Washington State Viewing Stone Enthusiasts
by Rick Klauber
The Viewing Stone Study Group (VSSG) of the Puget Sound Bonsai Association (PSBA) is a loosely knit group of stone hunters and exhibitors with a diverse style for viewing stone presentations of stones collected in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. The group was established in 2009 in the Puget Sound area to provide exhibitions for an annual show at the Pacific Bonsai Museum and the Regional Bonsai shows when sponsored by the PSBA. The group maintains an e-mail list of 35 contacts, but there is no formal meeting schedule or no dues are collected.
Each year at the Pacific Bonsai Museum the group sponsors a juried show of some 30 stones most often found in the Pacific Northwest. A requirement for these annual shows is that no stone has been previously exhibited. By enforcing this requirement, the group promotes the collection of new material and base-making for these new finds each year. Standards of practice vary widely and are encouraged as the group is interested in presenting a diverse representation of the varied Asian traditions. Each year there is a publication of all the stones juried in to the exhibition made available at cost to the membership.
In addition, to encourage participation the VSSG provides informal displays at PSBA monthly meetings to show new finds to the membership at large. A one-hour formal multimedia piece on what to look for and how to construct a viewing stone base has been compiled by Edd Kuehn and is presented biennially to the PSBA and to other stone enthusiasts in the region.
The core of the viewing stone study group includes Rick Klauber, Edd Kuehn, Patrick Metiva and Joel Schwarz. These individuals organize two or more stone-hunting trips each year and actively promote the art form through informal gatherings.
Viewing stones are most often found in the rivers and streams of Western Washington that descend from the west side of the Cascade Range. The streams on the Olympic Peninsula, rocky beaches along the coastlines of Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Pacific Ocean beaches also produce a variety of stones. E-mail notices go out each summer as the rivers fall to a level considered safe for searching the banks of the once flooding waterways; at these levels accessible spots can be found. This is not always easy, as wet winters encourage dramatic growth of everything from the spiny shrub Devils Club to blackberries with numerous thorns on their many branches. Each outing is a combination of finding stones and critiquing by group leaders to encourage understanding of what determines a good viewing stone. Over the relatively short life of this study group there have been four to six members who carve wooden bases primarily for their private collections and for others who do not have the equipment for making bases. More recently the abundance of driftwood found in the rivers and beaches has been incorporated in the presentation of stone.
The range of stones found is most often gray to gray-black color with appropriate hardness. The shapes span all stone categories formally described. Metamorphic material is most often found to provide optimal shaping by cascading waters and the shifting river paths are most evident in the Stillaguamish River which proved deadly three years ago in the Oso land slide. Most stones are eroded from existing old river and glacial deposits and to lesser extent outcroppings that are sheared off.