Saturday, 22 April 2017

Part of the Australian contingent - (from the left) Elizabeth,I, Marilyn, Nancy, Kaye and Dianne

Ikebana International 11th World Convention - Okinawa.

So, where to begin? Firstly I have to express my gratitude to the organizers and volunteers, who have worked tirelessly for the smooth running of the Convention. It must have been a logistical nightmare. We are often guilty of noticing the little things that may not go according to plan but we simply take for granted all the things that go well, and forget the planning, thought and effort that was exerted by the organizers.

My arrival in Okinawa was anything but smooth but I won't bore you with my wowes, suffice it to say that I staggered into my hotel room at about 10.30pm lugging heavy suitcases and lamenting the absence of my husband.

For the 5 days of the convention, I woke up at 6.00, then to breakfast at 7.00 and to the shuttle bus at 8.10. Fortunately, there were a number of Australian colleagues with whom I kept company.

On the first day we set up our exhibition arrangements. Mine created some discussion because some people found it impressive and others wanted to know how I managed to create the shape. Also, they wanted to know what the material was that I used. I always thought of it as a 'Palm spathe'. However, I was told it is a leaf, not a spathe. So, with the help of Google I discovered that I was wrong and, in fact, what I used was the leaf.

I have to apologise in advance that I will only post photographs of the arrangements made by people I know, who gave me permission to do so. As is always the case, in the exhibition there were those arrangements that appealed to me and those that did not. I'll share one little anecdote with you - a number of us were walking through the various rooms with exhibits when we came across an arrangement we liked and said so. Its owner happened to be standing near and overheard. She smiled shyly and admitted that the arrangement was hers. We congratulated her on her work and introduced ourselves. Imagine my delight when she told me she already knew me and that she has been following my blog for some time. Her name is Larisa Sarycheva and she is from Moscow.
Larisa and I.
Below are some of the arrangements at the exhibition:

Mitsuko Nishiyama - Master instructor - Tokyo
(In her gorgeous Rosenthal Container)
Ken Katayama - Master Instructor - Tokyo

Christopher James - Director Sogetsu  School of Ikebana
Victorian Branch
Chieko Yazaki - II President Melbourne Chapter

Masae Ako - Sydney
Kaye Pearson - Brisbane

Elizabeth Angel - Melbourne
(Sorry about the poor quality of this photo)
And now for the demonstration. Things started out with a set-back when Robyn Unglik, who was to be my assistant, had to cancel her trip due to a family illness. But I was lucky that Eugenia Chudacek agreed to step in and she took the job very seriously. I arrived in Okinawa too late to attend a briefing for the demonstrators so Eugenia attended for me and took detailed notes. Also, I'd been ill in Tokyo prior to going to Okinawa, which left me somewhat scatterbrained. Whereas I'm normally well organised, I found myself forgetting things and making mistakes. This is where Eugenia came in and kept me to the schedule. I'm so grateful to her because I don't know how I would have managed without her.

I have a great deal of experience in demonstrating so I don't suffer nerves beforehand. However, knowing the size of my audience and the fact that at least two Sogetsu master instructors would be  there, did produce some butterflies. Then, to make matters worse, it was whispered to me that there was to be a surprise - three Imperial  princesses would also be attending - H.I.H. Princess Hitachi, H.I.H. Princess Takamado and Princess Ayako.

I'm happy (and relieved) to say that everything went like clockwork. Judging by the applause, the audience seemed to like my work.
My trusty assistant, Eugenia and I
There were two demonstrators on stage at the same time. Our first arrangement was made using the common material that was provided - bird's nest fern. Then we each did a free style. When we finished we were asked to line up in front of the stage to be greeted by their Imperial Highnesses. It was quite an unexpected honour to shake hands with Royalty.

My bird's nest fern arrangement
with allium
I wanted to use an Australian native material, hence this Acacia
aphyllla together with calla lilies

Once their Imperial  Highnesses left the auditorium, I was 'mobbed'. Seriously, there were so many people talking to me at once that I was bewildered. Among them was a reporter from an Okinawan newspaper whose first question to me was how old was I! He then wanted to know what I liked best in Okinawa. Sadly I could not answer having seen only my hotel and the convention centre.

During the rest of the convention I was constantly stopped by people telling me how much they enjoyed my demonstration and how confident I looked on stage. Little did they know that when I was doing some fine wiring, I whispered to Eugenia that my hands weren't working properly.

The most significant affirmation, however, came from Ken Katayama sensei and Kosa Nishiyama sensei, both master instructors of the Sogetsu school, who expressed approval of my demonstration.

Another highlight for me was meeting people who have been following my blog, as well as making new acquaintances with people from around the world.

At the Sayonara dinner with Kazuko Yano (committee member and former II Melbourne
chapter member), Elizabeth Angel, me, and Mrs Matsumoto, who very kindly lent me
three kenzans for my demonstration and exhibits.
Bye for now,

Sunday, 2 April 2017


Last Sunday was a very special day. It was the culmination of countless hours of planning, organizing, weather forecast watching and a little bit of anxiety. But, by and large, everything went like clockwork.

