At the beginning of this week, after leaving Maine, we travelled to Pittsburg to see Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous creation: the house called Fallingwater, commissioned by the Kaufman family and built in 1937. It still looks as modern as tomorrow to me. When he was about 26, Wright first saw Japanese architecture at the 'World's Colombian Exposition' in 1893, in the form of a large pavilion * that survived until it was destroyed by arson in 1945. Aspects of Japanese design aesthetics were a huge influence in his evolving ideas about architecture.

The visit to Fallingwater was arranged to be the highpoint of our trip to North America.  We had arranged a private tour of the house for us and our two american friends, both called Michael.  Our tour guide was a senior curator who talked to us for over two hours as he took us into every room of the house and the adjoining guest house, including a number of rooms that were not on the usual tour schedule.  One of the extraordinary privileges of our tour was that we were served lunch on one of the outside terraces.

The house is built over a waterfall in a steep, densely wooded valley. The view above is taken from Mr Kaufman's study.

The sound of the waterfall welcomes the visitor before this first view when approaching the house . 

I was initially irritated by the tree in the centre of the photo above until it reminded me of Mr Umemura demonstrating the desirable asymmetry of ikebana by holding a vertical stick in front of an arrangement to emphasise the difference between the two halves.

After lunch on the 'pottery terrace' the four of us walked into the grounds for this classic view of the house. Michael, Laurie, Christopher and Michael.

This weeks ikebana is a beautiful autumn arrangement of 'bittersweet' berries (Celastrus scandens), miscanthus, petunia and hydrangea, created by Michael Beedenbender. The vase is by Scott Goldberg *, a ceramic artist from Brooksville, Maine.

Greetings from Christopher
24th October 2014

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This posting comes to you from Maine in the northeast of the USA which is an area famous for the autumn colour. My ikebana friend Michael Beedenbender and his partner come here each year for their annual holiday. Sogetsu members from Melbourne may remember meeting Michael in 2010 when he was working there for six months. He joined Victorian Branch members in an outdoor workshop in the Alexandra Gardens Kew. He is in this group photo below.

We were driven here, through Vermont and New Hampshire, from Ottawa by Leonora Duffield and her husband Richard. I was amazed at the forests of birch, that in Australia are 'specimen' trees, when one manages to grow them, and the mile after mile of saturated autumnal colour. It made me think that the winter snow might even come as a relief. The photo below was taken from the car window.

One morning this week I thought I would play 'Andy Goldsworthy' * , having been inspired by photographs of his work in the past and our visit to Storm King Art Centre (two posts ago on 4th October). The following series of photos were taken in the garden of the house where we are staying.

Above is the driveway into the property.

This large stone sits in the centre of the turning circle in front of the house and had a small pool of water in the top. I gathered leaves from the drive way, graded them according to colour and floated them across the surface of the small pool.

We visited a local potter who kindly let us raid his garden of some beautiful hydrangeas that I thought would fun to arrange.

Here I have created an arrangement with the hydrangea in three blue ornamental bottles I found in the house. I also wanted to arrange some 'sumac' * , (Rhus typhinia) leaves since I first saw them in Ottawa two weeks ago. 

As we are in a holiday house I needed to improvise in this baking dish, in which I decided to make a somewhat abstract contemporary looking work.

Greetings from Christopher
18th October 2014

Further travel photos from: Ottawa and Maine 

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Thanks to Amos from Maryland, I have been advised that the blue flower in last weeks blog was a 'bachelor button' Centaurea cyanus, the yellow one was Canada Golden Rod Solidago Canadensis and the dried one, was indeed Queen Anne's Lace. 

We (Laurie and I) spent the week before last in Chicago, where we were particularly keen to see some of Frank Lloyd Wright's * architecture. We did a three hour walking tour of his original home and studio, some nearby houses and the Unity Temple (Unitarian Universalist Church)

The front of the house.

Living room.

In the dining room Wright used the very high backs of the chairs he designed to create a 'room within a room'.

Gallery of the studio of his architectural practice.

The Unity Temple *. Wright's mother was a member of this congregation.

After a week in Chicago we flew to Ottawa where, on Saturday morning of last week, I gave a workshop for teachers of the Ottawa Branch of the Sogetsu School on 'construction techniques' (using dowelling): photo below. 

After creating sculptures, the teachers added fresh material in the form of 'accordion leaves' (Molineria capitulata) only.

The example above was my demonstration piece. Below are three photos of work by some attendees. I must apologise for the poor quality of the pictures; I had the camera on the wrong setting.

The image above shows the only example of work created from 'dressed' timber. The ikebanist who created it explained that she had to carry her material on a bus and this was the easiest to transport. The result was a very contemporary look with a strong contrast between the fresh material and the sculpture.

The afternoon workshop, in which students also participated, was on the theme of 'colours in the same tonal range' or 'colours in contrast', using autumn materials. My demonstration work above, is an arrangement without kenzan using ash and some red leaves that I collected from the roadside. I really enjoyed giving the workshop for the Ottawa Branch members and was delighted with the enthusiastic engagement of the attendees. The idea for giving the workshop came from Leonora Duffield who, with her husband Richard, have been generous hosts to Laurie and me. We are most appreciative.

For more photos of our travels: Christopher and Laurie in North America *.

Greetings from Christopher in Ottawa,
(with apologies to J.R.R.Tolkien).

The sculpture is 'Maman' by Louise Bourgeois at the National Gallery of Canada.

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Our Australian friend, Brett, who lives in New York took us to the Storm King Art Centre  * two weeks ago. This is a large sculpture park about an hours drive north of the city. I was keen to go there to see an environmental art work by the British sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy. In my experience his work often appeals to Sogetsu ikebanists in particular. This project, made in 1997 - 1998, is called 'Running Wall' (Click on the blue text to see a really interesting article about it in American Scientist). There is a comment in the article stating that Goldsworthy's work is 'most alive' immediately it is finished, that is, just before it starts to decay. To me this is at the essence of ikebana, the transitory nature of our creations. Below are some photos I took of 'Running Wall'.

The next photo shows a large rugged sculpture that looked like a massive pile of slate.

It turned out to be small blocks of cypress covered in graphite. The texture was wonderful.

This sculpture, of metal tubes, had a great sense of movement. Only three of the tubes are anchored in the ground, the rest are supported by wires under tension.

It makes me wonder about trying the same technique with bamboo. 

Here are three photos I took of wild flowers in the park. I don't know what any of them are.

Actually the one above could be the dried head of 'Queen Anne's Lace' * (daucus carota).

I have seen a lot of the yellow flower in the photo above growing wild, and think it looks lovely, fresh and bright. So, I was delighted to find some in a vase of our Chicago apartment. I used it and some tan coloured chrysanthemum to create the ikebana below.

Greetings from Christopher
4th October 2014

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