Study & practice... working towards improvement - always (part 1 of 2) / by Alexander Evans

Earlier this week I was able to attend classes once again with the wonderful Sandy Marker who is my teacher in Sydney. It was a very quiet morning class and I had the Sensei all to myself which is really quite a luxury. Things went well and we moved along with the exercises from the text book and I was able to create some really lovely arrangements that I was quite proud of. 

 Morimono - arrangement using fruit and vegetables

Morimono - arrangement using fruit and vegetables

The first exercise was an arrangement of fruit and vegetables which is called "Mori-mono". This is quite a tricky kind of arrangement to create, as its really quite different to look at what we normally consider to simply be food, and to instead consider its aesthetic qualities, particularly with regard to line, colour and mass. Fortunately a local grocer had some amazing and interesting snake gourd, long and interestingly shaped with stripy variagation. It was really spectacular looking and I thought just the thing to make a morimono come alive! I combined it with habanero chillies, a lime and a hydrangea flower to complete the arrangement as you see it above.  

 Fresh and unconventional materials

Fresh and unconventional materials

The next exercise for the day was to tackle combining unconventional materials with fresh ones. This is something that I really enjoy doing as it can really set free the creative energy. I decided that because of the time of year I would like to do something with a Christmas feel but I didn't want to have a decoration here and there and end up feeling like a Christmas tree. So I treated my collection of baubles as a material and went about using them to create mass. After giving the hot glue gun a bit of a work out this was what I ended up with. I was really pleased that the different tones, surface qualities and the varied sizes of the baubles were able to be combined to create a pleasing and interesting mass that captured the season as well as complimenting the container. I carefully added some juniper and a single red dahlia to complete the arrangement creating something beautiful but also with a sense of fun and joyful celebration. 

 Fresh and unconventional material

Fresh and unconventional material

As I mentioned I really enjoy working with fresh and unconventional material and so with a little more time left in the morning class I decided to create a second arrangement on the same topic. Again this one uses juniper and a red dahlia but this time combined with xanthorea, sword grass and (of all things) a felt table place mat. It just goes to show that you really can use almost anything in ikebana if you really think about it. 

Following the morning class was a break for lunch during which we toasted the end of the year with a little champagne and, after our sandwiches, a little bit of cake and chocolate. It made for a delighful break amidst the fun of study.

 Focussing on the use of water

Focussing on the use of water

In the afternoon class the lesson was about focussing on the use of water. I always find that green and white and deep purple capture a feeling of coolness and freshness that I connect with water and summer so I wanted to use these colours in the materials I was working with. I also wanted to take advantage of the refractive and magnifying qualities of water when used in clear glass. I managed to create an arangement that seems quite simple and minimal but was very sophisticated in subtle ways driven by the nature of the water. Working in different levels with submerged materials magnified in different degree, (due to having used containers placed inside one another), yet anchored and unified at the same time was a wonderful challenge but one with an extremely pleasing result. 

 Focus on use of water - to be viewed from above

Focus on use of water - to be viewed from above

Again, this is an exercise that I particularly enjoy and one I find fills me with ideas so I went on to do a second variation on the same theme. In this case I was wanting to focus on the sense of cool created by calm still water. I selected a beautiful blue rectangular suiban container that perfectly matched the colour of the hydrangea that I had with me. Working with the purple material I had along with a single strand of sword grass that created a beautiful line I was able to create the above pictured arrangement. I feel calm and cool just looking at it... very Zen.