Seminars and workshops and classes oh my! (part 1) / by Alexander Evans

Most recently I was very fortunate to attend a weekend seminar and accompanying workshop in Sydney given by esteemed visiting Sogetsu Master Ms Misei Ishikawa. This was such a pleasure to attend and I feel that I learned a great deal from the experience. The intention of the seminar was to properly introduce Sogetsu Ikebana practitioners to the new Book 5 Textbook. It will soon be the case that if a teacher has not attended this or a similar workshop, their teaching will not be recognised officially by the school headquarters in Japan. So naturally it was very important to attend! The aim was to unify some specific skills among teachers to ensure that they could give their students the best possible learning experience in the future.

On the first morning there was a video lecture from the Iemoto of the school Ms Akane Teshigahara which was very inspirational as well as talks from Master Ishikawa about every lesson in the entire Book 5 Textbook. To say it was thorough is an understatement! In the afternoon session there was another video lecture from the Iemoto followed by practical demonstrations by the master which was again very inspiring! An informal dinner at a local restaurant followed. 

The next day was a day of workshops where we were able to show off our own practical skills for the Master and receive some valuable feedback. In part one we were asked to assemble a free standing structure from some provided branch material. We could assemble using wire, nails, screws etc but the fixings that we used had to not be obviously visible. A fun challenge to be sure but one that I was able to meet. Part Two required us to add a container and turn the branches in to a different position than was initially used and to then create a completed arrangment adding foliage and plant material. The results around the room were so massively varied it was a wonderful demonstration of the different things that could be done using these few techniques. Here is a photograph of what I was able to achieve.

book 5 workshop arrangement 1.jpg

Master Ishikawa paid me a great compliment in saying the arrangement captured the spirit of "Ikebana becomes me" which is a fundamental ideal of the school in terms of Sogetsu Ikebana reflecting the very nature of the artist that makes it, and that it was "very impressive" meaning that the arrangement showed a lot of my own self in its boldness and strength.

In the afternoon session we were asked to create a celebratory arrangement using as much of the same material as we liked but also having a mandatory components of some camelia leaves and the addition of mizuhikki (Japanese paper string). I decided that I would celebrate something close to my heart and commemorate the results of the recent plebicite on marriage equality which had resulted in the national population voting yes to marriage equality for LGBTIQ+ people.  

celebration arrangement.jpg

For me there was so much meaning in the arrangement. The heavy branch representing a great obstacle being overcome, the lower swirls of mizuhikki representing the seemingly endless cycles of debate on the issue, the red bougainvillea for the passion of the people and the cost to many of that struggle for equality and finally rising above, the camelia leaves as a symbol of victory, new growth and renewal, also incorporating mizuhikki loosely representing two samurai interlinked. As I explained my thinking and the symbolism the room went quiet and at the end I received a round of applause... I think everyone was very moved and this will be a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life. While Master Ishikawa was a little uncertain around the subject matter of the arrangement as I talked about the meaning her appreciation grew and grew and I could tell she appreciated the thoughtfullness that had gone into what I had done. Not only was it aesthetically pleasing but very very meaningful. In the end she was very approving of the arrangement. That wraps up the seminars and workshops part, classes will be covered in part 2!