Ongoing Studies - Tsubo, direct fixing, miniatures & more - OH MY! by Alexander Evans

It's been a very busy few weeks but I finally have had a moment to edit my photos of class projects as well as a number of other excellent ikebana moments, but more about those in another blog post (coming soon). I've been hard at work and fitting in as many classes as I could manage before my awesome teacher headed off on a Japan adventure of her own. I would have loved to join her, along with some of my fellow students but alas circumstances didn't permit. Perhaps next year I will be able to go along with them. In the meantime I have tidied up my photos so that I can present them here. They are perhaps not in the exact order that they appear in the textbook however I've enjoyed mixing things up a little bit.

 Arrangement in a Tsubo container. (Container by Alexander Evans) This arrangement also makes use of the direct fixing technique.

Arrangement in a Tsubo container. (Container by Alexander Evans)
This arrangement also makes use of the direct fixing technique.

I quite liked working in a Tsubo container and really got a sense of the traditional feel to this way of working. In this instance I went for quite a "full" feel with the arrangement as I wanted to balance it against the strength of the golden ash branches and bulk of the container, whilst still giving my lovely big purple chrysanthemums a backdrop of green for contrast. I was really happy with the result though in hindsight I think I could have trimmed a little more of the green away. Even so, it remains a very nice arrangement.
 

 Arrangement showing movement - Blowing/sweeping. (Container by Alexander Evans.)

Arrangement showing movement - Blowing/sweeping. (Container by Alexander Evans.)

In the above arrangement I was lucky to find a dried eucalypt branch that had been bent and curved in the strong winds where I live. It was so striking and captured a sense of movement in such a direct and poetic way, justy looking at it I could feel a sense of the wind. I wanted to retain that feeling of lightness and movement of the air and so I felt spraying it silver would help reveal and enhance its character. I combined it with some very simple flowers and foliage so as to allow the branch to be the main feature.  
 

 Arrangement showing Movement - rising. 

Arrangement showing Movement - rising. 

I so enjoyed the chance to use my golden ash that I had to make a second arrangement showing movement. In the above example it is paired with echinacea which I used to create a mass.  

 Freestyle arrangement using only one type of material - fun exercise

Freestyle arrangement using only one type of material - fun exercise

The above shows an exercise in which my teacher handed me one or two gymea lily leaves and instructed me to make an arrangement from them within a short time limit. I was really taken with the idea of creating movement but also I wanted to bring out something of the wildness of the forces of nature in this usually quite rigid material. So by shredding, cutting and knotting I created mass and a couple of different kinds of lines that with the container kind of evoke a storm swept reed bed. I was super happy with this result. It felt very natural and at the same time very dramatic!
 

 Celebration arrangement using paper fans - Fan Festival!

Celebration arrangement using paper fans - Fan Festival!

 Celebratory arrangement - family reunion

Celebratory arrangement - family reunion

Celebratory arrangements are such a pleasure to make. They solidfy the happy feelings of the coming occasion and create a wonderful welcome for guests. A very enjoyable couple of exercises.
 

 A microcosm of miniatures

A microcosm of miniatures

Miniatures in Sogetsu Ikebana present quite a unique challenge but one that I really wanted to embrace. I was very fortunate and my father was able to use his lathe to turn these small containers for me from two different kinds of timber, Australian Silky Oak and Rose Alder. He did such a wonderful job on them that I felt my arrangement needed to be very special but still encompass the simplicity and elegance required in miniature arrangement. I feel this one was very successful as it is really arresting and gives a viewer pause to reflect on it and just linger there as they take it in.
 

 

Raku Happenings - continued by Alexander Evans

As always my works at Raku continue and the restaurant have been pleased with my arrangements each week. Here are some of the most recent works.

 This arrangement, when in the restaurant was a little difficult to photograph and so I made sure to photograph it at home instead.   

This arrangement, when in the restaurant was a little difficult to photograph and so I made sure to photograph it at home instead.

 

Ongoing studies - Suiban no kenzan & Floor position by Alexander Evans

My first class this fortnight was a challenge, but a pleasant one. I quite enjoy making arrangements in Suiban without kenzan even though this is one of the more difficult arrangement styles to become proficient in... Presently it is the first few days of Autumn here in Australia but the feeling in the garden is still very much of the summer heat. With this in mind I wanted to create a sense of shade over the water in the suiban to capture stillness and coolness hence I chose to use a prostrate form of leptospernum as the branches gave a nice structure to work with as well as retaining quite a canopy of small fluffy grey/green leaves that create almost a feeling of clouds. I chose the gerberas for their simple stems and nicely contrasting colour. 

