Monday, 24 December 2018

Hello all,

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring , not even a mouse;

Not so in this house! There has been a hive of activity for days, if not weeks. We are hosting Christmas again this year and the guest list is even bigger than previous years. We estimate more than 50 people to come through, either for lunch or afternoon tea. We've entertained on a big scale many times before and have become quite good at it but that doesn't minimize the amount of work and planning required. Of course, we couldn't possibly do it without the help of family.

You may ask what I'm doing writing this blog when I still have a great many chores to do before I go to bed but I wanted the opportunity to wish all of my readers a happy and safe holiday season and a very merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it.

For our last lesson for the year I, traditionally, set the theme 'A Christmas Arrangement' for all the students, including beginners.

Bredenia Raquel
Shaneen Garbutt

Dianne Longley

Nicole McDonald
Jeannine Hendy
Also Nicole McDonald

Vicky Kalokathis
Lucy Papas (Her container is reflective stainless steal, not glass as it
appears to be in the photo)
Below are some of the arrangements I made for the tables for Christmas. I chose glass containers so as not to obstruct the guests' view of each other. My garlic bed has been quite prolific and I have an abundance of flowers to play around with.

Using only one kind of material. The vase is new - a gift from my sister, Vicky

The versatility of Agave.

I made the first arrangement, below, using two pieces of agave on 9th November. When the strelitzia died, I reworked the agave into the second arrangement. Two days later, after gravity had its way with it, it had changed shape - third arrangement. And, finally, I reworked the agave again into the fourth arrangement. It's nearly seven weeks since I cut the agave and it is still very much alive and, if I wasn't tired of it, I could do even more with it. I love using this material and have found that it last very well even without water.

With gold bauble

With Jacobean lilies

Bye for now and, again, Merry Christmas

Friday, 14 December 2018

Hello all,

The photograph, above, is of my favourite iris, Iris ensata ((Japanese water iris), which I grow in pots submerged half way in water. They have flowered quite prolifically this year as is shown by this pot outside the office entry. Teamed with the electric coloured lobelia it makes quite a show.

And here it is arranged in a rather unusual container

At our last Sogetsu meeting, Lucy Papas ran a workshop on 'Relief'. She had prepared three different examples of the theme and spoke about them and how she had created them. This theme does not lend itself to demonstration. Lucy's biggest problem was in keeping to only three examples and deciding which, of all that she had prepared, to leave out. Her examples are blow:

White cardboard
Egg shells and wisteria vine
Inspired by Kandinsky
Lucy's critique of the members' work was thorough and insightful and often focused on elements of the work that we may not have thought of. It was quite instructive to listen to her comments and the suggestions that she offered.

Having done this exercise many times in my classes, I have used all sorts of materials, both modern and naturalistic in the past and I was now looking for something different. I thought I would try making my relief going to the back as well as coming forward. This meant that it could not be done on a board that would be hung on the wall, thus necessitating the construction of a free standing frame.

Different coloured cardboard and coloured wisteria vine
Nicole used dried yucca leaves and dried allium 
Vicky used polystyrene, an umbrella grass stem and dried agapanthus 
There was some very interesting work done by the members and, for more photos, please click on Sogetsu Ikebana Victoria, then go to Recent Workshops.

My student Shaneen Garbutt often comes to class with many enviable materials from her garden, none more so than her smoke bush. She, very generously, has supplied all of us with gorgeous long stems of this wonderful material. I used mine in this self made container with strelitzias and copper pipe.

My strelitzia nicolai has, also, been prolific this year. But, more importantly, she has produced some flowers low enough to be reached with a normal ladder. So I've had fun playing with these stunning flowers and learning to handle their weight. This container, because of the 'buttresses', lends itself well for supporting the very heavy flowers. Also, their short stems are quite restrictive in how they may be arranged.

And, below, I have placed it in a wall container, whose colour seems to have been made for this particular flower. I used portions of its very large leaves and a stainless steel strip to complete the arrangement.

And, when the flower petals have died, It makes an interesting modern arrangement. Here, I used a glass container, which is black on the outside and white on the inside and was given to me by my student Nicole.

