BSF Interview – Phil Krieg, Architect of Bonsai

Looming over Southwest Florida is bonsai artist and retired architect Phil Krieg.  Phil has been the BSF Convention Exhibit chair for the past few years and has also presented some well-designed bonsai at the exhibits. His display last year received recognition by the American Bonsai Society.  His trees have also been selected several times for the US National Bonsai Exhibition in Rochester, NY.  He is an active member of the Bonsai Society of Southwest Florida and BSF.    

BSF: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your time in bonsai?

KRIEG: I’m an Architect who, before I retired last year, specialized in Senior Care, which is to say I know how to design environments for us old folk.  Regarding Bonsai, I started by visiting Wigert’s Nursery on Pine Island in 2007.  He had an Open House featuring Pedro Morales who did a demo on a Ficus.  I was fascinated with this idea of bonsai and intrigued to the point of purchasing one, which I immediately killed.  As an architect the idea of styling trees is the sort of thing I would love to do with my building designs but since construction realities are seriously limited my only outlet for my dreams are with these little trees.

BSF: What do you enjoy about bonsai?

KRIEG: It is relaxing for me to design and wire a plant and discover the tree inside.  Actually, it’s more than relaxing.  It’s almost hypnotic, you know, that wabi sabi thing.  And to watch the tree grow and flourish gives me hope for our future.  It’s an inspiration for my life.  I also enjoy the people who practice bonsai…so intelligent, friendly and kind.

BSF: As an architect, how do you approach the design of bonsai trees?

KRIEG: I can do wonderful branches that I can’t do with steel beams.  Buildings are limited with time, scope and cost.  Trees are only limited by your imagination.  We can produce a cantilever that is unthinkable in steel or concrete.  So, Bonsai gives my mind an open space to wander, play and enjoy the art of little trees.

BSF: Do you feel bonsai is a craft, art, or some combination? Or does it even matter?

KRIEG: It is both an art and a craft.  It just depends on who is doing it and their skill level.  A lot of folk just enjoy the craft of growing, wiring and repotting but they do have not developed the vision to conceive of and create a truly magnificent ancient tree.  I would consider this a craft…and that’s my opinion only.  But, when you see a Master take a bush and transform it into a tree right in front of you, you know that it is an art.  My goal is to become an artist, slowly but surely.

BSF: What was your favorite bonsai moment?

KRIEG: When I understood what it meant to find the “line” of the trunk.  That opened up my understanding of many other design elements such as taper.  My other favorite moments are when I learn something new regarding either design or horticulture.  Learning is constant and rewarding and I will never stop learning.

BSF: Thanks Phil.  By the way, Phil will be chairing the upcoming BSF convention exhibit again, so think about what you would like to display and get it ready.

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