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William N. Valavanis, born September 3, 1951 in Waukegan, Illinois, is a Greek-American bonsai master who carries on Yuji Yoshimura's tradition of teaching Japanese techniques and aesthetics to enthusiasts in the West.

At age 11, Valavanis began to pot tree seedlings and bend them into bonsai shapes. Four years later in the family's new home in Charleston, West Virginia, he began to exhibit and lecture on bonsai at local garden clubs, and the following year started the "House of Bonsai" business. The family moved to Rochester, New York in 1968.

The summer of 1970 Valavanis spent studying with Kyuzo Murata at that master's Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden in Omiya, Japan,[1] and with Toshio Kawamoto at the Nippon Bonsai-Saikei Institute in Tokyo. The following year Valavanis graduated from The State University of New York Agricultural and Technical College at Farmingdale, Long Island, NY with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture. The next year he was back to Japan to study bonsai with Kakutaro Komuro and Toshio Kawamoto, bonsai chrysanthemums with Tameji Nakajima, and earn a master's teaching certificate in ikebana from the Shofu School. Returning to his home in Rochester, NY, Valavanis had to redevelop the bonsai collection which he mostly had sold to finance his study in Japan. A degree in Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture from Cornell University followed in 1976 on the heels of several months study at Yuji Yoshimura's School of Bonsai in Briarcliff Manor, NY.[2] During his school days Valavanis continued to teach, train and sell bonsai; at Briarcliff Manor he conducted introductory and intermediate level bonsai courses. In 1975 and 1976 he wrote the first two volumes of the Encyclopedia of Classical Bonsai Art.[3]

Returning from another trip to Japan in 1978, the business' name was changed to "The International Bonsai Arboretum." By this time he had been an active member in and director of the influential Bonsai Society of Greater New York for several years.[4] He now did a one year stint as editor of that group's The Bonsai Bulletin. In the spring of 1979 Valavanis began publishing the quarterly International Bonsai magazine to further teach and disseminate classical bonsai art. A number of the articles are translated from the best Japanese bonsai magazines, allowing the world's first and longest-running independent English-language bonsai periodical to remain relevant and educational. Its circulation (in 2004) would be approximately 5,000.[5]

Beginning in 1981 and running through 2011 Valavanis hosted a two to four-day long annual seminar/workshop in September on a given type or style of tree. One hundred and fifty to two hundred participants each year would attend and be taught by a local, national and international faculty.[6] He would continue to teach and promote classical bonsai art, furthering the work of his teacher. His connections with many Japanese bonsai figures would allow him ongoing access to the history and development of the art.[7] He has authored many articles which have been printed in English, Japanese, and European publications. Valavanis has made TV appearances in North America, Japan, Korea, Italy, and Australia as part of his well-prepared workshop and lecture presentations. He is a frequent contributor to the Internet Bonsai Club forum, the largest such discussion group.

In June 2008 he organized the first biennial U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition.[8][9] (The second one would be held in June 2010 and the third is scheduled for June, 2012.)

This widely-respected teacher would go on to do increasing numbers of demonstrations nationally and internationally. Except for 2009 and 2010 (for health reasons), Valavanis has made over 50 trips to Japan, including leading annual group tours to Japanese bonsai sites and to the Kokufu Bonsai Ten exhibition, the premier display of bonsai in the world.[10][11]


^ "Kyuzo Murata, the Father of Modern Bonsai in Japan". Phoenix Bonsai. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
^ "Yuji Yoshimura, the Father of Popular Bonsai in the Non-Oriental World". Phoenix Bonsai. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
^ "The Books on Bonsai and Related Arts". Phoenix Bonsai. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
^ "About the BSGNY". Bonsai Society of Greater New York. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
^ "Bonsai and Other Magical Miniature Landscape Specialty Magazines, Part II". Phoenix Bonsai. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
^ "The Conventions, Symposia & Lectures/Demos". Phoenix Bonsai. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
^ "The Lineage of Some of Our Teachers". Phoenix Bonsai. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
^ "The Conventions, Symposia & Lectures/Demos". Phoenix Bonsai. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
^ "Bonsai Book of Days, October". Phoenix Bonsai. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
^ "Kokufu Bonsai Ten Shows". Phoenix Bonsai. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
^ Valavanis, William N. (2003). Bonsai: Past, Present, Future, 1963-2003. The International Bonsai Arboretum. pp. 46–48.

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