It is now the end of June. So, for my last ikebana at the offices of the Japanese Consul General in Melbourne I decided it would be most appropriate to use Australian native flowers in a vase by an Australian ceramic artist. I chose banksia integrifolia and have used a vase by Ian Jones, a ceramic artist whose studio is at Gundaroo north east of Canberra (see: www.sidestoke.com/LaughingFrog/index.html). The natural ash glaze picks up the creamy yellow of the flowers and soft green of the leaves that have a pale velvety underside. This is a beautiful plant that can grow into quite large trees. As its common name(coastal banksia) suggests I was able to pick these branches near to my home within 150 meters of the sea. I like the seed cones that remain on the branches for their interesting appearance and texture and think they go well with the visual strength of the vase. I'm afraid the work looks a little flat in this photograph. The branches left and right both come forward toward the viewer.
I must particularly thank Mrs Toyama, Program Coordinator, at the Japan Information and Cultural Centre for her assistance and encouragement over the past month enabling the exhibiting of my ikebana.
The weather has turned particularly wintery during the last week with quite a lot of rain and cold winds. So, my work at the Japanese Consulate office in Melbourne is using bare branches of tortuous willow.
The work creates the suggestion of the end of winter, or the hope of Spring, by using the fresh green of stems of two strelitzia's rising from the vessel and the warm orange colour of the flower heads just opening. I have used the holes at the front of this box shaped vessel to echo the lines of the willow with a finer line coming from the below the opening. The flowers are placed within the mass of the entwined branches.
The ceramic box-shaped ikebana vessel was created by Nakamura Yutaka from Echizen. I acquired this piece from an exhibition of his work in the Gallery of Takashimaya at Yokohama in June last year. It is a delight to explore how to use this vessel at last.
On Wednesday I went again to the Japanese Consulate office in Melbourne to continue the project of an arrangement each week for the month of June. This week I created an ikebana in a vessel by Graeme Wilkie of Qdos Gallery in Lorne. I have used a spray of maroon cymbidium orchids and a single large strelitzia leaf. The orchids pick up the red around the opening of the vessel. Unfortunately the photo makes the arrangement look rather flat. The orchids curve to the front left and the leaf actually twists as it curves to the left rear of the arrangement. This shows the upper surface of the leaf on the right and the underside of the leaf at the top of the arrangement.
When I looked at the initial work with my teachers eye I noticed that the leaf was too 'heavy' at the top of the work. So, I have 'lightened' it by splitting it in a couple of places and removing some of the leaf to create some additional space. I think this has improved the overall balance of the work.
I am afraid it is really difficult to get the colour balance right. The first photo is nearer to the true colours of the flowers and vessel.
Early last year my partner Laurence went to a lecture and demonstration of the art of Japanese woodblock printing at the National Gallery of Victoria. There he met Mrs Toyama from the Japanese Information and Cultural Centre at the Consulate in Melbourne. He told her about our forthcoming trip to Japan where I was the to be the recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon Endowment Scholarship. As a result of their conversation Mrs Toyama invited me to create some ikebana for the JICC art display area. So, for the next month I will create a new ikebana there each week. Because the display area is a cabinet with six bays I decided to broaden the context of the work by including ceramics from my collection. I have included six vessels by Japanese ceramic artists and six by Australian ceramicists.
The first two pictures art general views of the display case.
The vessels shown are, starting from the right hand side, by:
I decided to make the first ikebana in this beautiful faceted bizen style vase by Toyofuku Hiroshi that I bought in Okayama. You can see other examples of his work at:
I have made a simple freestyle arrangement using camelia leaves and a white chrysanthemum. I chose these materials as they have to last seven days in an office environment. The work is freestyle and required a great deal of trimming of the principal branch. I have removed about two thirds of the original. As you can see I have turned the vase around so that the largest surface gives a strong appearance to the work.
Next week I will use a different vase by an Australian ceramicist.
On Friday and Saturday of this week the Sogetsu School of Ikebana Victorian Branch held workshops conducted by Mr Umemura from Sydney. The theme of the workshops was focussing on asymmetry and exploring a number of ways that it can be achieved. Unfortunately I was only able to attend the two sessions on Saturday. In the morning Umemura Sensei asked us to make ikebana where the asymmetry was achieved by contrasting two shapes or geometric forms. Each one was to be located principally on one side of the vase. In the example of his demonstration, shown below, he created a spherical mass of tortuous willow on the right side and rectangular forms on the principally on the left side.
Below is the work I made. I used some large monstera leaves to create a tangled looking ball shape on the left side of the vase and on the right side I made a triangle from stems of strelitzia juncea, from our garden. (This form has no leaf blade and only a tiny leaf margin at the tip of the stem.)
In his critique Umemura Sensei suggested that I could strengthen the right side by creating at least one more triangle and that it should arise from higher and within the mass of the monstera leaves. He also commented later that in such an arrangement of one colour, if a focal point is created with a different colour it should be placed centrally.
In the afternoon we were to create asymmetry by contrasting a heavy versus light looking material. This could be achieved by the structural nature of the material or by its colour. To demonstrate this Umemura Sensei created the work below where he has contrasted the mass of two large grapefruit with a 'screen' he made form thin flat reed like material. The vase narrow in cross section and has a whiteish glaze on the left side and is dark matt brown on the righthand side.
For this exercise I re-used the strelitzia stems and added three more to create a ball shaped mass. I have contrasted it with a white chrysanthemum.
In his critique Umemura Sensei suggested that I place the mass further to the edge of the suiban to highlight it.
He also commented that he would have liked me to have created more design with material on the righthand side. What I had actually created was a book 3-4 exercise of 'mass and line'. When I considered the arrangement again I realised that I have manipulated the strelitzia but placed the chrysanthemum too naturalistically, which has weakened the whole design.
The workshop was really enjoyable and the participants created a great variety of work as always, which adds to the lessons learnt.
(PS. A further amendment regarding the red fruiting branch in Maureen Duffy's arrangement of last week. Maureen has identified it as a Washington Hawthorn - crataegus phaenopyrum.)