BUSY HANDS

This has been an especially busy week with the monthly meeting of Ikebana International Melbourne, an ikebana class with my teacher Elizabeth Angell on the same day, and two days of workshops with Yoshiro Umemura from Sydney on the weekend. I will report on those workshops next weekend. 

The theme for the Ikebana International meeting was Japanese Day and a workshop was given on how to tie the simplest decorative knot using mizuhiki, Japanese paper strings. 



This photo shows Chieko Yazaki leading an enthusiastic group at the meeting, step by step through the process.



This example of the desired knot was made by Reiko Ito as a demonstration piece. Reiko also made a beautiful small mizuhiki rosette for all the members at the meeting.


*          *          *          *          *



At Elizabeth's class the exercise was to make an ikebana arrangement in a vessel standing on the floor. I set the work beside the fireplace as it was possible to contain the arrangement  within the narrow space. I used two dried flower stems of New Zealand Flax that are just short of two metres tall. By placing them slightly apart I have further emphasised their height and in the space between them have created an elevated focal point with the heads of dried agapanthus flowers. As the focal point was set high in the arrangement I dropped a line down by hanging an inverted stem of agapanthus. The black porcelain vessel is by Alistair Whyte.

Lara Telford has a new post on her blog from Tokyo where she is the latest recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon Endowment scholarship.

Greetings from Christopher
15th October 2017 


ACACIA GOLD

Last week I showed photographic evidence that an echidna had been roaming through the garden hunting for ant nests. 



This week, on another warm day, when I was walking to the clothesline, 'Spike' the echidna heard me coming and tried to hide by burying itself into a compost heap. (I say 'itself' because I have no idea how one determines the gender of an echidna.)


Some years ago we planted this rather interesting South African daisy, Osteospermum. I was fascinated by the peculiar end of the petals that made the flower look like a raindrop splash in a puddle. 


This year the next generation of the original, which has spread around the garden, has become a meadow where we had some unhealthy casuarina trees cut down in one corner of the garden.




In addition to the white-petal blue-centred version shown above, there are some mauve flowers as well.


         

Here is another garden. It is my ikebana friend, Kath's. She recently commented how delighted she felt to see the white Iris and the Blue Bells welcoming her when she came home. Together they certainly looked a treat.


When I subsequently visited her I was greeted with this 'welcoming ikebana' of white iris in a ceramic bottle from Kyoto.

At home I have been watching a particularly intensely yellow wattle (acacia) come into bloom over the past few weeks. Unfortunately I cannot identify this specific acacia. However, I have been attracted by its large buttercup- yellow ball-shaped flowers and thought it would make a good ikebana subject.

    
I was wanting to contrast the rich yellow with the turquoise blues in this ceramic vase by Mark Bell from Maine USA. The ikebana turned out to be, almost, a 'Basic Upright' style in this round-bodied 'tsubo' form vase. The principle difference being that I have used flowers for the two main lines (shin and soe) on the left and pittosporum undulatum leaves, instead of flowers, for the third (hikae) line, on the right hand side. The group of leaves has provided a counter-balancing mass for the flowering lines that reach upward and to the left.

Greetings from Christopher
7th October 2017

SPRING VINE

We had some warm days last week that felt like the promise of summer. One morning when I walked out of the house along the garden path I noticed this large basalt rock had been dislodged.


       

Later that day as I drove the car out into the street I saw an echidna walking nonchalantly along the footpath, looking for ant nests to raid.


When I returned home and walked around the garden I found further evidence of echidna activity, including these holes dug in the mulch. Apparently it could sense the ant nest beneath the basalt rock. This was the first appearance of an echidna following the winter hibernation period.



This photo of an echidna under a rosebush was actually taken last year. With the typical variability of Spring-time, the weather has now turned somewhat cooler again and the echidna has not been evident since.


In the meantime the progression of the season is apparent. This week the pandorea pandorana vine growing on the fence is in full bloom. In the past we deliberately chose to use mesh fencing at the back of the property so that we could more easily grow vines and see the trees beyond the fence. The profusions of flowers shows nature in its abundant mood.



