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Welcome to American Bonsai Ceramics

I’d like to personally welcome you to American Bonsai Ceramics! Hi, my name is Tom Hamlin. For the past 4 years, I’ve been working hard to seek out and feature American bonsai potters to showcase quality containers being produced right here in the US. Doing so has introduced me to so many wonderful people that have a deep passion for combining bonsai and clay.

A little about me and my bonsai journey: I became interested in bonsai about a decade ago while living in Washington, D.C. While exploring the sites and museums in the area, I stumbled upon the U.S. National Arboretum. Nestled quietly in the arboretum I found the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. I was absolutely captivated by the stately presence of the bonsai perched on their benches. To be in their presence was humbling and inspiring. I returned there many times over the years when I needed to find a little peace among the bustling streets and frantic pace of the city.

My daughter and I posing at the entrance of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in 2017

Unfortunately, my family and I lived in a small 2-bedroom apartment at the time with no outdoor space (not even a balcony) where I could exercise my new-found love of keeping little trees in pots. For a few years, I unsuccessfully tried growing tropical trees in a grow tent under lights, but I was severely limited in the trees I could keep and my trees slowly suffered. I sold my meager collection and convinced myself that bonsai just wasn’t in the cards for the foreseeable future.

Still, I couldn’t shake the bonsai bug. Despite not having any trees, I continued to immerse myself in bonsai. I turned to studying and collecting bonsai pottery as a way to stay connected to the bonsai community since I didn’t have any trees to share. For my wedding anniversary in 2016, my wife bought me my first quality bonsai pot from Bjorn Bjorholm. It’s was a shohin bonsai pot by Roy Minarai back when he was first producing pots.

Shohin Roy Minarai pot that ignited my bonsai pottery passion

Holding that particular pot in my hands flipped a switch in my brain that ignited a passion for bonsai pottery. I began to follow Roy’s work, which led me to discovering other American bonsai potters whose work I fell in love with as well – Nick Lenz, Steve Ziebarth, David Bennett, Jim Barrett, Michael Hagedorn; the list goes on and on. I began collecting pots and researching potters. I even tried my hand at making a few bonsai pots.

It was from this passion that American Bonsai Ceramics was born. For now, the site is a platform for American artists to showcase their work and a resource for bonsai hobbyists to discover new potters, or peruse potters of the past whose work may be tucked in collections waiting to be rediscovered. My hope is for the site to grow into an even greater resource for the bonsai community in the coming months and years. Check back frequently for posts containing potter interviews, studio tours, kiln openings, and general bonsai pot information. Thanks for reading and please enjoy the site!