Bonsai Today

Online magazine for Bonsai lovers

Connected with nature

The bonsai passion of Brian Hollowell

From a professional golfer to an Operations Manager, a selling van along the roadside was the spark that ignited Brian’s passion for bonsai.

Your professional education?

Initially I studied Business at Longwood University and Christopher Newport University. I was a collegiate golfer and made golf my profession from 2002 to 2008. I transitioned over to the restaurant business in 2009.

How did it all start?

My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, and I were driving to meet my parents for dinner when we saw a van selling bonsai on the side of the road. We stopped and purchased a small juniper. The rest is history.

How did you acquire the skills?

I do not have a specific teacher. I’ve gained most of my skills through observation and practice. I have done workshops with many artists over the years and have drawn inspiration from all of them. Walter Pall, Jim Doyle, Bjorn Bjorholm and Mauro Stemberger. I have been a participant in Mirai-Live over the years, which has provided me with tools and inspiration to create bonsai. I’ve always been drawn to Ryan Neil’s work.

Any plans to go to Japan?

No, I don’t have plans for becoming an apprentice. With an established career and family, it would be very difficult to take that leap. Had I discovered bonsai a decade earlier, I most certainly would have given apprenticeship a go.

For me, bonsai is therapy..
Brian Hollowell
Carrollton, VA, USA

Your thoughts on bonsai

For me, bonsai is therapy. It’s a great opportunity to focus on my relationship with nature and what that has to offer. There’s a feeling of peace and tranquillity I experience when working with bonsai that cannot be replicated. I believe bonsai should be practiced in a way that respects the well-being of the tree. However, the different expressions of forms and styles are what make bonsai intriguing.

Any other interests or hobbies besides bonsai?

Although I’m no longer as strong a player as I once was, I do still occasionally play golf with friends. Much like bonsai, being on the golf course affords an opportunity to connect with nature.

Which trees do you most like to work on?

I am more drawn to elegant trees that lean towards feminine in character. I work with quite a bit of deciduous material and the number of clumps/multi-trunk bonsai in my garden have multiplied quickly in recent years. I’ve gravitated towards working with more shohin trees as my tastes evolve.

Do you have a favourite bonsai?

With a couple of hundred trees, it would be too difficult to pick a favourite. Though there is an unmatched satisfaction in the development of trees from seed to an established bonsai that I cherish.

My goal is never to exactly replicate what they do in Japan
Brian Hollowell
Carrollton, VA, USA

Your worst mistake?

Understanding how to water and the appropriate timing for work on specific trees were rather difficult lessons to learn. Unfortunately, I lost several valuable trees in the early years of practicing bonsai. Looking back, I didn’t have the foundation of knowledge and understanding to care for established bonsai until about 5 years into practicing.

What is your best achievement?

I can think of a handful of moments over the years where I felt like I may have achieved something in bonsai. Having a bonsai artist or professional, that I look up to for inspiration, compliment my work gives a sense of accomplishment. Additionally, it was an honour to receive Best Native Species Award in 2014 and Best Shohin Bonsai Award in 2023 at the US National Bonsai Exhibition.

Your dream comes true when...

I wake up each morning! I’m blessed to have a beautiful wife and two crazy boys. Each day in the restaurant business is a grind, but I consider myself fortunate in most ways. Especially when I see what’s happening in other parts of the world each day, I’m blessed to have the privilege of playing with little trees.

Do you favour the Japanese or Western bonsai style?

I’d say many of my trees appear to have more of a Japanese feel to them. Though my goal is never to replicate exactly what they do in Japan. Naturally, I think you can see a Western influence on several of my trees as well. Quite honestly, I can see the beauty and merit in both styles.

Brian Hollowell (41)

Born in: Carrollton, VA, USA Partner: Shana Askew Hollowell Children: Two boys Education: Bachelors Business Administration / Management, at the Christopher Newport University Profession: Operations Manager for 8 Restaurants – Moe’s Southwest Grill Into bonsai since: 2009 Favourite species: Native American Hornbeam – Carpinus Caroliniana.

© 2024 All Rights Reserved Bonsai Europe

Related Articles

You can cancel your Bonsai Today membership at any time, and you will continue to have access to Bonsai Today through the end of your billing period.  To cancel, go to the “Members” page and click on “Cancel” in My Memberships.