At my class in Melbourne last week, Kyoko's exercise was an arrangement of 'Massed Expression'. It is an interesting, varied and difficult exercise because the mass must be created by the ikebanist and not simply using  the way the material grows. For example a large hydrangea flower, which has a lot of mass, would not qualify for the exercise. 

Kyoko used an unknown, straight-stemmed, branch material with small, slightly-pointed, elliptic leaves on the left, and four straight stems of 'Pinappple Flower', Eucomis on the right.

Kyoko has successfully cut the leafy stems into short sections and then arranged them so that they make an undulating mass with the leaves pointing in different directions. The mass of Eucomis is composed of four stems which are no longer visible.

For my Torquay students I had set the exercise of an arrangement of 'Autumn Grasses'. All of the students gathered materials growing near their homes. The three arrangements have a distinctly different feel in spite of using similar materials in a naturalistic manner.

The curving line in Val's arrangement reminded me of the Rimpa style of painting. 

Helen has divided her arrangement between fresh material on the left and dry on the right.

Kim created a very open, quite tonal, arrangement with attention to space.

At my teacher's class in Melbourne, I was amused that the exercise was to make an arrangement in a glass vase, having just done so the previous week in the Ikebana International Exhibition. The materials are familiar from last week's posting. However, on this occasion I have used minimal materials and added some cumquats to give a texture and colour contrast.

I placed the cumquats in the bottom of the vase and then braced a spent agapanthus head across the middle of the vase. To extend the design I have placed the second agapanthus stem outside the vase to create a strong line and an interesting space. It was fun to watch the cumquats rise and be held by the submerged agapanthus flower head as I added water to the vase.

On Friday of this week an exhibition of prints by Jörg Schmeisser was opened at the Geelong Gallery. These works on paper are a future bequest from our collection that are being publicly shown for the first time. In fact it is the first time we have seen them all in one space. 

Laurie purchased the first work in 1979 following the year he spent in Nagoya, 1978. They constitute one of the factors that lead me to begin my study of ikebana when we spent 4 months in Nagoya in 1992. If you are near Geelong they are on display until 27th May. 


Greetings from Christopher
18th March 2018

Click the link to Ikebana International Melbourne March meeting.


As I mentioned in my last posting, the Melbourne Chapter of Ikebana International held an exhibition in the foyer of an office block during the week. I was the curator of the exhibition, assisted by Chieko Yazaki and Sally Wilkinson. Of course, such an exhibition is only possible because of the contribution of the many members of the Chapter and their assistants. 

I have been advised by my senior mentors that a curator should only contribute a very simple arrangement if they are going to participate in an exhibition they are curating. I am not there yet, but getting better at 'simple'.

I chose agapanthus for my subject material as it has only just finished flowering, but has not finished being a fascinating and versatile material. One of the joys of ikebana is the way in which we are invited to regard botanical materials in all their parts and phases of life.

I posted the photo above, of an ikebana arrangement I made for a friend using agapanthus flowers, on Christmas Eve. In this arrangement the focus is clearly the upward reach of the flowers on their long stems and spaces created.

When agapanthus has finished flowering the stems harden and large numbers of seeds are produced. At this stage of its life it takes on a new spiky appearance if the seeds are removed and being only green it looks decidedly fresh. As an exhibition material it has the added virtue of holding its colour for a long period and not wilting.

This was my ikebana for the exhibition. My intention was for the work to be seen from all around. However, for the purpose of photography, I have placed a shoji screen at the back. I have massed forty-eight stems tightly together to create a large strong vertical column as the principal line. In a separate glass vase I have submerged a single late-season flower that I found growing at the edge of the creek. Between the two vases I have created a mass of flower-heads that visually connect the two elements. 

In this view the space between the two vases is clearer. This arrangement is probably not really 'simple'. However, I was able to prepare the vertical column in advance and bring it as a finished element to be installed in the venue.

I hope you will enjoy these photos from the Bourke Place Exhibition.

Greetings from Christopher
10th March 2018


Today is the third day of Autumn and there are end-of-Summer changes in the garden. This morning, after a cool start to the day, we are expecting 31C before a cool change.

The sun was silvery bright on the water as we walked along the cliff tops toward Bells Beach.

This view is of 'Winkipop', east of Bells Beach...

