The Artisans Cup

the time has come for american bonsai 

The Artisans Cup showcased Bonsai as a true art form. The event instigated a movement to reveal the beauty of the ongoing collaboration between humans and nature that occurs during the process of training a tree. This process, currently experiencing surging growth in North America, is symbolic of the struggle for life in which all living things take part, and highlights the similarities and differences between people and trees. It is a poignant representation of life itself, with all of its challenges and successes, its hardship and joy.




In September 2015, at the Portland Art Museum, in Portland, OR, The Artisans Cup changed bonsai forever. It was an event that celebrated the leading expression of American Bonsai, showcasing the highest level of craftsmanship and skill in a highly designed environment.


71 trees.
150 sheets of plywood.
12,000 feet of steel.
A full mile of welds.
27 hours of set-up. 
60 gallons of coffee.
17 hours live. 
3,200 attendees from 19 countries. 
An art form forever changed.


The exhibit featured exceptional tree submissions from bonsai curators and caretakers from the United States and Canada, as well as creations from some of America’s foremost artisans. 

The trees were displayed on avant-garde structures created by renowned Portland architecture firm, Skylab. The idea behind the structures was to emulate the feeling of light coming through a forest. 

As an exhibit, The Artisans Cup shifted the way the international bonsai community approaches tree display. The awe-inspiring continues to attract and inspire a new generation of bonsai enthusiasts. 




As an effort to canonize bonsai as high art and inspire bonsai practitioners to turn to their native environments for inspiration, the event celebrated bonsai as a powerful collaboration between humans and nature. 

This is only the beginning, there is talk of The Artisans Cup going international by 2020 - continuing the movement to reconnect nature, culture, and the individual through the art of bonsai. Read further about the Artisans Cup and listen to judges critiques from the exhibit here


The Artisans Cup Retrospective: A film by Ryan Bush 
Image 2, 3, 4, 6(R), 7(L), 9, 10 - Arthur Hitchcock
Image 1, 5(L), 8(R), 10 - Chris Hornbecker 

Related Articles