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Interview with Elaine Bradshaw

by Albert G.

Recently I sat down and spent some time under Elaine’s house. Many current and former committee members would be familiar with the area. For many, many years the committee meetings were held there until Elaine left the committee. Elaine is in her early 80’s and in her previous life she was a high school teacher and head of Home Economics. She has been with Bimer since January 1983 when it kicked off, previously being a member of BSQ. She has held the positions of Trade Table, President and Vice President, Treasurer and committee member. Elaine has attended many conferences and represented Bimer often.

How old were you when you first got into bonsai? 

After some mental arithmetic we established Elaine was in her late 30’s living in Canada when she developed an interest in bonsai. This later bloomed into an obsession which saw her join the BSQ in 1977.

Who was your first inspiration?

 It seems to be a common theme here – Lindsay Bebb has been a great influence on Elaine. She also admired the work of Wal Morton, a founding member of Bimer.

What was your first tree and do you still have it? 

It was a QSL fig that she had for 30 years. She did sell it after potting it up into a bigger pot.

What is your favourite species and why? 

Elaine has a penchant for Azaleas, especially Japanese varieties and she loves the flowers. When she first started bonsai she disliked Japanese Black Pines but developed a love/ hate relationship with them.

Why do you do bonsai? 

Being part of the community and maintaining social contact is an important part of Elaine’s bonsai journey. She enjoys contact with people and has traveled to Hawaii, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Singapore to attend conferences.

Who would you say is your mentor? 

Elaine took advice and inspiration from many different sources, and crafted her own approach to bonsai. She particularly enjoyed learning from interstate and international visiting tutors.

What was your best tree and why? 

Elaine had a fig in a hexagonal pot she bought back from Korea. She felt that figs were the perfect tree to grow in Brisbane and they suited the time constraints she had working and looking after the household.

Why did Bimer come into being? 

There was a need for a Northside club and BSQ was meeting at nighttime at this stage. It was felt that there was enough interest in Brisbane to have 2 clubs.

What do you hope for the club in the future? 

She hopes to see the skills and knowledge continue and the help grow the club. She also believes that Bimer needs to maintain a good balance between hands on workshops and demonstrations. Elaine believes we also need to co operate with the other Brisbane based clubs..

If there is just one piece of advice you had listened to when you first started what is it? 

If she had a time machine besides buying Microsoft shares she would go back and tell herself to make more time to spend on her trees and maintaining them. She would urge herself to realise that bonsai needs time spent on them.

During our talk, Elaine related some of the club’s history – how Bimer spent the first 6 years in the potting shed at Hawkins nursery rent free. It was understood that members would buy supplies from the nursery while walking in or out getting to the shed. At times members or guests would do demonstrations and occasionally an international demonstrator would visit. When that would happen an alternative venue would be sought.

Shows did not happen until November 1987 when the first one was presented at Mt Coot-tha. Prior to that, smaller displays were held at Hawkins until the club moved to the church hall in Jaguar St. Back in the early days, there was a shortage of information and supplies. Lindsay’s nursery at Moorooka was the only source of both, other than the library. Quite often members would carpool to make the trip for shopping and information. When Elaine started the trade table, her and Alan would drive down to Brian Bennet to purchase supplies. He traded out of his house and was a great source of supplies. She also recalls Tess and Selby Simpson running workshops in their garage. Of course, things have changed slightly over the years.

Thanks for sharing Elaine!