From time to time when I first began to study Sogetsu Ikebana, my teacher Carlyne Patterson would make her students exchange materials and vessel. This is a great exercise for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the student could not plan their arrangement in advance. Secondly, sometimes we would have to use material or a vessel that we would never have chosen for ourselves. This exercise really starts to stretch the students' creative abilities and, as a result, more is learnt.
This week I gave my students this challenge. I added to the challenge by creating an additional level of complexity. Each student brought to the class a vessel and material for one arrangement, which they put on their table. I then moved all the vessels one place to the left (anticlockwise) so that they were no longer with the expected materials. Then I asked the students to move one place to the right (clockwise). This meant each student was using an unfamiliar vessel and material they had not chosen. The students were given freedom as to how they used the materials and were not required to use them all.
Alana was presented with some branches of lilly-pilly, Syzugium smithii, with heavy bunches of purple berries on them and some branches of Chinese elm, Ulmus pavifolia. The weight of the berries made using them in a suiban very difficult. She could only arrange a small bunch of the berries on an upright branch. I suggested she could use more of the berries by floating some of them on the surface of the water.
Christine first arranged red tulips and hellebores in this set of three small matching suibans. She has arranged the tulips reaching toward the small bowl containing water only. The eye is drawn around the vessels in an anticlockwise circle.
Helen had received some very dark reddish-brown New Zealand Flax, tan chrysanthemum and hydrangea with a pink autumnal flush. She arranged the materials in a circular glass dish paying attention to the space between the leaves.
Ellie received a bunch of blue iris (and some echium that she did not use). Her three sided vessel provided a major challenge. It comes to a point at the top and has two small openings on oposite sides at the top. She has carefully looped the iris leaves making lines that move forward and down to the vessel. The flowers had curving lines that wrap around the vessel creating a backward moving line, which does not show clearly in the photo.
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After the students had made their arrangements, the materials and vessels were returned to their owners who made a second arrangement.
This photo is of the material brought by Christine and arranged in the vessel she had provided. You can see that she had chosen the vessel because the lilly-pilly could be allowed to cascade and that it coordinated well with the colour of the vessel.
Helen had provided the teal-green suiban expecting the tulips and hellebores to be arranged in it with some New Zealand corokia cotoneaster that she massed over and around the flowers.
Ellie had provided these materials and the small suiban set. Here she has re-arranged them employing the lines of the flax to create a sense of movement and a space which holds the arrangement together.
Alana had brought these blue flowering materials to coordinate with the swirling blue lines in the glass dish. She has created a strongly asymmetrical design with movement forward and to the left.
Greetings from Christopher
27th May 2017