...and this is Bells Beach looking west. I was surprised just how many people were surfing. Then I remembered we are in the period prior to the Easter 'Bells Beach Surfing Classic', which has drawn competitors from around the world for over 50 years.

In the garden some of the 'Bella Donna' lilies amaryllis belladonna are fully open, while others in more shaded places are just coming up. I am hoping to have time to use them in some ikebana before they finish flowering.

In the meantime my students in Torquay were making arrangement incorporating drift wood this week and I was struck by the use of pink flowers, similar in tone to the Bella Donna. 

Val massed some pink Sedum from her own garden in a small deep blue bowl.

Kim used one small unidentified pink flower, pale blue plumbago and a bleached piece of driftwood.

He also made a second arrangement with a sinuous branch to which he added some small lilies that repeated the shape of the wood.

In my Geelong class the students are completing some of the exercises from the new Book 5, of the Sogetsu curriculum.

A couple of weeks ago the subject was to make an arrangement using a 'cross bar' fixture. This technique is particularly suitable for light materials and works well for a horizontal arrangement as can be seen here. Ellie has used a beautifully curved stem of rose hips extending to the left and a shorter stem projecting forward, partially covering a cluster of white flowers. The cross bar allows the principal stem to rise in an elegant curve without touching the side of the vessel.

My colleague Emily has some delightful photos and information about Kookaburras in her garden as well as photos from her ikebana class.

If you are in Melbourne this coming week, try to visit the Ikebana International Exhibition in Bourke Place foyer, on the corner of Bourke and King Streets.

Greetings from Christopher
3rd March 2018


Two weeks ago I held this year's first class for my Melbourne students. I had set the senior students the exercise of making a 'Mazeshashi' arrangement. Traditionally this arrangement of a variety of materials was done in Autumn, principally using grasses. The aim is for a full, but light arrangement with a greater colour palette than is usual.

Robyn was particularly concerned to pay attention to the space within her arrangement. 

Unfortunately, in both of the following photos there is distortion of the image caused by the foreshortening effect of the camera.

Margaret's starting point was the white Cosmos from her own garden. She kept the arrangement light to complement the delicate turquoise of her vase.

Helen paid particular attention to the variety of texture in her work. Unfortunately, the photo's foreshortening effect exaggerates the size of the leaf on the right front. 

Kyoko's arrangement was 'Taking into account the colour of the vessel'. She massed  anthurium on the right and balanced them with a line of rose-hips extending to the left.

       *      *       *       *      *      *       *      *

Last Monday, the first meeting for 2018 of the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School was held. Lara Telford lead a workshop on the theme of 'The Essence of Creativity', which is number 48 of Sofu Teshigahara's 
50 Principles of Ikebana. 

Lara asked us to draw a sketch of our proposed arrangement using familiar materials. I used Costal Sword Sedge Lepidosperma gladiatum, which can be arranged into beautiful curving lines, like the example below.

At the workshop, Lara then asked us to change the way we worked and use the familiar material in an unfamiliar way. This idea, from the 50 Principles of Ikebana, is to take us beyond the familiar and what we know works to make some new discovery. It is by doing something unfamiliar that we can truly become creative. 

In taking up the challenge I realised that I had never concertinaed this material by making closely spaced folds. The zigzagging lines looked interesting; however, they had no structural strength and could not support their own weight. I therefore needed to use some straight leaves as the support through which I  threaded my newly created wiggling lines. A single oriental lily was added as a focus. 

More photos from the Sogetsu Branch workshop.

Greetings from Christopher
26th February 2018


At my class in Torquay this week, my student Leonie created an ikebana arrangement on the theme: 'Memories of Summer Holidays'. I must say I really enjoy this theme as the variety of interpretations is so great and also very personal.

This is Leonie's work, a simple arrangement reflecting the south-coast environment using driftwood and some green Amaranthus. She has slanted the amaranthus capturing the feeling of the prevailing westerly winds experienced on the coast. By extending the driftwood beyond the vessel the arrangement conforms to the exercise: 'Incorporating the area around the vessel'.

Last Tuesday, the Melbourne Chapter of Ikebana International held its first meeting for 2018. The theme for the meeting was also the same one: 'Memories of Summer Holidays'. Below are four arrangements that particularly caught my attention because of the surprising idea that was the inspiration for each work. 

