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Fleeting Beauty with Tildy’s Bonsai

In our encounters over the years with artists, makers and creatives, we’ve learned that anything of value takes time. Having honed his skills in the ancient art of bonsai and founded plant studio Tildy’s, Billy Ho has patience in spades. With his miniature trees making their presence known everywhere from the sanctum of his workspace to our quiet campaigns and sun-filled Sydney showroom, we sat down to discuss how a spare-time pursuit became a passion.

Studio photography courtesy of Tildy’s Bonsai
Campaign styling by Joseph Gardner
Campaign photography by Anson Smart

Tell us about your childhood. Were you always creatively inclined?

Certainly! From a young age, I was that kid who couldn't resist sketching during class instead of focusing solely on the teacher's words. My passion [lay] in drawing concept cars, products, and sculptural pieces.

What led you into the world of bonsai?

Being Asian, bonsai is deeply embedded in our culture. It's ubiquitous, appearing on TV, in magazines, restaurants, and shops. As I matured, my innate connection with bonsai grew stronger. After marrying my Japanese wife and experiencing the beauty of her traditional Japanese garden at home, I felt compelled to try my hand at bonsai. Since then, I've been on an unstoppable journey with it.

How has your background in design shaped your approach to cultivating and caring for your plants?

Working in the design industry has greatly informed my approach to creating bonsai. I've had the privilege of collaborating with top designers in my field, learning invaluable lessons about aesthetics, functionality, and other design principles. This experience has undoubtedly enriched my ability to craft beautiful bonsai art.

What are your main tools of the trade?

My main tools of the trade are my fingers and hands. They are essential when it comes to crafting bonsai. They enable me to connect with the tree on a profound level, feeling its textures, shapes, and energy. This tactile interaction is not only crucial for the art of bonsai but also carries a spiritual significance for me.

Is there a particular bonsai that holds sentimental value to you? If so, why?

Actually, all of my bonsai hold sentimental value for me. Each one represents a significant investment of my time and effort. They are all precious to me because they are a testament to my dedication and passion for this art form.

Have you taken any life lessons from working with bonsai?

Yes, I've learned that not everything lasts forever. Not every design is permanent. I've come to appreciate the fleeting moments of beauty and the considerable effort required to create those brief moments of splendour.

What do you need in your surroundings to feel creative and productive?

I find that I need a quiet and spacious environment to feel creative and productive.

Finally, what has been inspiring you lately?

Lately, I've been working on some significant native bonsai projects. These pieces are inspired by the natural habitat and growth patterns of our native plants in the Blue Mountains area. The intricate branch movements and forms reflect the beauty and resilience of these plants in their natural environment.