, and ended up with pieces that weren’t suitable for tableware. At first, I threw every piece on the wheel. Throwing was very natural to me; it was all I was interested in at first. But (seemingly) endless repetition, a sore back and a heightened interest in the surface of my work led me to slip casting. Now I cast almost all of my pieces. I have developed many dozens (hundreds) of glazes and think of my cast forms as blank canvases which I endeavor to bring to life with my glazing and firing techniques. I do not only make Bonsai pots, but also vases and other ceramics.
Address: 3700 Deer Meadow Lane, Occidental, CA 95465, USA
Ben Gutman (US)
Ben Gutman is an amateur potter and Bonsai artist, living in Washington, DC. He has been potting on and off for about 8 years, beginning as a distraction while in graduate school in California. He's long been an aficionado of Bonsai and botanical enthusiast (having a PhD in plant biology). But he's only been growing and shaping Bonsai for a few years. Recently he began combining these two passions, beginning with making pots for his own plants. He has now branched out to sell Bonsai pots and create custom pots for other Bonsai artists.
"As a relatively new Bonsai potter, I am still developing a distinctive personal style. This can be an advantage in creating custom pots, as I can work with the customer to design just the right look for a specific tree, with few stylistic constraints".
Address: Washington DC, USA
Matthew Harhager (US)
The Bonsai Den was founded by Matt Harhager in 2010. One night after watching Karate Kid the movie he thought he would try to be like Mr. Miagi and grow his own Bonsai, "After all how hard could it be, just give it some sun and water, right." "It’s not like trying to catch a fly with a pair of chopsticks." After learning that Bonsai was not a specific type of tree he bought his first Bonsai off the Internet, an elm. After several weeks of simply trying to keep the elm alive it perished. "Wow, he thought, this is going to be harder than I expected", but he welcomed the challenge. He then obtained some books on growing Bonsai. After several years of working alone he decided to take his knowledge to the next step. He found a teacher that taught him how to repot, wire, and style Bonsai. His teacher was also willing to let him sell his soil and fertilizer mixes, two key items for successfully growing Bonsai. Now of course, Matt being an Engineer, he had to optimize the ingredients to call it his own. After several years he realized that he was spending more time looking at the pots (quality, texture, glaze) than he was trees. So he decided to try making some pots.
Address: East Canton, Ohio 44730, USA
Chuck Iker (US)
I’ve been actively involved in art and ceramics for over 20 years with specific focus on Bonsai pottery for the past 10. His Studio is located in Southeast Ohio, USA. "I find elegance in simplistic geometry so my work tends to follow a deliberate cleanliness of form. The Bonsai pot is a single element of the Bonsai landscape. It should bring visual harmony to the overall piece. It should complement in both color and form. I’m honored and gratified when my pottery becomes part of another artist’s vision.
I’m most at home on the potter’s wheel. I do on occasion wander away to refresh my artistic curiosity by hand-building. All of my pots are individually thrown, shaped, or altered by hand. I use only high quality stoneware clay. The foot of every pot is given functional and artistic consideration and trimmed appropriate to the form. Drainage holes and wire tie holes are appropriate to the shape and function. I use a variety of my own glaze formulas along with oxides and slips to finish my work. All of my work is signed, numbered and catalogued."
Address: Iker Bonsai Pottery, Batavia, Ohio, USA
Ron Lang (US)
In 2005 Ron and his wife Sharon Edwards-Rusell moved to Central Pennsylvania where they set up Lang Bonsai Containers, a studio and wood fire kiln for the production of Bonsai, kusamono and Suiseki related containers. A practitioner of Bonsai as well, Ron has worked to vitalize the relationship between ceramic artists and Bonsai enthusiasts, at exhibitions and conventions. "The challenge of the Bonsai potter is to provide fresh options, subtlety and variety to Bonsai artists, to offer possibilities and nuances in container design to help bring out the best in their trees. I remind myself that pots that come on too strong, that make too much of a statement all on their own and have too much ‘ego’ are difficult to marry off. But the opposite extreme is just as problematic. Often the generic, the mass-produced and anonymous manufactured containers offers little prospect beyond the traditional, arranged marriage. I try to make containers that have life, that take breath, that move, that are not static. The successful pairing of Bonsai tree and container is a collaborative gestalt."
Address: Reedsville, Pennsylvania 17084, USA
Dave Lowman (US)
Dave Lowman started sculpting plasticine clay as a five year old and has been hooked on art and creating ever since. Right now Dave is having fun styling Bonsai and making functional Bonsai pottery. Dasu Studio Bonsai Pottery is fashioned from five different compounded stoneware clay mixes. Pots range from simple slip cast to our hand built signature finish and ‘fossil’. Clay body color ranges from grey to nearly ‘hershey bar’ brown. Pots are properly fluxed and are frost proof fired to 2141 ºC in two electric kilns. Our cast pottery is recommended for Bonsai trees in their earlier stages of development and our signature finish and ‘fossil’ pots for trees that are beginning to manifest exceptional character. All of our smaller pots are very well suited to companion plant use. Glazed pottery is occasionally created, hare’s fur effect glazes are favored. We also make Crescent pots (moonstones/’eggshells’) as well as flattened slabs (on request) formulated from created stone if desired.
