In our first week before attending the workshops we travelled to the north of the northern island of New Zealand, including the famous Bay of Islands area. After the workshops I felt I could not leave New Zealand without going to Rotarua, the area that is very geo-thermally active. The geyser called Pohutu was astonishing, the roar of boiling water being shot 20 meters in to the air was really loud.

These phenomena are totally bizarre to someone who comes from a part of the world that is not volcanically active. (I'm on the right, propped against the fence in the photo' below.)

As well as this we saw puddles of hot mud bubbling (more like plopping). I was completely amazed at a single smallish pool of clear water about one and a half meters across that was boiling vigorously. 
There are many ways that nature speaks to us, sometimes it is majestic like mountains and the huge ancient trees we had seen on the northwest coast. At other times it is so unexpected and difficult to imagine that it is hard to describe.
After Rotarua we went to the Coromandel Peninsula where we were able to go walking in the bush.

There were lots of cicadas and this large black dragonfly.

At the third day of the workshops with Mrs Maeda we had to do a nageire arrangement from book 3 or 4 in the morning. I decided to make a work of mass and line having come across these beautiful blue hydrangeas at the local supermarket. Although it is not apparent in the photograph there are two flower heads in the work. So I can claim to have formed a mass. The line is an inverted camelia branch secured on a vertical fixture. (I rushed out to get it as the branch I had initially chosen was much too fine for the bulk of the hydrangea.) Maeda Sensei approved of the arrangement but by way of correction suggested that the right hand half of the vase should be completely free of material and the water should come all the way to the top of the vase.

The afternoon exercise was any book 3 or 4 moribana, preferably a combination of exercises. There was a unison intake of breath (and feeling of ‘Uh oh!) when Sensei announced that we had strictly 15 minutes only to complete our work. I had found some exceptionally strong stems of agapanthus the day before, from which I had removed all the seeds. I realised there was no time for experimenting and was very relieved when a colleague kindly lent me some pins to secure the stems. My arrangement was: no kenzan, using one kind of material and showing lines at the base.

Maeda sensei said the work was beautiful, ‘kireina’. Her points of correction were: that the stems on the left should be in a line, this correction was already made before the photo’ above was taken. Also one of the stems should arise more toward the centre of the suiban so that not all of the stems are against the side walls.

This angle gives a better feeling for the curving lines in two of the agapanthus stems.

I really enjoyed my time in New Zealand and at the workshops in particular. The Auckland Branch of the Sogetsu Teachers Association have every right to feel proud of the event they hosted.

Bye the bye, I have been advised that the silver leaf I used last week is Astelia. (Chathamica, I think). 

Greetings from Christopher (back in Torquay)
25th February 2012


This week I attended three days of workshops run by the Auckland Branch and lead by a Senior Instructor from the Sogetsu School in Tokyo, Mrs Sanae Maeda. The first day of teaching took place at the home of Mrs Takako Martin where we were taught how to make sculptural forms using A4 sized sheets of acrylic board.

Firstly we made paper models.

Then we sawed straight lines into the boards then, using improvised ‘ovens’ over gas burners, we molded them after they had become soft and rubbery. The sheets were only pliable for about four minutes until they cooled and hardened again. 

These forms were then used to create small sculptures to which we added some botanical material. I deliberately used the white and clear forms at the base of the work so that the blue piece would have a more floating appearance. Sensei Maeda said I should only use a single leaf that contrasted with but did not dominate the sculpture.

I used a New Zealand plant that had a delightful silvery under surface.

This turned out to be a work that could be viewed from all angles.

In the afternoon of the second day we created three large structures using lichen covered branches and added long bunches of dried grassy material. 

Next the acrylic forms we had made were added to the larger structure.

Next week I will include some images from the third day of the workshops.

Greetings from Christopher in New Zealand
18th February 2012

LINES with BERRIES from New Zealand

On Wednesday this last week Laurie and I travelled to New Zealand for the first time. We are taking a fortnight’s holiday and I will be attending three days of ikebana workshops in the largest city, Auckland, next week while Laurie soaks up some of New Zealand’s culture. In the meantime we have been exploring the region north of Auckland. The first thing that Australian’s notice about our neighbouring country is that it is very green and lush compared to our home and the second thing for most of us, is that it is very mountainous. It is almost a northern hemisphere kind of beauty.

On the road.

In the forest.

Beautifully textured bark of a Kauri tree.

The arrangement I have created this week is from three branches of, roadside-gathered, orange berries from which I have trimmed all but one leaf. I have arranged them in an unusual ceramic vase I bought that has a light turquoise blue glaze splashed over a matt white slip. I liked the sinuous line of the branches and the contrast of the orange and turquoise. I have balanced the lines with a small mass of two leaves of the same material.

Greetings from Christopher 
12th February 2012


About three weeks ago I saw a Brachychiton Acerfolia in Geelong in full flower. It was sensational but I was unable to photograph it at the time. Here it is slightly passed its' full glory. 

One of the reasons its' colour is so dramatic is that the flower stems are the same intense red as the small bell flowers themselves. I showed some pictures of same type of tree on my blog entry on 27th November last year that I had taken when I was in Brisbane.

Two nights ago my attention was caught by the flowerhead on this papyrus growing in our conservatory. It looked faintly luminous against the black of the night sky.

Here it is again the following day silhouetted against the awning.

This week I have made a double shin arrangement in a traditional ceramic suiban. I demonstrated it for my students who began their classes for this year last Thursday. When I first created the arrangement for the students it was on a very low stand and almost at floor level. I therefore had to use more flowers to conceal the kenzans. The picture below was a re-creation, at home, of the work at table height. 

A double shin arrangement is at risk of looking symmetrical,  to ensure asymmetry I have created additional massing on the left to support the shin on that side. Because I have chosen to cross the two shins, I felt the result was a less naturalistic appearance so I created triangles with the leaves to make the work look a bit sharper and be consistent. By using two kenzans and setting the second shin toward the rear I have also been able to create some space at the base of the work and reveal the surface of the water. I wanted to create a cool feel for the summer weather. 

Greetings from Christopher
5th February 2012