Over the last few weeks my students and I have been very busy  preparing for the eighth annual 'Ikebana at Qdos' exhibition. The gallery, which is owned by the artist potter Graeme Wilkie, is set in Mountain Ash forest behind the coastal town of Lorne on the Great Ocean Road. Graeme has been a ceramic artist for almost 40 years and is well known for his large scale ceramics that are wood fired in an anamaga kiln.

In the last week we have spent three days at the gallery setting up our work. This year has seen a marked departure from previous  exhibitions. We  have not used any fresh material at all and the theme has been the creation of installations that relate directly to the aspects of the gallery building or Graeme Wilkie's ceramics. We began by collecting materials over the last several weeks and preparing some of them in advance of taking them to the gallery. Because of the scale all of the works were done collaboratively with one principal designer. The gallery is located on a steep hillside and has three levels under a sweeping continuous roof.

This work below is in the entrance foyer of the gallery. The two large ceramic pieces are about 1.4 Metres long. A rectangular box shape has been covered with magnolia leaves, showing their backs (except one), and caught in a frame-work of black bamboo. I designed the work and was assisted by Christine Denmead.

This is a large floating installation of dried agapanthus flower stems some of which have been painted red. A stencil image of agapanthus hangs behind the work. The work floats over the middle level of the gallery and extends to the upper level. Designed by me assisted by Ellie Welkamp.

This work, designed by Helen Quarrell, is made of bamboo frames with paper triangles. It related to the view of trees outside the large windows to the right of the picture frame. The blue stencil on the left is of bamboo.   

This work is of blue PVC pipes and has triangular paper stencil inserts. One part of the design hangs outside the window. It was designed by Maureen Duffy.

These large spheres were made of grape vine. The design is by Nola Bird.

This work is made with dried fennel stems some of which are painted red. The design is by Christine Denmead.

This hanging work is made from dried New Zealand Flax flowers one of which was painted yellow. It was created by me and Ellie Welkamp.

Here Ellie Welkamp has created an assembled work of a variety of dried materials set in a sculpture made of square mesh wire. The large cone of tall grasses on the right is an inversion of the ceramic 'oblisk' shape.

I hope you enjoy these images. As always they do not fully convey the three dimensionality of the work and the space of the gallery in which they are set.

Greetings from Christopher
25th September 2011


I love the white double blossom on this tree that I came across for the first time only last year. It is growing in a small garden at the front of a block of flats near the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. It looks so fresh and makes a bright welcome to Spring which, in Australia begins on the first day of September. Having spent Spring and early Summer in Tokyo this year I really feel that Spring should be just about finished. 

Last week there was one day of particularly strong cold winds directly from the south. In the middle of this picture you may see a brave wind-surfer taking advantage of the conditions.

On the wind blown top of the cliffs is an area of heathland with  low growing plants that often look as though some-one comes out at night and prunes them closely like the rounded shrubs in Japanese gardens. My eyes were caught by the mauve flowers in the foreground.

The exercise my teacher set at her last class was an interesting one. Create an arrangement using repeating shapes. Then make a simplified version using the same material. I created the triangles from reeds I collected in the creek near our house. I really was not very happy with the result. I think it looks a bit too flat and the highest triangle doesn't relate well to the rest of the arrangement.

I think the simplified version is a little better. It is in a lovely vase that Elizabeth lent me which was made by Shigeo Shiga. He worked in New South Wales for many years and died only last year.

This arrangement of acacia pycnantha is in a bottle shaped vase I bought in Mashiko. The glaze is a light Tenmoku (I think) with a turquoise splash on each of the broader sides.

Greetings from Christopher
18th September 2011


On Saturday 3rd September Laurie and I attended a demonstration at the National Gallery of Victoria by the Iemoto Sen’ei Ikenobo. He was in Australia to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Ikenobo chapter in Melbourne. In addition to the demonstration there was an beautiful exhibition of works in the Great Hall of the gallery, by Melbourne and international Ikenobo ikebanists. During the demonstration I was particularly struck by the Iemoto’s references to the function of the concepts of ‘In’ (negative) and ‘Yo’ (positive) in ikebana. I feel this is a principle that is central to understanding ikebana and think in Australia it is essential to teach the idea to students because it is not part of our western world view. Only this morning I was reading ‘The Art of Setting Stones’ by Marc Peter Keane and came across the most lucid explanation of the concept on pages 108-110 that I have ever read. 
From Wednesday 7th for five days the Melbourne Chapter of Ikebana International held an exhibition at the Kazari Gallery in Malvern. I contributed a work of two largish spheres I had made from ornamental grape vine, one of which held a low black vase with three Waratah flowers. The Waratah is the state floral emblem of New South Wales. The sphere on the right is actually about half the size of the one on the left and both are made from a vine I had to prune very hard this year. I connected the two spheres with two gymea leaves. 

The placement of this work made it very difficult to photograph. It was in a long narrow entrance space against a window, outside of which was a red car. I have 'smudged' the background because it was very busy and distracting. 

To continue the theme of using vine, here is a one from our garden that was labeled 'snow bells' when I planted it, I think it is Pandorea Pandorana. I have arranged it in a Bizen hanging vase. The flowers have a lovely foaming appearance because of their fluted edges. I have done quite a lot of pruning of these branches

I have also re-set last weeks exercise with some changes suggested by an 'advisor'. I think the work and in particular the 'splashes' show better against the lighter background.

For the Michaels in Florida here are close ups of these two Bizen vases that I bought in Okayama.

Greetings from Christopher
11th September 2011


This week I set my students the exercise of making an installation work. The purpose of the exercise was to make a 'sculptural' work that used for it's reference point something within the class room or part of the room itself, the ceiling, walls, floor, doors or windows. Ellie Welkamp made the work below relating to a table. She added some wooden frames as well as the botanical materials. 
Nola Bird first made a strong sculpture using two chairs that she place on a table. She then added the lilies in this naturalistic contrast to the feeling of the chair sculpture.
This work takes the venetian blinds as the reference point. Maureen Duffy created a small, very carefully detailed sculpture using skewers and plastic to which she added some pink azaleas.
Using the window frame as her starting point Helen Quarrell created a work using dried materials, with wine glasses suspended on string in which she placed jasmine. 
Here, Janine McLean has used a chair as her starting point and used bamboo to emphasise the geometry of the chair as well as create a relationship with it to the wall.
I created this classroom exercise because at the end of the month we will be having an exhibition at the Qdos Gallery in Lorne (25th September to 9th October). The theme of this years exhibition will be installation work only (that is no ikebana in vases). Well I think the students are off to a good start.

On Sunday 4th September I gave an illustrated talk about my recent three months at the Sogetsu Headquarters as the Norman and Mary Sparnon Endowment Scholarship recipient. In the afternoon I lead a workshop entitled 'Having in mind water'. I began with an explanation of my idea, saying that we can indicate water by: 1. the materials we use (waterlilies or reeds for example). 2. revealing the water itself (showing the surface in a suiban or using a glass vase). 3. representing water by the form of the arrangement.

In this arrangement below I was endeavouring to create the impression of ripples spreading on the surface of water. As you can see I have used concentric circles of bird's nest fern and taken the work outside the suiban. 
In this example I have tried to suggest falling rain which is splashing on a hard surface. The vase is of hand-built ceramic in the Bizen style that I bought in Okayama at the end of April.

Greetings from Christopher 4 September 2011