A Conversation With Ryan Neil, Bonsai Artist, on Long Apprenticeships
The profession of orthopaedic surgery finds symbolism in trees. The more historically-oriented among us will immediately recall the image of Nicolas Andry’s tree from his 1741 treatise, “Orthopaedia or the Art of Correcting and Preventing Deformities in Children,” which gave our specialty both its name and its most-enduring symbol. The parallels are obvious: straightening, training, growing, and manipulating anatomy and biology to accomplish an end-goal. Pediatric orthopaedic surgeons brace children for scoliosis. Orthopaedic surgeons in numerous subdisciplines will osteotomize to bring a bone’s alignment to the desired form. All of us leverage what we know about biology—how things grow and how they heal when injured—to modify structure in the interest of improving health. From there, it’s a short step into the world of bonsai, where these same tools are used to train, manipulate, and craft trees into works of art.