Matt Sherman – Modanbonsai

For those who don’t know me , I am a bonsai student and practitioner born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Husband and father of 3, I am a professional Sound Supervisor and Mixer for cinema and television. It is a very interesting career when it comes to comparisons to bonsai as both are a balance of the artistic, the technical and reality of what resources you have available. We aim to evoke emotional response, create illusion, entertainment and suspension of disbelief, all while performing and managing a vast slew of technical skills, mysterious to the untrained.

Mixing a film at former Technicolor Montreal

I first got the bug for little trees when I was 15 years old. Like many of my generation, The Karate Kid had me inspired. I got into martial arts like just about every kid and thought bonsai was just the coolest most untouchable thing. I jumped for joy when I saw my first tangible tree. I was with my brother and my mom at a shopping mall in Maine , USA. There was a mysterious little kiosk selling “actual” bonsai! I could finally have one of these mystical little pets. That day, my brother Jesse and I both took home our first trees. These were no “bonsai” but your run-of-the-mill commercial “mallsai” stick in a pot procumbens juniper. Following the mystical advice from the salesman, we misted our trees daily, calculated the appropriate sun hours, only bringing them inside to be briefly appreciated. We treated them like they were our babies. We purchased books on bonsai, and tried to prune and wire them, obviously out of season, needless to say we killed these little twiggies pretty quickly.

Procumbens Juniper

I have practiced bonsai at an amateur/hobbyist level many times on and off throughout my life, I was essentially blindly following misguided bonsai salesmen, dated books, a whole lot of guess work, while learning in a isolated bubble and yes, killing trees. I felt destined to be an “armchair enthusiast”. Luckily I did discover the path into this mysterious world and I dove headfirst, right into the deep end.

What changed?

A little over a year ago I decided that I wanted to take bonsai a lot more seriously. I wanted to go as deep as I could. There have been so many advancements in sharing of information, community and overall horticultural side of bonsai in the past 15-20 years and bonsai has never been so accessible! A year ago, I began following Ryan Neil with Mirai Live, really digging into the content. Ryan and Mirai allowed me to really step up to new levels. However, like in the world of cinema one really needs to apprentice with an experienced practitioner in person.

Meeting Ryan Neil and chatting about taking bonsai to the next level

In fall of 2018 I attended the Rochester National show with my mom 🙂 I’m reminded of 20 years ago when we got my first juniper.. We decided to go see the best bonsai in North America. I was walking around the vendors area quite in awe of it all. I’d just met Ryan, Bjorn and hung out with Todd Schlafer and my mom grabs me and pulls me over to meet my soon to be bonsai Sensei, Linda Chicoine.

Making jin with Linda Sensei and preparing trees for a forest.

Meeting Linda was super cool, we got along really well and I am so grateful to her for giving me this amazing opportunity. Linda is incredibly wise and passionate about bonsai. She studied bonsai with David Easterbrooke, is also a horticulturist and teacher at many schools and clubs including the Montreal Botanical Garden’s Society of Bonsai and Penjing. This fall it will be a year into my apprenticeship. In addition to being a member of the SPBM, I am a founding member of an advanced bonsai study group called the Progressive Bonsai Collective and a moderator of the Hippie Dad Bonsai Facebook group. As I continue studying with Linda, Ryan and Mirai Live and the PBC, I am improving at a constant pace just like the little trees 🙂

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