On her last lesson my student, Mary, brought me a bunch of magnificent, pink peonies. This is a rare treat and I looked around in my garden to find accompanying material worthy of their beauty. Enter the dogwood (cornus Norman Haddon), which is in full flower at the moment but was only partially open at the time.

Bye for now,

Friday, 7 December 2018


Hello all,

Vicky Kalokathis, my little sister and my very first student has embarked on a new venture. She has launched her fashion label, Love Kiki.

Vicky has been making clothes for herself for many years and was constantly complemented and asked from where she got them. This was the impetus to start her line. Her clothes are smart and comfortable and  very easy care. Made from versatile and forgiving jersey, they are great for travel and can be worn casually or dressed up. I'm extremely proud of what my little sister has achieved and I wish her great success. I have included just a small number of her pieces but if you'd like to see more click on Love Kiki.

And now for something completely different. My ikebana colleague, Robyn Unglik, put on an exhibition of Ikebana in metal containers that were made for her by her husband, Harry Unglik and their friend, Marcel Mittelman. These two, very creative artists met some years ago and realized that their families originated from the same small town in Poland. They share a studio/gallery, which they call 'Landsman', a Yiddish word which means 'Coming from the same area'.

In late October they, together with Robyn, put on an exhibition of their works, which I was fortunate to go and see. I was quite impressed, not only by the quality and artistry of the work but, also, by the variety of mediums. Harry is a GP by profession and, when he is not working at the practice, he is at the studio. Marcel started out in jeans manufacture. In those days he had imported machinery for his business from overseas, for which there were no mechanics to service them. Marcel had to learn how to do that himself, which led him to engineering and, later to sculpture.

Robyn's Arrangements -

Sculptures by Marcel Mittelman -

Works by Harry Unglik -

This is a very talented and creative family. Robyn's mother, Helen Novic, has been an ikebanist since before I started. She is now in her nineties but you wouldn't think so to look at her and the quality of her work has not diminished due to age. It is still interesting and modern.

Bye for now,

Friday, 23 November 2018

Hello all,
Above is the photograph of a New Year arrangement I made for the last Ikebana International meeting for the year. I had, actually, prepared a much larger and more involved arrangement for this occasion, however, it would have been difficult to pack into the car and carry all the materials to the venue. So I quickly put together this simple arrangement using two of my favourite containers, sprayed strelitzia reginae leaves and 'Mr Lincoln' roses. For more photographs from our meeting please go II Melbourne.

Below is the original arrangement. The branch material is from the date palm after the fruit have fallen. The leaves were still attached, so I covered them with paper whilst praying the branches silver, then covered the branches whilst spraying the leaves gold. I used pine, ornithogalum and hippeastrum. The container is an asymmetric lacquered suiban, which Lucy brought back for me from Vietnam.

You may remember  on a previous post that I mentioned the Box Hill Floral Art exhibition. My student, Nicole McDonald is a member of the group and took part in the 'Glass with Class' competition. I'm very proud to announce that she won first prize. Below is a photograph of her piece. She used weeping willow and strelitzia reginae.

And now for class.

Shaneen's piece, below, is of the theme 'Emphasizing Straight Lines' and she made it in her self made ceramic container

Bull rushes and green Goddess lilies

Close-up of the container. . Shaneen used crushed glass in the
depression but is not visible

At a recent class I wanted to challenge the advanced students so I provided containers for each one that they had not used before and three different materials, at least one of which they had not used before. I, also, wanted to be challenged, so I asked Lucy to pick a container and materials for me to use.

 Lucy chose Japanese maple, New Zealand flax and a succulent,
the name of which I don't know. The container is one I made
at the Sogetsu kiln

This is how I arranged the quite disparate materials. And, yes
it was challenging!
Nicole used Japanese maple, spuria iris and aspidistra leaves
in one of my self made containers
Vicky used mahonia, spuria iris and euphorbia

Bredenia used stripped fern, leaves and flower of what I
think is curculigo and roses

Lucy used gymea leaves, green Goddess lilies and yucca
flower stem

Strelitzia reginae and variegated

Two views of the same arrangement.
I think it works well as an example of an
arrangement to be viewed from all sides

I made this next arrangement because I had a number of these Siberian iris flowers which are very short lived but which I love for their vivid blue colour. I used the citrus yellow container for contrast.

Bye for now,