Here is a close up of a cluster of the bell shaped flowers. I thought they would make a good ikebana subject for my class in Torquay.


I set the students the task of making an ikebana arrangement using vine . The photo above is of my class demonstration using two large lengths of dried honeysuckle vine, Lonicera, and pandorea flowers. I have deliberately placed the flowers on one side to enhance the asymmetry of the ikebana. The vine, which envelops the space within the arrangement, comes a long way forward, which is not so apparent because of the foreshortening in the photo.

Greetings from Christopher
1st October 2017



'THE FLOWERS THAT BLOOM IN THE SPRING'

There are still many spring-blossoming trees to be seen in this part of the world. I took the photo below as an outdoor exercise of the Photography Group of the Friends of the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne. I joined the group in the hope of learning how to make better use of my new pocket camera that I bought in Japan last March.


This photograph surprised me by the amazingly abstract-looking quality of the reflections in the water. 

In the garden at home over the last couple of weeks I have been watching with pleasure as a range of flowers bloom.



This gazania is really striking for its dark, brick-red, colour, which contrasts beautifully with its furry, soft green foliage.  Some gazanias have smooth, shiny green leaves



My second photo shows the first flowers of a small Forsythia bush that was bought for me last autumn by my friend Shirley. I am delighted and amazed that it has produced these flowers in the first spring since planting. I have great ikebana hopes!



Again this week I have photographed the apricot tree in flower. This time to contrast it with a small flower...


... that has finally appeared on a branch...


...in an ikebana arrangement I made eight weeks ago. The photo above shows the 'no-kenzan', bare-branch arrangement today. I have moved the arrangement into the warmth of our conservatory in the hope that it will flower further. 

*          *          *          *          *

My Melbourne-based ikebana colleague, Lara Telford, is now in the second week of her Norman and Mary Sparnon Scholarship in Tokyo and has posted photos from her first week of classes at the Sogetsu Headquarters
On the righthand side of her web-page there is a button where you can sign up using Facebook. I think that means you will get an automatic notification when she publishes a posting.

Greetings from Christopher
23rd September 2017.



FLOWERING VINE

We have had quite a bit of welcome rain in the past week. The early part of winter had been quite dry. 



These Galahs seemed very happy to be feeding among the, now thickly, growing grass in a nearby park.



On the same walk I noticed the change in some native Clematis micro-phylla. The flowers have now finished and the seed heads are beginning to form. First they develop fine shiny fibres that will soon become fluffy balls capable of distributing the seeds in the wind.

In the garden... 


...the apricot tree has now passed the peak of its flowering. 



At the base of the apricot some tiny grape hyacinths have come up. These plants originally came from my parents' garden.



I was also somewhat relieved to see the first small leaves on the ornamental grape. In autumn I had transferred it into the ground from a pot.



On the fence an unusually blue Hardenbergia is now flowering prolifically, and threatening to engulf the nearby Nandina domestica. I decided to quickly create an ikebana with the Hardenbergia taking advantage of its cascading possibilities. 



In this photo I have arranged it in a shallow bowl by Phil Elson. The right hand side of the bowl is cut off because of the distracting detail in the background of the photo.



I removed a lot of leaves and some flowers to show the twining nature of the vine as you can see in this close up photo. The vine is trailing against a ceramic plinth made by Graeme Wilkie.

Earlier in the week I attended the meeting of Ikebana International where the theme was Clivias, a native of South Africa which does well in our climate.

Greetings from Christopher
17th September 2017


As WINTER PASSES we WELCOME SPRING

Over the period of the Ikebana International Exhibition mentioned in last weeks posting, I spent a number of days in Melbourne. When I finally returned home and had time to walk around the garden at Torquay I notice that the apricot tree was in bud...

       
   
  

...and Joan's white Japanese flowering quince was at its peak. The red flowering quince is now covered with leaves and only a few flowers can be seen.



