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  • Writer's pictureTom Lau

Pot Guru Michael Ryan Bell

Michael Ryan Bell is relatively new to the bonsai scene. He is a native of Mississippi, an area not known for bonsai prodigies. But, I think they got one now! Michael has an extensive background in pot history, maker, value, and pot to tree composition. Michael has not be doing bonsai for a long time but, he has recognized there is a lack of knowledge in the pot information realm and totally cornered the market on it.

Bob Pressler of Kimura Bonsai Nursery in Northridge had a special presentation by Michael Ryan Bell. (Thank you Bob for setting up this wonderful presentation!)I did not know what to expect and had seen several club advertising his lectures. I have to say that his background is deep and I'm totally impressed on the time he took to understand the scope and sequence of everything dealing with bonsai pots.

The following pictures were taken from this lecture and is only snap shot what we covered that morning.

Michael started the lecture with unglazed clay pots, starting with the clay type. I was totally in awe with this depth of knowledge of just clay type. I knew there were at least 5 different clay materials. I was also taken back that he also knew where each material source came from and if its deposits of the material still available. Then, he went into detail mode of each type shown here on the list and which unglazed pots pairs well with which type of tree.

In another slide later in the lecture, he comes to glaze pots. In this part he starts to differentiate glazes with side by side comparison of some of the confusing glazes. I honestly have a better understanding of glaze types than I had before. What intrigues me about color glazes, is the science behind each of the glazes. I comprehend how chemicals change color in pots with modern chemistry background. But, these Japanese and Chinese potters were doing it with old school technology and little science knowledge is just mind boggling.

I like how he rounds off everything with giving examples of masculine and feminine pot features. A lot of times we forget how to properly pair pots with trees. Mostly, because we do not have access the type of pots needed for each tree. But, it was great that Michael reminders us of basic forms and how it matches well with each tree type.

At the end Ryan got a chance to do a quick ID and appraisal of one of my favorite pots. Within seconds Ryan ID the maker as "Yamafusa" and gave me some information about the pot: age, region, and, replacement value. All in all I was totally impressed with his skill in the area of bonsai pot identification.

At the end, I would totally recommend Michael to come out to your club to give them the basics on bonsai pot. He gave enough information yet was entertaining at the same time. He really gave me another window into the appreciation of tree and pot composition then I ever did before. If you have any questions you can contact Michael Ryan Bell through email: or you can facebook him directly.

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