Initially I kept the flower at the bottom quite full but achieved a slightly different feeling once I had plucked it a little to reduce the number of petals and the overall size of the flower.

I think that one of the most important things with this kind of arrangement is to demonstrate the skill of being able to make the arrangement stand on it's own without having its legs pushed into the corner between the base and the wall of the container and at the same time to avoid it becoming too conical or looking like a tee-pee. It is truly challenging and takes a lot of practice and meditation to get it right.

The second class for the fortnight was to create an arrangement to be positioned on the floor. I had overheard another teacher at one point saying it should have a sense of "rising" from the floor which I thought to be an interesting thing to keep in mind. My aim was to create a feeling of upward movement that would not only suit a floor position but also give that sense of "Rising".  I made two different arrangement for this exercise as I was doing well for time.

As a bonus exercise my teacher asked me to make an arrangement that utilised bulrush and was inspired by architecture in some way. So I looked at my materials and thought it would be interesting to create an arrangement that featured canteleavering. My challenge here was not only an aesthetic one but also a technical one in terms of fixing my materials so that they would occupy a position in space horizontally distant from my container!

Ongoing studies - Arrangements in green & unconventional materials by Alexander Evans

As my learning journey continues I find I am really sinking my creative teeth into book 5 of the Sogetsu curiculum. In my most recent classes we covered a few different lessons, using different versions of crossbar fixing, working in only green coloured materials and working in unconventional materials. Making sure to utilise crossbar fixing I first made the arrangement below utilising green materials. I wanted to ensure an harmonious arrangement but one that also used a contrast of textures and surface qualities without becoming too busy looking. The cypress and agapanthus gave me a lovely contrast of lines between fine and lacy and straight and radial. I also wanted a contrast in scale which I achieved using the ginko leaves contrasted with the anthuriums. I feel it all came together in a lovely overall arrangement that met the requirements very well. My teacher and I were both quite happy with this arrangement. 

My second arrangement for the class also made use of green materials and a different version of crossbar fixing making use of a "Y" shape by splitting the crossbar. Again I created contrasts of the kinds of lines and the masses and volumes created in the arrangement. This second arrangement was also intended to be viewed on a low side table and so needed to be compact without feeling squashed. 

Finally I created an arrangement using unconventional materials. My thinking here was quite an experiment. I deeply considered the topic.

What is it that makes ikebana, ikebana if not the materials that we use? An interesting question I think. The conclusion that I came to was when you strip away the beauty of the flower, the leaf, the branch itself what is the philosophy underlying ikebana? I think each ikebana artist is going to have their own answer to that, and each will be valid in their own way, but for me, on a deep level, it is about the inherent nature of the passing of things, the finding of beauty in them each in their moment in time. It is about finding ways to cause that moment to shine and to engage the human spirit in a moment of transcendence of the every day while at the very same moment being supremely conscious that the moment of transcendence is itself transitory and temporary. In considering my unconventional material this was foremost in my mind. I wanted it to have it's moment. Not to be fixed permanently in time but rather to be present, to be beautiful and then to end, and perhaps to become something else, beautiful in an other and new way.

I set about building my ikebana of unconventional materials from match boxes. I often work large and bold and I wanted the challenge of finding beauty in small things. I also rarely work in blue (as a blonde haired, blue eyed child, my parents often dressed me in blue and by my late teens I'd had quite enough of it) and so decided that I needed also to challenge myself in that sense and so painted my match boxes blue. I built structures that had line, mass and colour, they had points of focus and were in and of themselves very lovely and met the requirements for the lesson but I wanted that other element to come into play, the moment, the temporary passing instant in which the thing would experience transition, change and transformation as does the flower and leaf as they wilt and dry... and so I brought into my work the element of fire. Dramatic, dynamic, alive and bringing with it change. In this way, my unconventional material had it's moment, its season, and then it was changed and yet beautiful in new and unexpected ways that can only ever be revealed by the action of natural forces, time, wind, fire, water and the wearing of the earth.

