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.)

Greetings from Christopher
2nd June 2012


  1. Thanks for sharing these interesting exercises and the critique of the sensei!

    BTW I really like your use of monstera leaves in the first arrangement. I often see (and use) them flat to create a mass and it's the first time I see them used in a ball like this. Nice!

  2. Christopher, I love the workshops I took with Umemura Sensei when I was there in 2010. He has such a wonderful eye as do you. I agree with Anya. I love your monstera arrangement. So creative. Best to you and Laurie, Michael