Ongoing Studies - since the return of Sensei / by Alexander Evans

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, my teacher had gone away for a little while earlier in the year and while she was away had set us some homework (see previous blog entry). Since her return there have been a number of classes that I attended and I was able to make some nice arrangements, a few of which have been added to the current gallery on this website. I thought it useful to add some here and talk about the brief for each one so as provide a fuller picture of the classes.

Above are some images of an exercise in creating a hanging arrangement that might go in the centre of a room or in an alcove or somewhere that might otherwise suit such a thing, over a table perhaps?.. There are a couple of considderations to think about for this kind of arrangement not the least of which is that it needs to be attractive from all sides, including from below! Another thing that I had to keep in mind was the container. Hanging containers are actually quite hard to find outside of Japan so I decided to make my own using a number of lengths of bamboo and some rattan cane. I didn't want the container to overwhelm the flower arrangement so I painted it green and silver so as to blend in more as it came closer to the top. I felt this was quite a successful container and was pleased with the result as well as the arrangement as a whole.

Another arrangement from class was to create something that hung on a wall using fresh material. The suitable ceramic containers my teacher happened to have on hand were a little on the small side and so she offered that if I'd like to use some bamboo from her garden we could make a container out of that. So on the spot we took her bamboo saw and set about cutting a suitable piece of bamboo. Making the hole was an interesting exercise in itself and we achieved a nice result using a small saw, a hammer and a very sharp florists knife. We made a small drill hole at the back of the top and it was ready to go, only needing the flowers to be arranged. I wanted to keep it quite simple and very natural looking so I didn't want to manipulate the materials too much. One chrysanthemum, a little viburnum and a couple of tendrils from a groundcover (I forget the name of it) were all that was needed to make a very soothing feeling arrangement. 

The above shows a relief work using dry and painted materials. Here I wanted to use a more interesting shape than just a square and so I created a hexagon out of 3mm craftwood. I also wanted to break up the surface a little by adding a couple of additional hexagons in different sizes and some wire mesh. Finally I painted the whole base using a textured paint, again to ensure that it didn't all feel too flat. My next step was adding the plant material which I had prepared in advance. Placing everything first to get a sense of the composition I them had to find appropriate ways to fix things in place.. I made a couple of small holes in the base and in some places used wire, other places were more suited to hot glue. It was very much a case of what was going to work best in the particular spot with the specific material. The final result is as you see above. I was very pleased with the outcome and I'd like to do this exercise again as I really enjoyed the different approach.


But wait there's more!!!

The next day of classes was also very exciting. Pictured above is my arrangement for the exercise "arrangement complimenting an artwork". I wanted to do something quite bold and caligraphic but at the time I didn't have any artwork that would really be suitable so I got out my ink set and began to paint. I liked the Kanji "kokoro" for the idea of heart/spirit/passion and created caligraphy using some dried shredded gymea lilly foliage that I had made into a brush. I liked the elegance of the idea, painting using old ikebana plant matter to create an artwork which I would then make a new ikebana arrangement to compliment. There was such symetry to that concept I felt I simply had to do it. Pleased with my artwork, the excited lines capturing the passion and excitement of the heart (in making ikebana) I set about creating my arrangement. Here I used the bark of the snow gum (eucalyptus) which I assembled with wire and wood glue, and combined it with red spider orchid. I feel the raw shapes of the bark really echoed the lines of the caligraphy in a raw and powerful, passionate way and almost created a 3D character! The red obviously reinforcing that idea of a passionate heart. My teacher and I were both very pleased with this arrangement and I re-created it again once I got home.

At the time of the class even though I had completed many of the lessons in book 5 I hadn't yet done a seasonal arrangement, but it being autumn at that point I thought I would be a good time to try that particular lesson. Using only materials from my teachers garden I created the above arrangement. I focussed on the lovely movement in the ornamental grape vine and also on the colours, predominantly keeping to colours that sit close to each other on the colour wheel with just a small touch of green for contrast. I was happy with the arrangement as was my teacher who enjoyed it in her home on the mantle shelf for several days.

Also on the day my teacher asked me to create a second seasonal arrangement but using only one kind of material. Luckily I had brought some lovely Japanese maple with me from home! This was a fun exercise and I really enjoyed the result.

The final exercise for the day was a revision of creating lines at the base. Here I used crab apple branch, red spider orchid and a small strip of New Zealand flax. A very satisfying end to an extremely productive day. 

Thanks for reading and more to come soon.