And I have to say our girl did us proud. She looked absolutely enchanting. And her groom wasn't bad either. In fact, they make the perfect couple.

The ceremony was held outdoors at a winery with 360 degree views of the surrounding hills. The weather was perfect - warm and sunny with just enough clouds in the sky to make the view even more beautiful.

The bride walked down the red carpet on the arm of her proud father and linked hands with the groom, Zbys. A celebrant conducted the ceremony and vows were exchanged. The bride and groom wrote their own vows, which were so moving that, to my surprise, I became quite emotional.

As you may have guessed, Aurelia is one of my students and has been for a number of years. She is the youngest in the class and the rest of us have taken a rather motherly attitude towards her, which she tolerates with good grace. She is a young woman with the sweetest disposition and we are all quite fond of her.

When Aurelia announced that she would be getting married, we discussed what would make an appropriate wedding gift and we settled on making the flower arrangements for the reception. As an Ikebanist herself, Aurelia was very pleased with the idea of different ikebana arrangements on the tables. The bridal and bride's maids' bouquets were expertly made by Glenda Nielsen and suited the girls perfectly.

On the day, we all met at my place and finalized our arrangements, We then loaded them and us into two cars (that took some doing!), drove 45 minutes to the winery and set up without a hitch. Having allowed plenty of time for any possible problems, we were early for the 3.30 ceremony so we took ourselves to lunch.

Back at the winery, we were just in time to see our girl walk down red carpet. We watched as the celebrant pronounced them husband and wife, we congratulated them, took some photos, did a final check of the arrangements in the reception room and left. Lucy and I returned the next morning to collect the arrangements.

It was a relatively small wedding - about 80 guests (by Greek standard, it was tiny), requiring only 11 arrangements. As I mentioned before, they were completely different, showcasing each person's style and creating interest in their diversity.

The following three arrangements were made by Vicky Kalokathis
Bougainvilleas and dietes leaves

Bougainvilleas, gymea leaves and branch of a type of banksia

Fresh and dry agapanthus flowers and leaves
This next piece was made by Bredenia Raquel
Coloured contorted hazel,celosias and the same banksia 
Nicole McDonald made the next two
Sprayed wisteria and Singapore orchids

Lisianthus and statice

The next two are by Lucy Papas  

This 'spider' was made using umbrella grass stems and nerines

This was made for a long table using palm leaves and helliconias
I did the next three
Dogwood berries and Asiatic lilies

This was also for a long table with the crucifix orchids extending lengthwise over the surfaces created by joining umbrella
grass stems. The white cedar berries added a little contrast

This was the bridal table arrangement, which I photographed at home as it would have been impossible to photograph properly in situ. I used corky elm, sprayed white to create the structure with rectangular glass containers, so that the oriental lilies would appear to be
floating. Here, too, I used white cedar berries for contrast. Even though the arrangements were quite low, on the bridal table I placed the two parts a little bit more separated so as not to obstruct the view of the newlyweds from the guests in the room.
We were very happy to have a small part in Aurelia's wedding and we wish her and Zbys a lifetime of happiness.

I couldn't resist including this photo of dear little
Madeiline, the groom's niece

Bye for now and I hope to see some of you in Okinawa.


Tuesday, 14 March 2017


Lucy and I have been working on this project since November last year and, finally, we can unveil it.

We were commissioned to do a permanent, sculptural installation against a wall of a newly-built apartment complex in Northcote. This was both exciting and challenging as neither of us had done anything like this before.

There were a number of problems for which we had to find solutions. The first was the dimensions of the site. It is 7 metres long but only 60 cm deep, so our design had to be almost vertical. This is where our ikebana training came to the fore. We used stainless steel poles through alucobond (the blue material), which we tilted, giving the impression of greater depth than we had.

Our second consideration was how to make it safe and strong enough to be in a public space, so we chose stainless steel and alucobond, a type of cladding material. We spent a great deal of time on the mechanics that would hold the whole structure in the right position whilst the concrete was poured around it and then set. However, and this may be hard to believe, the most difficult problem we had to solve was the correct position of the holes in the alucobond for the poles to go through. In the process of solving all these problems, we learnt a great deal, making any possible subsequent project easier. Oh, and I should add that our clients are very happy with the result.

Because it is so difficult to photograph, I thought I would try using a video here. I'm not very confident with technology but here goes!

OK, so once I published this post I discovered that the video will only play on my lap top, not on my iPad or my phone. So I apologize to those of you who may not be able to see it.


Back to class now. The theme I set the senior students was a combination of Book 4 lesson 2 - 'With leaves only' and Book 4 lesson 13 - 'Dried, Bleached or coloured material.'

