by Nakada Kazuko
This month I attended three Teachers Workshops all of which had the same theme - 'May for You'. I was a little puzzled by this theme and when I asked what it meant, the explanation was not very clear. However, after three sessions I understand that we are to use fresh, new growth, in particular green materials.
The instructor for all three workshops was Ryu Ishikawa sensei who is quite an elderly gentleman and remembers Mr Norman Sparnon well. Despite his age he is sharp and energetic and didn't hesitate to correct works by removing, cutting, replacing etc. But he did it all with the most delightful sense of humour, which took the edge from the correction.
I learnt a lot watching him correct and it helped that I had an interpreter in each session.
In the first workshop, before I understood what 'May for You' meant, I interpreted it as May for me, personally. And, since May in Melbourne is autumn, I chose materials with autumn colours.
This was the result, before and after correction. Ishikawa sensei commented on the correct placement of the mahonia stems and the appropriateness of the container for the material but he moved the viburnum on the left from the back to the front.
Things have been going so well in all my classes that by the law of averages, I knew something would go wrong at any moment and it did, in spectacular fashion. It was at the second workshop.
This time I picked fresh green material in the form of large aspidistra leaves and alliums with an interesting bend. I came up with the design very quickly and all that was left was to make my materials stay where I wanted them to. I have been using different containers at each class and this time I picked a very interesting one, which would offset my design beautifully.
If you look at the photograph, you will see that my very heavy materials are leaning towards the right. I could only fit a small kenzan but I was not worried because I was intending to use a horizontal fixture to hold up the allium. What I didn't count on was the highly glazed surface inside the container, which would not allow a fixture to wedge in place and hold.
I fiddled and fiddled and tried every kind of stick to make the fixture sturdy but nothing worked. My fingers were bleeding (literally) from pushing into the kenzan again and again, I was perspiring and I was ready to throw in the towel and just walk out.
Meanwhile, Ishikawa sensei arrived and started his critique at the other end of the room. My interpreter, who is herself an experienced Ikebana teacher, thought she would have better luck with the pesky horizontal fixture but, try as she might, she, too, failed. In utter frustration and feeling comleately defeated, I decided to change my container and managed to put the arrangement together just before sensei arrived. I had no time to even stand back and look at it. I was just so grateful it was standing.
The arrangement as you see it is the corrected version. I had two more aspidistra leaves following the same line as the one to the right, which sensei removed - a definite improvement. When I got home that day I felt as though I'd been under a steam roller.
At the third workshop I used smoke bush, the quality of which was not great but I only discovered that after I loosened it, and purple Japanese clematis. I was a lot more confident with my choice of materials as well as the execution. And sensei concurred because, when he looked at my work, his first comment was a very emphatic 'Much Better!' He did, however turn my clematis from looking down to looking up. Again, an improvement.
With Ishikawa sensei. His serious look belies a wicked sense of humour
Bye for now,