Address: 27887 Timber Rd., Kelley, Iowa 50134, USA
Rob MacGregor (US)
I wired my first Bonsai tree (Pine) in 1971 and have been working with Bonsai ever since. In 1991 I purchased a 6 acre farm in Southern Ohio where I started a field grown Bonsai nursery. I realized fast that I could not afford to buy all the pots that I needed for all my stock so I began to make my own pots by hand. In 2007 I started wheel throwing most of my pots using only high-fire stoneware clay that I fire to between 2,200F and 2,345F to create a high quality, frost proof Bonsai pot.
I make pots in many different styles. Taking inspiration from nature and the classical forms of Asian ceramics, I create a range of pots from rugged primitive pots to highly refined forms. I am constantly experimenting with new forms and methods to create truly one of a kind Bonsai pots.
Address: Clermont County, Ohio, US
Sandi McFarland (US)
I have been a professional potter since 2000, but began by taking pottery classes at Northlake College in Irving, Texas right out of high school in 1980. I took classes periodically after that, but began again in earnest in 1997 and have been going strong ever since! In 2001, I fell in love with Bonsai and joined the Bonsai Society of Dallas. It didn’t take me long after that to add Bonsai and kusamono pots to my pottery repertoire. It took me a while, but I have come to the realization that while I love and respect the art of Bonsai, it is simply not my art form. I still enjoy making the pots though!
Address: Irving, Texas, USA
Sara Rayner (US)
Sara Rayner is a self taught potter for 30 years, the last 25 years of which she has worked solely on producing Bonsai containers. Sara works out of an old carriage house in her home town of Red Wing, Minnesota. She originally became interested in Bonsai 25 years ago when she attended an IBC convention in Minneapolis. She then joined the Minnesota Bonsai Society and has been an active member since. Much of her time is taken up with Bonsai pot production and attending various conventions around the country. Some of it is reserved for her real passions, which include maintaining a manageable collection of Bonsai trees, and serious bird watching!
Address: 1025 West Fourth Street, Red Wing, MN 55066, USA
Keith Taylor (US)
I’ve been a succulent grower since 1991 and had all these incredible specimens. Everyone that saw them said I should display them at Cactus and Succulent shows. In 2007 I decided to give it a try and went looking for containers for my plants. I didn’t like the commercially made C&S pots (they were really distracting from the plant), so I started to look at Bonsai containers. I Purchased a few Bonsai pots but I didn’t found the one I was looking for. My wife does ceramics and we have 2 electric kilns. I thought why don’t I try and make a pot specifically for my plant. So I made the pot, simple in design but it was perfect as it highlighted the plant. In 2008 I took the plant/pot combination to the C&S show and I won a 1st place ribbon! While at the show I saw all these containers, but I noticed that the pots were stealing the attention from the plant. I came home and started make my own containers, first some basic Bonsai pots, oval, rectangular, but it got monotonous after a while. I needed to find "my" style. Purchased more clay and started experimenting and in a few short months I had found "my" style… crackpots! I took Bonsai proportions, applied this fissured technique and I highlighted the texture but I was mindful of not creating something that would distract from the plant. My pots tend to fade into the background, becoming part of the framework highlighting the plant.
Address: Fairfield, California, USA
Diane Thoman (US)
I make hand thrown and hand built Bonsai pottery in north-western Colorado. I have been making pottery for well over thirty years and I like to experiment with my own custom clays and glaze made from base minerals and clays. All of my pots are unique and are fired at high temperatures making them frost-proof. When I glaze the pot I usually glaze the signature area also, so the signature may not be very visible or only partially visible on some pots.
Address: 3100 County Road 104, Dinosaur, Colorado 81610, USA
Roy Minarai (US)
Ricardo Mendes (BR)
My name is Ricardo, I am 33 years old, and I am a starter in the art of Bonsai Ceramics. My intention is to produce unique, and high-quality pots for the lovers of this art. I hope you enjoy my work. A big hug to all of you who are supporting me to make my pots better! Who knows how to wait, time opens the door.
Address: Ribeirão Prêto, Brazil
Sergio Onodera (BR)
I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I am 45 years old, my parents are immigrants. My father came from Japan with 30 years of age and is now 79 years old and my mother is Brazilian but she is a daughter of Italian immigrants. I studied fine arts for many years and worked as an advertising illustrator for over 10 years. My passion for the art of Bonsai began more than 15 years ago and at that time it was a little difficult to find pots for Bonsai here in my town. So I thought, I can develop my own pots! And I did it! It’s been 10 years and I have devoted myself to the study of Bonsai pots. It’s a tough job, but I have had good results and I am very happy when people enjoy my work.
Address: Rua Renato de Castro, 23, São Paulo, Brazil