My name is Mark Fields. My passion for bonsai began at about age 9. I was born in 1959 and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. My dad was a landscape contractor, as I am today. He used to purchase and dig nursery stock from a nursery, Line's Nursery, down the street from where we lived. Occasionally, I would go with him and was wandering around the nursery one day and found some little mugho pines that the nursery owner had lined out and was training in the ground. I asked the owner, Mr. Line, what he was doing with them and he said that he was training them as bonsai. I began asking him more about them and visited him more often. A few days later he loaned me two books he owned from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, "Handbook on Bonsai: Special Techniques" and "Handbook on Dwarfed Potted Trees, The Bonsai of Japan" and told me that I would learn more if I read them. He showed me how to start and grow plants from cuttings, how to prune properly and other skills I would practice as I grew older. He passed away in the early 1970’s.
My dad used to bring home shrubs in the back of his truck which were removed from a job and discarded. When I saw an interesting looking trunk or shape I would remove it from the truck and pot it up. Most would die within days, some would survive for at least that years growing season. It was great practice and I learned a lot.
When I married and moved out of my parent’s house into a double in 1979 I moved my bonsai there. The neighbor next door noticed that I was growing bonsai and told me his father-in-law used to do bonsai. He went back to his house and got his wife and introduced me. I told her the story about how her father got me started in bonsai and that he had loaned me his two Brooklyn Botanic Garden handbooks more than a decade before. She told me to wait a minute and went back into the house. A few minutes later she brought out those very same books and told me to keep them. I was stunned. They are now a part of my book collection and I still use them as a reference to this day.
About that same time I discovered a bonsai nursery on the southeast side of Indy called Mendel Gardens. There I began a relationship with the owner, Max Mendel. He sold starter trees, supplies, offered free advice and critiqued my trees when I asked him to. He became my second mentor and taught me much of what I know about bonsai today. I called him the father of bonsai in Indiana. I spent many weekends wandering around his nursery. He introduced me to the Indianapolis Bonsai Club, which I joined. I have been a member of that organization since 1979 and was president from 2009 - 2012. Max passed away in the mid 1990's and I bought a few of his trees and his personal set of Masakuni tools which I treasure.
In October of 2004 I traveled to Europe where I met and befriended Danny Use and his wife Ingrid at their Ginkgo Bonsai Center in Laarne, Belgium. I went back there in October 2005 and worked for Danny a couple days. I talked them into traveling to the US in June of 2008 to headline the Mid-America Bonsai Alliance in Indianapolis, their first time here in the US. They invited me to their nursery in April of 2009 where I spent 2 weeks straight working side by side with Danny on many of his world class bonsai specimens. It was truly an amazing experience and I learned so much. I am a much better bonsai artist because of his teachings.
I worked for a major pharmaceutical company here in Indy from 1980 – 2010. I also owned and operated my own landscape business, Fields Landscape Concepts, LLC, which I founded in 1983 and closed in 2006. As part of the landscape business I sold bonsai, pre-bonsai and supplies to club members and fellow enthusiasts since the early 1980's. In 2011, with a gentle push from friends such as bonsai artist and author, Craig Coussins, and bonsai artist Warren Hill, I founded my own School of Bonsai.
I am married, for the second time, with 2 grown children from my first marriage and a granddaughter and a grandson. My wife Allison delivered twins, a boy and a girl, in November 2007. So I am experiencing sort of a second life so to speak.
With the twins coming along, I was looking for something to do at home rather than being gone every evening landscaping. In 2006, with some prompting from my wife and IBC club members, I decided to start a website and open a new business, Bonsai by Fields, LLC. I perform demonstrations, lectures and workshops using a wide variety of trees. I also vend at a few major exhibitions throughout the US.
I recently updated a list of bonsai artists I have either seen in demonstrations, lectures and workshops. They total more than 60 at this point. Names such as the great John Naka, Mas Ishi, Yuji Yoshimura, Danny Use, Ryan Neil, Masahiko Kimura and Bjorn Bjorholm are among them.
In the fall of 2013, I finally realized a dream I have always had of travelling to Japan to visit some of the bonsai nurseries there. I was also able to see one of the major exhibitions there, the Taikan-ten, held in November in the city of Kyoto.
In early January, 2015, I traveled to Osaka, Japan to study at Kouka-en. A third generation bonsai nursery owned by Keichi Fujikawa. It is the nursery where Bjorn apprenticed and is now a resident artist. I had secured a spot to study for a a month there. What an amazing experience! It was 7 days a week, 8 - 9 hours a day of nothing but bonsai. I was also able to attend the 2015 Kokufu-ten Bonsai Exhibithion and he famous Green Club Sale. While there, I met Italian bonsai artist Mauro Stemberger. He visited here in the fall of 2015 and I am now his midwest agent.
In April/May of 2017, I traveled back to Japan to attend the World Bonsai Convention, held in Saitama, Japan. It was a surreal experience. Many of the trees exhibited there had not been seen by the public in decades.
I am a past president of the American Bonsai Society for 4 and a half years, which ended on December 31, 2022.
If you have any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org