On Monday last, the Victorian Branch of the Sogetsu School held one of its regular workshops. On this occasion the workshop on the theme: Ikebana Incorporating Text, was lead by me. 

I had set this topic for my own students last year and, at the time, was very impressed by the variety of their interpretation of the idea. I was also struck that each of the arrangements reflected the personality of the students.

When thinking about the theme I decided to create examples where the text in some way related to the ikebana; though this does not have to be the case and the text may simply be incidental, decorative or contrasting with the ikebana. 

For the workshop I created three examples on the theme.

The first example uses the most obvious strategy of using text already written on paper. The text is from an advertisement for the Melbourne International Film Festival and asks ‘What is the role of the artist in a creative city?’.

The second example, is an arrangement 'emphasising water' and is self-referencing. It has the letters I.K.E.B.A.N.A, formed from the green stems of Umbrella grass cypress alternifolius, which sit among the red geometric structure above the surface of the water.

The third example has the text 'Consider......' written on a leaf using a 'gel pen'. I intended this to be an invitation to the viewer to pause and reflect on the arrangement. However, it is also a reference to the quotation from the New Testament. Being the first word of the well known line,  'Consider the lilies of the field...'. This verse, among other things, implies that the perfection of nature cannot be surpassed by man-made creation. An idea consistent with the perspective of ikebana.

Examples of the ikebana by the attendees at the workshop are posted on the Sogetsu Victoria website.

Greetings from Christopher
27th August 2017


Last week I began my post with some photos showing the sculptural qualities of the Sydney Opera House. I have realised there is a connection with ikebana, and Sogetsu Ikebana in particular. 

Ikebana is quite distinctive because of the sculptural quality of the forms we create. It is interesting that old black and white photos of ikebana still look attractive, whereas traditional western floral art in black and white tends to look a little bland. This is because of the emphasis on line, mass and space, in ikebana compared to the primary emphasis on colour in traditional western floral art.

Last week, in my teacher Elizabeth's class, we were set a decidedly sculptural exercise: of making a work from non-botanical materials only. These are usually man-made materials and the exercise has been included in the new Book five of the Sogetsu curriculum. 

The exercise becomes an exploration: encouraging us to create a form using materials with properties that are not to be found in botanical materials. I decided to use A3-sized sheets of card, choosing colours that I thought would be harmonious . 

I began by cutting the red and purple sheets into thirds. The blue sheet I cut further, making thin strips as well. I wanted to utilise the flexibility of the card to make some twisting curves, like in the red sheet on the right and the purple on the left.

The card did not have enough strength when arched, so (plan B) I created a blue cylinder as a support to increase the height of the sculpture. I think I need to repeat the exercise to find ways to increase the strength of the structure.

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The local shire council in Torquay held its annual 'Arts Trail' last weekend. In this event local artists open their studios to the general public. Two of my students from my U3A class and I participated again this year. 

This 'basic upright' arrangement was made by Frances.

Val created a dramatic freestyle using strelitzia leaves from her garden and snapdragons.

I broke a vase while working with this material; so 'plan B' turned out to be a freestyle work using two black plastic suibans. The materials are Japanese Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles and an apricot branch.


Today Roadside Ikebana comes to you from a different location.

Here is the location-identifying photo. Half of the iconic bridge.

I photographed these two ferries through the upper foyer window...

                   ...of this iconic building.

The Sydney Opera House is a building with the most wonderful sculptural qualities. 

From the plaza, the Botanic Gardens are glimpsed between the Opera House and on the right, the Benelong Restaurant.

The vault of the sails over the staircases remind me of a Wells Cathedral.


The interior of the concert hall where we attended a performance of Wagner's Parsifal.

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A couple of weeks ago I gave a workshop on using bare branches and was particularly attracted by the twisting lines of the branch shown below. 

I subsequently refined the line further at home.

On Tuesday the Ikebana International Melbourne Chapter held its Annual General Meeting. The Heads of the Ikebana Schools in Melbourne each demonstrated ikebana which can be seen on the above link.

Greeting from Christopher
13th August 2017


This afternoon, while walking along the path among the sand dunes, I noticed another sign of late winter. The first flowers for this season of the native, clematis microphylla. The plant seeds prolifically and it has become more abundant in this area compared to when I was a child.

Here it is growing in sand over some dead branches.

We have planted it on our back and side fences as an effective natural screen that allows glimpses of the view beyond.

This close-up is of one of the flowers in the previous photo.

At the class I give in Melbourne my student Kyoko has commenced Book Three of the Sogetsu curriculum. This is her second exercise, 'A horizontal arrangement'. She has used seasonal flowers, pink Japanese Flowering Quince and Hyacinth, which go so well with the grey of the vase. The single green leaf on the right hand side gives a little 'zing' of contrasting colour. Note the asymmetry, so important in ikebana, achieved by the two sides being of different lengths.

I attended a class with my teacher while in Melbourne. Our exercise was to create an ikebana arrangement incorporating any form of narcissus.

I bought a bunch of Narcissus papyraceus and teamed it with some Kiwifruit vine, Actinidia deliciosa, that my sister-in-law had given me. It was interesting to contrast the tall column of the flowers with the curving lines of the vine in this Japanese compote-shaped vase. 

When I came home I re-worked the arrangement in a ceramic bowl by the Bendigo ceramicist Phil Elson.

Greetings from Christopher
5th August 2017