Raku Happenings - continued by Alexander Evans

As usual I have been making arrangements at Raku Dining each week and I wanted to blog about the latest arrangements. I decided in this weeks arrangements to go for something a little more simple in the more public areas of the restaurant but keep the private dining room a bit more exciting and dynamic. The arrangements in the main restaurant my focus was really on the lovely long lines of the New Zealand flax which I enhanced by adding some areas of gold. The aim with the flowers was to then keep things very simple. See what you think. 
 

I had made other arrangements at Raku between posts here but they did not come out very well in photographs as I had not taken my good camera. In any case, here are the latest.

Ikebana adventures at home - Informal teaching and personal practice by Alexander Evans

In exciting developments I have had my very first student who is not only enjoying what I am teaching but is also a great learner. After 2 weeks she has completed a couple of moribana arrangements and a small freestyle arrangement and is begining to have an understanding of the principle elements at work in ikebana as well as getting a sense of how to go about selecting materials. I'm very proud of her and in the next few weeks I hope to show some examples of her work here. 

Of course, with the presence of students in my home I have needed to make sure that there are some pleasing arrangements about the place as inspiration. See below for a few examples. 

 Typically this kind of container is associated with Ikenobo school of Ikebana but I thought why not use it anyway. It was a nice contrast of formal shapes with the dramatic and dynamic freedom of the dried and painted leaves. 

Typically this kind of container is associated with Ikenobo school of Ikebana but I thought why not use it anyway. It was a nice contrast of formal shapes with the dramatic and dynamic freedom of the dried and painted leaves. 

Raku Happenings - continued by Alexander Evans

My weekly arrangements at Raku Dining have continued and I find it challenging to always come up with something new even though occasionally I seek to recycle and re-use materials, particularly dry ones. However that being said I have been able to keep on producing pleasing designs that the management of the restaurant have continued to be quite pleased with.

 This arrangement was hard to show clearly in the restaurant setting so I photographed it in a more simple situation before delivering it to the restaurant.

This arrangement was hard to show clearly in the restaurant setting so I photographed it in a more simple situation before delivering it to the restaurant.

 This arrangment was suspended from the ceiling using fishing line.

This arrangment was suspended from the ceiling using fishing line.

The learning journey goes on! by Alexander Evans

After a break over the festive season things are now back in full swing not only with arrangements at Raku Dining but also with my own studies. I completed Textbook 4 and have made my first entre into the lessons from Textbook 5! This is an exciting development as the fifth textbook was only officially introduced in 2017 and that means I am among the first few batches of students to really tackle the new textbook and all the exciting challenges it represents. Of course other students around the world are also at the same stage but I suspect that they are equally excited in tackling the new material. The final classes of Textbook 4 were to create a celebratory arrangement and to make an arrangement that expresses "Ikebana and you", pictures follow below.

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For the celebratory arrangement my teacher encouraged me to find an occasion that was out of the ordinary to make an arrangement for as it's so often the case that we see arrangements for birthdays, anniversaries and the standard festive times of year... In this case it is for an anniversary but it is celebrating the 85th year of Lego! So with this theme of course I decided that I needed to make my container out of Lego blocks which was lots of fun. 

I found the Ikebana and me arrangement to be more of a challenge than expected my first attempt was an ok kind of arrangement but I feel I had overthought the assignment a little bit and I fell prey to the shopping list approach - this represents x, and this represents y, etc... at the time it felt right but in retrospect the overall result felt a bit disjointed and jumbled, perhaps I am being a little hard on myself but in any case I wasn't completely satisfied. I suspect my teacher got a similar feeling although she was very diplomatic and gently suggested that I have another try because I had lots of time left and it might be fun to see what else I might produce with the materials on hand. I was much more satisfied with the second result which is the one that I have shown here. 

In the first class of Textbook 5 we ended up looking at lessons 2 and 3 chosing to leave lesson 1 till a little later in the year as it was about seasonal materials and being the very height of summer much of the material available presently only provides limited options. So lesson 2 was a technical lesson about using vertical fixing techniques. I created an arrangement in an interesting container using twisted willow and some amaranthus which had a sense of freedom and wildness to it that I enjoyed very much. Lesson 3 was about creating an arrangement for a table setting. I had a couple of tries at Lesson 3 as I had some time to spare. The second attempt was a bit more light hearted and had in mind that it might be an arrangement for a study group, hence being arranged on a cork board.