Lucy used 1 strelitzia nicolai dried leaf and 3 green strlitzia reginae leaves

Vicky used 1 dried agave and 1 fresh
gymea leaf
Bredenia used strelitzia juncea leaves with
dried strelitzia nicolai leaves

I used 2 fresh birds nest ferns and 2 dried aspidistra
'Vegetables and/or Fruits in an Arrangement' - Nicole and I had similar ideas, using square glass containers

Nicole used squash and figs with a wisteria vine 
I used cherry tomatoes, an egg plant and
a snake bean

By the way, I'm preparing for my trip to Okinawa for the Ikebana International World Convention. I plan to take part in the exhibition and I have the honour of being asked to be one of the member demonstrators, the thought of which is both exciting and daunting. Also, I'm looking forward to meeting any of you that will be attending. If you recognize me, I would be delighted if you would come and say hello.

Until next time,

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Hello everyone,

Last week our group held its first meeting for the year which included its AGM and a workshop lead by Betty and Toula Karanikolopoulos, my sisters-in-law. The theme for the workshop was 'An arrangement combining panty hose and wire in a sculptural form'. The girls made a number of quite amazing and creative pieces. Unfortunately, due to grandparenting duties, I had to leave the workshop early and didn't take any photographs. I would strongly encourage you to go to our website at for all the photographs.

I really enjoyed playing with these materials and made the piece below.

The brief also indicated that we were to use a vase and fresh materials to complete the piece but I felt mine didn't need it. However, in order to comply with the brief, I tried a number of flowers and leaves and finally settled on the amaranthus in a square, white container. I still feel it looks better without it. What do you think?

Having one leg of each of the pantyhose left over, I played a little bit more, this time with colours.

I couldn't even throw the scraps away, hence the playful piece below. The hosta leaves and flower are from a plant that was given to me by my colleague Lee Johnstone many years ago but has only just flowered, so had to be used.

Recently my sisters and I had occasion to visit the garden of Glenda Nielsen. I have known Glenda for a long time through our mutual love of our respective floral art and our appreciation of each other's work. We have, also, collaborated in doing the flowers in a couple of weddings. I'm not able to enumerate all of Glenda's achievements in floral art but, suffice to say, she has dedicated her life to it in all its forms including acting as judge for many years. She is now retired but, clearly, has not stopped gardening or practicing her floral art.

Glenda's garden, when seen from the front, looks deceptively small but is, in fact, quite long and narrow with something of interest at every turn, including a glass house at the end. It is definitely a floral artist's garden, rich in material for her use.

The garden also has a very generous owner. No sooner did we show some interest in a particular plant, than Glenda would pick up a shovel and dig some up for us. There were many interesting plants but, for us, the piece de resistance was the viburnum setigerum with its glorious berries that look like they're made of glass. All in all, a very pleasant afternoon. Thank you Glenda.

Glenda in front of her viburnum setigerum

A close-up of the berries of vibunum setigerum

In preparation for my trip to Okinawa next month for the Ikebana International convention, I needed birds nest ferns with which to practice. Two very kind ladies provided me with this precious resourse - my student Shaneen Garbutt and colleague Lee Johnstone. With the leftovers I created this wall arrangement.

Bye for now and stand by for my next post. I have something special to share with you.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Good morning everyone,
I say "good morning" because I'm writing this at some ungodly hour, unable to sleep due to a pesky mosquito in my bedroom! So, if you find mistakes, please forgive me, It's due to sleep deprivation.

Those of you who follow Christopher James' blog would have seen recently a tree that he featured from the Botanical gardens called Castanospermum australe ,also known as Moreton Bay chestnut, Australian chestnut, Black bean or Lucky bean. At about the same time my cousin Nick dropped in carrying a potted plant of the same tree saying he thought it was unusual and that I would like it, so he bought it for me.

The fully grown tree from Christopher's blog. It
produces bicoloured red and yellow flowers. The fruit
is a cylindrical pod with chestnut-like seeds.

My potted plant. Notice the chestnut-like seeds
from which it was grown

Now, back to ikebana. My student, Aurelia is a scientist working in a research lab where they use a casing made of grey sponge to secure various vials. At her suggestion, we decided to use these casings in ikebana following the theme 'Fresh and Unconventional materials'. The photos below show what they look like in the lab.

And here's what we did with them.

The two photographs, below, are of Vicky's arrangements where she used only some of the removable parts of the casing. She used with them Bougainvillea and umbrella grass stems.

In the next two arrangements Lucy Papas used both the large pieces of spongy casings as well as some removable pieces.

Umbrella grass stems and roses

Umbrella grass stems

The arrangement below was made by Aurelia Dong and I debated whether to include it here because the photograph doesn't do it justice. Because the aspedistra leaf extends forward, it tends to look bigger that it is and obscures the container. But, I can assure you, it is a good arrangement.

The next two are mine. We really enjoyed this exercise with the only problem being where to stop. We had so many ideas but not enough time.

New Zealand flax and bull

I used bull rushes on a glass base that has two holes, through which I
put the stems. Under the glass base is a container with water.

My arrangement of 'Disassembling and Rearranging the Materials'.

Aurelia's arrangement of 'With Branches Only'. She used
smoke bush and walnut branches

My freestyle arrangement using bull rushes, dietes and crucifix
orchid. I was given plants of the orchid by Helen Novic and
also by Shaneen Garbutt
Bye for now,