Unfortunately the site must have been removed, so I thought to publish the interview here.
Please tell us, who you are? Including the place and date of birth, now living in what city? Your educational background? Tell your activity also in singing. Name of your musical group? You perform in cafes or where?
- I am Elsa Boudouri, born on 4th March 1975 in Thessaloniki, a big city in the north of Greece where I lived most of my life. My studies concern the Technology of Medical Laboratories and English Language Teaching, as well as studies in music (piano, guitar, orthophony and vocals), as I come from a big musical family, and you know how the saying goes… “Like father, like son” (well… maybe I should say “Like daughter” in this case). I used to participate in a band named “Ερωδιοί” (that is Herons in Greek) and sing in concerts and music stages in various places all around Northern Greece. Music inspires me when I make bonsai and I also sing to my trees... it’s all about rhythm...
Since when do you like and raise a bonsai? Who influenced you so love bonsai? .... How many bonsai belong to you now? .... You also take a bonsai materials (Yamadori) from the forest? How many miles radius you are in the hunt for bonsai material? Bonsai master your idol?
- I was in love with nature since I was a little child, but could not be with nature at all times, as I had to live in a city. My mother and father used to cultivate many plants and they taught me to love them. We even had a small vegetable garden on our balcony. This was a way for me to be in touch with what I loved most.
When I was 14 years old, I saw a little tree in a rectangular blue pot in a florist’s and fell in love with it, as it almost gave me the feeling of looking at a bigger tree in nature. I bought it at once, but at that time, bonsai was not known in Greece. You could sporadically see some commercial bonsai in flower shops, but that was all! There was no information, no Internet, no books, not even the knowledge that “bonsai” is not a species, but a term. There were some very few people that knew about the art due to the fact that they spent some years abroad, but the art itself was not spread in Greece.
That little tree died soon after I brought it home (I found out many years later that it was an Elm), as it was natural to be misinformed those days. However, I kept that little rectangular pot and treasured it for almost 14 years as if it was made of gold.
After finishing all my studies, that is about 10 years ago, my family and I moved to a house on a mountain outside a village, so I was given the chance to make a dream come true: live in nature and get involved systematically with bonsai, since the spark of imitating nature had never ceased. I started cultivating and experimenting with little seedlings and cuttings and then with common nursery plants, as well as searching the Net, studying articles and watching videos day and night. I got to know first-hand many species, both Mediterranean and from abroad, but all very wrong material to have good results with. However, I learned many things thanks to them. And I keep cultivating most of them until today as a tribute to their gift and their willingness to live with me.
At the same period of time, I dealt a lot with the garden. I planted lots and lots of trees, made a rock garden and found out that there were many wonderful trees already grown all around these 4 acres that the house was in. I started collecting them and my father and mother contributed to this by giving me everything that they uprooted from spots that there was not supposed to be any tree (...although they thought that I was obsessed with it and maybe a little cuckoo... ahahaha). For me, this, along with the grazing land at the back of my house, was my private Yamadoriland... I went over and over before deciding to dig something out and until the time was right, so as to make sure that the tree’s health would not be jeopardized.
Living on a mountain and walking many miles on several other mountains of Greece to breathe nature, admire her and let images be pinned on my mind, helped me understand a lot about the future styles of my trees. But there is still a lot to learn.
So, today I have more or less about 200 trees at various stages on my balcony back in the city where I have moved again (….I hope to make it one day and go back to the nature where I belong though). They used to be many more, but I gave them to friends as gifts, as I enjoy making people happy and, above all, giving them the incentive to feel and understand what bonsai is. In this way, more and more people will have the opportunity to get involved with the art.
In the meantime, about 5-6 years ago, a forum was created in Greece about bonsai. Takis Tsamis managed to gather us all under one roof and share all sorts of invaluable information that concern the art of bonsai. Only with few members at the beginning (more than 2.500 now), the forum www.mybonsai.gr continues to achieve its goal and make bonsai gain more and more reputation in Greece.
Moreover, the last 2-3 years, several bonsai enthusiasts have created websites and blogs and share their work, thus giving the motivation to people to familiarize with the art and try their hands on it. Also, about a year ago (if I remember correctly), the Hellenic Bonsai Club (the official association of Bonsai in Greece) was created as well. Within a few years, a flying leap was taken... from almost nothing, to something... I am of the opinion that things are going pretty well so far for us. But we need to do more than that...
Personally, I intend to hold some humble exhibitions in the future, so that people can learn more about bonsai, as well as to organize some teacher-led workshops. I don’t know to what extend I could achieve this, but bonsai is my life, so I will certainly give my heart to it. Nevertheless, before doing all that, I need to learn more, and there is so much more to be learnt. I need a teacher and I think I have found him. He is my idol, his work inspires me and speaks straight to my mind, and I can’t wait for the lessons to begin. Too soon to tell you more though...
Since when did you learn to carve (deadwood) bonsai tree? What feeling do you get when you grind the tree? Bonsai yours already purchased a people?
- I grew up in Carpenter’s workplaces, as my mother’s father was a carpenter. The smell of curved wood was imprinted on my mind at a very young age. I learnt with my eyes, but never thought about how useful this experience might be for me, since this multi-dimensional art combines all sorts of arts, sciences and skills. Even the building of cement floors and walls of the house on the mountain proved useful, since I manage to make my own cement pots. In Greece we say “Μάθε τέχνη κι άστηνε, κι όταν πεινάσεις πιάστηνε» which means that it is good to acquire a skill and put it aside, no matter how unnecessary it might seem now… a time will come that it will be needed. So, since I was a kid, I dealt with various sorts of tools… from grinding hand tools to electric ones, building equipment and even some electronics. I guess all these were settled within me by the way I was raised. When I curved my first tree, I could not believe that I had it. What struck me the most was that I was under the impression that the tree revealed its soul to me, and mine was imprinted on it… I kept wondering if I had created something on that tree, or if the tree had created something in me… it was a two-way road and while the tree stood looking more aged in front of me, the smell of wood made me feel like a child at my grandfather’s workshop… old-age and childhood at the same time. I feel this way every time I process wood.
I have never sold a tree of mine. I have not given too much thought about it so far, and to be sincere, I felt a little embarrassed to do so. Furthermore, I didn’t want anyone to think that I chose this path for the money. I gifted many trees to my friends, but lots of people have asked me to sell to them. Quite recently though, someone told me that I should reconsider and that if I decide to sell, I will make many people happy. I start to think that she is right and maybe I was a little selfish to avoid selling… I don’t know…
The present time, in addition to busy playing bonsai, what your business or profession? So housewife? Or are you still single?
- I would like one day to be able to live from bonsai that I love so much. But now this is quite difficult to do in Greece. So, for now, I only try to acquire a better level and I also share, when time allows, whatever I know through my blog (www.bonsaicosmos.blogspot.gr). To make a living, I practice my other big love, teaching. I adore my colleagues and my students and they are all like my family. I don’t have a family of my own yet, but one day I hope I will make one, so that I can teach my children all about bonsai... besides, I will need to pass them down to the next generation when I grow older.
Thank you for the chance you gave me, Iwan, to speak and talk about what I love most, as well as for the opportunity to introduce myself properly to other bonsai lovers all around the world.
Thank you ELSA
Greetings from Indonesia