Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Hello all,

I've fallen a little behind in posting information but so much is happening that it's hard to find the time to write about it all. So I'm going to backtrack a little and speak of the two Teachers Workshops we had three weeks ago.

When I got off the elevator at the school on 14th April, the atmosphere was charged with nervous energy and excitement and a certain sense of urgency. There were a lot more people than I'd seen there before queuing up for materials and payments and I felt a little lost among them.

But I need not have worried because Misei Ishikawa-san saw me looking bewildered and very kindly took charge of me and directed me to where I needed to go.

The reason for all this excitement was the presence of Iemoto at the two Teachers Workshops being held there that day. I was scheduled to attend an International class on the fourth floor in the morning and Teachers Workshop in the afternoon.

At the end of the morning lesson, I collected my material to take with me this time, as I would try and use them again in the afternoon for the Teachers workshop. Went to lunch and came back to join the room full of women working on their arrangements. The theme was 'The challenge of the new - vases you have never used before'.

I have to point out here that since I have to use the vases provided by the school, all but one of my arrangements thus far were made in vases I had not used before.

This time I picked a heavy, black iron nageire style vase with a rod that curves from the back to the front ending in an oval loop. I used mitsumata supported by the rod to create the horizontal line and curved 3 variegated New Zealand flax leaves from the back to the front. The snow balls came in very handy to create a mass to the left of the arrangement.

I finished this arrangement very quickly and, thinking it was too simple, I tried adding more flax.   But his didn't work and I was reminded by my lovely interpreter, Mika Otani, that I was running out of time. So I quickly reverted back to my original design and proceeded to clean up. Made it just in time thanks to the help of Mika-san with cleaning.

Iemoto arrived to a room of respectful solemnity. You could have heard a pin drop. She went around the room and commented on each arrangement. Watching her, I was reminded of her father's visit to Melbourne in 1993 when he stood in front of my arrangement for what seemed like an eternity before commenting on my work. At the time I was on book 2 and I came very close to passing out from nerves.

This time, however, things were different. Iemoto seemed very impressed with my arrangement and spent a considerable amount of time pointing out its various positive aspects as well as her approval of the choice of each of the materials. Needless to say, this was a great relief for me.

Here I am with the lovely Mika Otani-san, who did an excellent job of translating for us. She is warm and friendly and is a Sogetsu teacher herself.

You may like to visit her website

At the end of the workshop, Iemoto spoke at length encouraging us to get out of our comfort zones and to try doing things in ikebana we would not ordinarily do. She elaborated on this theme and spoke also about the new Sogetsu magazine and the article in it of her interview with a famous actress. I had the benefit of Mika san whispering the translation in my ear.

Photographs were not permitted until after Iemoto left and, because the workshop finished quite late, people were anxious to pack up their arrangements and leave immediately. So I have very few photos to show you.

I made it home that day very tired but elated.

Two days later, I attended the second Teachers Workshop this time with my sister Vicky in tow. Apart from being my sister, she is also my students. The theme was the same as the previous workshop as was the flurry of activity.

Having been through the experience before, I was quite calm. Not so my sister. She had only arrived the night before and she was thrown into the proverbial deep end. A workshop with over 100 experienced teachers with Iemoto doing the critique is about as daunting  an experience as an ikebanist can have. Unfortunately, nerves can be contagious, and I became infected. So the two of us fiddled and fiddled and barely finished in time with hearts beating and brows perspiring and Vicky bemoaning the fact that she didn't do her best work.

I used the 'Winged Spindle Tree' branches, which I had not seen before and found fascinating. I bent them into rough rectangular shapes to follow the line of the container. The two strelitsias continue the shape by joining at the points.

Vicky must have done something right, though, because Iemoto was impressed that she was able to fix her large birds nest ferns with the use of only one pin, which was totally invisible and she had to look for herself to be convinced.

Vicky used two 'birds nest ferns' twisted and joined together and massed carnations at the bottom of this very strong container.

Vicky and I with our respective arrangements

As for my arrangement, she was just as kind with her critique as she was on the prvious occasion and, again, spent some time extolling its virtues. I really don't know why we were so nervous because I'd met Iemoto before in Sydney and she struck me as being warm and approachable. She was equally so at both workshops and kept her smile until the very end of critiquing over a hundred arrangements. She must have been so tired but, apart from having to wipe her brow every so often, she didn't allow it to show.

This is Nixon from the US who is a florist by profession and has been taking ikebana lessons for 6 years.

Bye for now,

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