I thought the two quince flowers would make a good ikebana subject, to reflect this time of transition. The ceramic vase is by the Castlemaine artist Barry Singleton.


*          *          *          *          *

The exercise I gave my Torquay students this week was to make an arrangement using green materials only. It is something of a challenge to create ikebana without any flowers and it causes the ikebanist to pay close attention to form and texture. I thought the results were interestingly varied and quite delightful.



This first work was by Val.



Leonie



Kim



and lastly Fran.


*          *          *          *          *




This weekend my colleague from Melbourne, Lara Telford, arrives in Tokyo to spend three months studying at the Sogetsu Headquarters. She is the sixth recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon Endowment Scholarship. It is her intention to publish an internet blog each week about her activities. 

Click here for Lara's website blog. I will also provide a link to her posting each week. If you have a Facebook account you should be able to connect directly with her blog and share it with your friends.

Greetings from Christopher
9th September 2017

IKEBANA INTERNATIONAL MELBOURNE EXHIBITION



The last two weeks have certainly been a busy time. Last weekend I brought you photos from the Sogetsu workshop I had conducted on the theme of using text in an ikebana work. 


The following day, Tuesday 22nd August, was spent setting up the Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter annual exhibition. In this exercise I was the principal curator, assisted by a small team of Kaye Wong, Margaret Wilson, Chieko Yazaki and Elishia Zhang. The exhibition space was the lobby of the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins.



  

As this photo shows, it is a very large space, with a number of challenges from a curatorial perspective when the artwork is ikebana.





The large windows on the lefthand side look into a glass-roofed atrium. This meant that in the day time there was quite strong light coming from behind the three installations in the window recesses. Ikebana works were also set on long narrow tables behind the groups of couches and chairs.




We also used the open central space. For this we brought our folding shoji screens and plinths as were unable to use the walls.


The exhibition was opened by the Consul-General of Japan, Mr Matsunaga. He and his wife are the co-patrons of Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter. The photo above was taken on another occasion.

                                 f
I was assisted by my student Kyoko Imai in setting up this contemporary style ikebana work in a large Shigaraki vessel. The materials are: driftwood melaleuca lanceolata,  gymea leaves doryanthes excelsa, white chrysanthemum, and lattice made from red painted agapanthus stems. 


In this photo, taken at the the official opening of the exhibition, I am sitting on the window sill to provide a sense of scale. 

II Annual Exhibition photos link.

Greetings from Christopher
3rd September 2017


IKEBANA INCORPORATING TEXT


On Monday last, the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School held one of its regular workshops. On this occasion the workshop on the theme: Ikebana Incorporating Text, was lead by me. 

I had set this topic for my own students last year and, at the time, was very impressed by the variety of their interpretation of the idea. I was also struck that each of the arrangements reflected the personality of the students.

When thinking about the theme I decided to create examples where the text in some way related to the ikebana; though this does not have to be the case and the text may simply be incidental, decorative or contrasting with the ikebana. 

For the workshop I created three examples on the theme.


The first example uses the most obvious strategy of using text already written on paper. The text is from an advertisement for the Melbourne International Film Festival and asks ‘What is the role of the artist in a creative city?’.


The second example, is an arrangement 'emphasising water' and is self-referencing. It has the letters I.K.E.B.A.N.A, formed from the green stems of Umbrella grass cypress alternifolius, which sit among the red geometric structure above the surface of the water.


The third example has the text 'Consider......' written on a leaf using a 'gel pen'. I intended this to be an invitation to the viewer to pause and reflect on the arrangement. However, it is also a reference to the quotation from the New Testament. Being the first word of the well known line,  'Consider the lilies of the field...'. This verse, among other things, implies that the perfection of nature cannot be surpassed by man-made creation. An idea consistent with the perspective of ikebana.

Examples of the ikebana by the attendees at the workshop are posted on the Sogetsu Victoria website.

Greetings from Christopher
27th August 2017