This is by Lara Telford, who had returned from 3 months in Tokyo at the Sogetsu Head Quarters to find that her garden had become a 'jungle' through which she had to carve a path to the front door. 

Beverley Webster was very pre-occupied over the summer with the 're-stumping' of her house. She incorporated one of the jacks used to lift the house and an intense blue hydrangea that kept her spirits up during the process.

Lucy Papas remembered her holiday to the Maldives and in particular the beautiful scenes of colourful corals under the water.

Chieko Yazaki remembered summer camp holidays of her childhood. Her cheerful arrangement represents the joy of children playing around a pool in the warm days of summer.

There were more arrangements which can be seen at this link, Ikebana International Melbourne.

Greetings from Christopher
17th February 2018


The beginning of 2018 is turning out to be an exceptionally busy time. Among other things, on the ikebana front I have been involved in preparations for a forthcoming exhibition by members of the Ikebana International Chapter which will take place in March.

Continuing on from last week's theme of first classes for 2018, my student Val made her first arrangement using a 'vertical fixture' in a nageire style vase. That is a tall, straight-sided vessel. This is a challenging style and to reduce the stress we started with the 'slanting' version which is a little easier. 

In a 'slanting' arrangement the longest line (Shin) is leaning at a 45 degree angle. In this case coming forward of the vase toward the left side. The vertical fixture within the vase is not visible and has the function of holding the stem firmly in place so that it does not rotate.

My own ikebana this week returns to an earlier theme, that of the material Moonah melaleuca lanceolata, which I dealt with two weeks ago. 

Some of the flowers I had gathered back then held together without dropping for several days. I teamed them with some white spider chrysanthemums in a blue vase. The vase is by Mark Bell, a ceramicist working in Maine USA. 

Greetings from Christopher
11th February 2018


In this part of the world a new year of ikebana has begun, and life will soon become very busy. I have enjoyed the summer break which has allowed me to spend some additional time in the garden. Firstly, keeping it alive through the hot dry weather and, secondly, re-potting and planting things in the conservatory that had become overgrown.

I held my first classes for the year last Thursday and it was good to see familiar faces and some new ones as well. The new students were made welcome by the advanced students who shared advice about where to find branch and other materials for classes. I had set some students the exercise of making an arrangement expressing their 'summer holidays'. 

Leonie made this light open arrangement with one of the agonis shrubs from Western Australia. She said it grows beside the driveway and was in need of pruning as it had grown so well in the past few months. Leonie has added a small group of Lisianthus, Eustoma, at the base as a focal point.

Val has used some dried grass flower heads, geranium and yet-to-open white 'wind flowers', all representing the red, green and white colours of her Christmas celebration. To these she has added the additional elements of summer fruit and a champagne flute.

Kim's work reflected his summer walks with his dog on the beach. On the bottom of a clear glass vase he has placed a water-worn stone, that seemed to float above the base; the inner bones of two cuttlefish suspended between the sides of the vase; and a branch that had washed up on the beach.

My own ikebana is a Basic Upright moribana. This is the first exercise in the Sogetsu curriculum, which I demonstrated to the new students. I have used an unknown woody weed and yellow roses in a blue ceramic suiban. For all its simplicity, this foundational arrangement has an elegant and fresh appearance.

Greetings from Christopher
3rd February 2018


Summer time is the main flowering season of the Moonah, melaleuca lanceolata, which grows extensively on the cliff tops at Torquay. 

As the 'bottle-brush' flowers are at the end of the branches, the effect during the flowering is of a mass of white covering most of the bushes. 

Here on the cliffs they are low growing, hugging the ground, looking very neat and compact having been 'trimmed' by the wind.

In such exposed situations the branches become beautifully contorted into quite extraordinary shapes. When these larger branches fall into the sea and become bleached driftwood, the branch surface can have a quite satiny appearance.

Away from the strong winds, Moonah can grow into small trees with a lovely dense canopy. They are to be seen in some of the older gardens in Torquay, like this one growing in Pearl St.

I decided to make a 'mass and line' ikebana arrangement using some Moonah in a ceramic vessel with warm earthy characteristics. The vessel was made by Margaret Hall, Director of the Australian Sogetsu Teachers Association Inc, New South Wales Branch. 

Greetings from Christopher
27th January 2018