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.