Tree in a pot. That is what bonsai means in Chinese.
The art of growing and shaping a tree has been around for thousands of years and has crossed cultures from China, Japan and the Americas.
Jason Paulhamus, a freelance illustrator from Williamsport and art teacher at St. John School of the Arts, has been growing and shaping bonsais for years.
He is beginning a class called Introduction to Bonsai, which will be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 26 through May 24, at the school, 2101 Newberry St.
"I really enjoy the artistic side of it, maybe because I'm an illustrator. Art is a big part of me. I also love nature and plants, so it's a great combination," he said.
Paulhamus hopes the class will get people interested in bonsais, demonstrate how it can be a fun hobby, and teach how to create and care for the trees.
Even as a kid, he has always had an interest in bonsais. He remembers seeing them in the movie "The Karate Kid."
His interest increased after he bought books, did some research, talked with others and eventually began working with the trees.
"I bought a few over the years but always killed them. In October of 2010, I went to a workshop at Country Cupboard and learned quite a bit about them and made my first bonsai," he said.
That first tree was a Catlin elm.
He visited a club in West Milton and really enjoyed it. That is when he realized he wanted to share his interest in bonsai.
He formed the Bring Your Own Bonsai Club last summer, which now has 10 members.
Right now, Paulhamus has 40 trees, in a range of species. They are both tropical, which are indoor, and temperate, which are outdoor.
"I am starting to think [this many trees] is way too many," he said.
Some of his favorites are serissa, elms, different conifers and ficus.
Caring for bonsais involves more than just watering a houseplant and may include talking to it or playing your favorite music.
"They are definitely more involving than houseplants. It really helps to do some basic research about your tree," he said.
Paulhamus said a month-long class would help keep people from making the same mistakes he made with his trees in the beginning.
"I want to show them how to [grow them] and how to keep them alive," he said. "It's pointless to make a beautiful tree only to kill it!"
He killed two trees in less than a year by treating them like a standard houseplant.
"Neither of those trees can be grown that way, [like a houseplant] they need to be outside year round and have a winter dormancy period," he said.
The class will teach what species to grow indoors and outdoors, proper soils to use and watering techniques.
"Once you get the hang of that, things become rather routine," he said.
In the class, Paulhamus said he will show the different styles and looks the trees can have.
"It's living sculpture; you mold a tree into what you want it to be. For me, I'm trying to make something that looks natural and old, a tree that has a story," he said.
Imagination is limitless when it comes to shaping a bonsai. Paulhamus said people can use trimming shears and concave cutters to prune the tree, and incorporate wires to make the trees twist and turn.
"There are many different styles or looks that you can go for, which we do talk about in class, but the bottom line is to try to make a pleasing-looking tree, keep it small and have fun while you are doing it," he said.
Bonsais require attention, Paulhamus said, so if you are the kind of person who can't remember to water a plant once a week, this growing art probably isn't for you.
"Of course it takes time to train and shape them as well, but that should be fun to do. If you are a creative person and like to do things like that, bonsai can be really fun," he said.
The class includes a fee, which coves the cost of the tree and pot for each student, along with tools and materials.
For more information on the club, go to www.bringyourownbonsaiclub.com.
To register for the class, call 327-5575.