I was recently invited to give two days of workshops for the Queensland Branch of the Sogetsu Teachers' Association. The workshops were in Brisbane which is the capital city, where the climate is subtropical and therefore warmer at this time of year than the south coast of Victoria. The first workshop was on the theme 'Ka-bu-wa-ke', an arrangement using two or more kenzans in a shallow, suiban, vessel. Below is a photo of my demonstration for the exercise. Emphasising the space between the groups is the most important aspect of the exercise and the materials of one group needs to be stronger than the other(s).

Illustrations of the exercise are usually done with only two kenzans, so I have deliberately used three kenzans which is clearer in the next photo. Although it is not apparent, because of the camera angle, I have used a large oval suiban that extends away from the camera.

Below is a selection of the arrangements by the attendees of the workshop

The second exercise was 'Mass and Line'. In this exercise either the mass or the lines need to dominate, so that the asymmetry of the arrangement is maintained. I used some ornamental peach branches for the lines and made them the main subject of the arrangement, to which I added some camellia leaves as a small contrasting mass. The forward movement of the lines is not apparent in the photo below.

The participants concentrating on mass and line...

…and a selection of the finished work. 

Below the participants at the end of the first day.

I will post more photos next week of the second day of the workshops.

Greetings from Christopher
28th June 2014

You can see Emily Karanikolopoulos' latest blog posting by clicking on the blue text: Emily in Tokyo.


Last week I attended the monthly meeting of Ikebana International in Melbourne. The theme of the meeting was an annual event of the chapter: 'Japanese Day'. To celebrate a unique aspect of Japanese culture, some of the Japanese members of the chapter gave a demonstration of how to use furoshiki and, after the formal meeting, Japanese food was served. Furoshiki is the term for fabric squares of various sizes that have been used traditionally in Japan to wrap objects for presentation or simply as a utilitarian carrying device. The fabric may be cotton, silk or, these days, synthetic material. There are multiple techniques for wrapping that vary according to the shape of the object in consideration. Click on the blue text to see images of the activity and arrangements. I.I. Melbourne:Japanese Day. 

In keeping with the activity, members were asked to use the idea of wrapping in the ikebana they made at the meeting. Many used furoshiki in their arrangements or around their vases. I thought it would be interesting to use some of the Coastal Sword Sedge (lepidosperma gladiator), that I used in last week's blog, to wrap around my vase. I chose an irregularly angled bizen vase for the purpose and because it was 'wrapped' I used a single camellia flower and one leaf peeping out from  the vase's opening.

Greetings from Christopher
22nd June 2014 (mid-winter in the southern hemisphere)

You can see Emily Karanikolopoulos' latest blog posting by clicking on the blue text: Emily in Tokyo.


During the week I gave a class in which a student, Margaret, used a charred branch in the exercise 'Using dried and fresh materials' The first challenge was how to position the branch. I suggested creating a 'cradle' using two forked sticks inserted into a kenzan. This allowed the branch to float above the vase.

To this were added three arum lilies. Unfortunately they had not really opened sufficiently at the time. But we were confident they would do so over the next couple of days. 

In the same class Niki created an arrangement to be '...viewed from all angles…' in this interesting footed vase.

For another class this week I selected some Coastal Sword Sedge (Lepidosperma gladiator click on the blue text for further information), to demonstrate to students that freely available material can be used to striking effect in creating ikebana. In researching this plant that grows naturally close to our house I was delighted to discover its name. Clearly it was called 'l. gladiator' because of its long sword-shaped leaves. Below is a photo of a dense clump.

This photo shows a close-up of the brown flowerhead which grows on a broad bladed stem.

I have found the leaves can readily be curved into graceful shapes. On the class-room table the strong forward thrust of the right-hand line looked quite dramatic but too long for the over-all balance.

I drew the long line back into the arrangement to create a swirl of lines floating above the vase with a satisfying sense of movement. 

Greetings from Christopher
14th June 2014

Emily Karanikolopoulos returned home yesterday from her three months in Japan as the fourth recipient of the Norman and Mary Sparnon Endowment Scholarship. You can see her latest blog posting by clicking on the blue text; Emily in Tokyo.


Since last week winter seems to have arrived rather suddenly in our part of the world, following a very mild autumn. There was a late burst of warm weather recently that has confused many plants in the garden which have now started putting forth spring leaves. Our ornamental grape vine is in 'bud burst' at least two months early. In the meantime there is still some beautiful 'autumn colour' to be seen. I noticed these colourful leaves among some escalonia in a neighbour's garden. I think they are from an ornamental peach.

In another garden a pittosporum (click on the coloured text for further information) with orange berries was cascading over the fence. This particular pittosporum is from the east coast of Australia and is regarded as an invasive weed in some places.

I thought the leaves and berries would make a lovely subject for a small naturalistic autumn arrangement in an irregularly shaped vase made by Barry Singleton. The vase has a very thick shino-type glaze and some orange from the iron in the clay shows through the thinner parts of the glaze.

Greetings from Christopher
7th June 2014

Don't forget to check Emily Karanikolopoulos blog. (Click on coloured text to link to Emily Karanikolopoulos' Tokyo blog)