Thursday, December 10, 2015

November meeting - a recap of the wonderful experience at the regional conference at Taipei

November 25th 2015

Our Study Group monthly meeting took place at ABK Hall as scheduled.  With Chennai seeing unpredcedented rain, attendance was thin.  Eight members were present to listen to the recap of our study Group members who went to Taipei, Taiwan, to attend the Regional Ikebana convention.

With II President and Conference Chairperson
There were 400 registrants, besides Asians there were members from African Region, Australia- New Zealand region, European and North American Regions too. India and SriLanka were represented in good numbers.  Our members who attended were Senseis Malathi and Meenakshi, and student Divya.  Divya's daughter Pratibha accompanied her as a guest, and we hope this will bring her in to the Ikebana fold!  Many of the pictures in this post are courtesy Pratibha.

This was Sensei Malathi's first Asia Regional Conference. Shre recounts her experience -
"I particularly, appreciated the Taiwanese Cultural shows. The President of II set out the theme for this Conference as "Mind, Body, Spirit" and through the motto of 'Friendship Through Flowers' she spoke of how we should wish for Peace and Happiness in the world, especially citing the Flower Power that could make wonders in the world.
The Chief Guest and Demonstrator was Iemoto Ms. Akane Teshighara of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana.  There were demonstrations by Director, Taiwan Ikenobo Branch, Director and Founder Chinese Floral Art Foundation, Director, Singapore Sogetsu Branch, First Master Ohara School, Hyderabad and President of Okinawa Kozan-ryu. All the demonstrations were delightful to watch.
Workshops.  There were two workshops conducted by Iemoto Akane. The Indian  members were in the second workshop.  She gave two demonstrations in the workshop, one with all leaves and the other focusing on Colour and Line.
Iemoto at her demonstration in the workshop

Iemoto's all-leaf composition

Emphasizing colour and line - by Iemoto
Participants were divided into four tables. Each table had the same shape of container and the same kind of materials. We were instructed to render a Free Style composition. After about half an hour or so Iemoto came around to give her comments. Each one she examined in detail and gave valuable comments.
Sensei Malathis' arrangement - everyone had the same container
Iemoto spends time remarking on the arrangement
Her patience and interest in members' work was remarkable. While summarising she pointed, how with the same container and materials each one of us brought out our individual personality and interpretations, and that was the unique characteristic of this Art.  It was very rewarding and fullfilling experience.           
Pratibha Selvam was such a great help with photography. Each and every arrangement was taken so carefully. Thank you so much, Pratibha.
The Demonstration.  The final Event was the  demonstation by Ms. Akane Teshighara. It was for two hours. Initially, she composed medium sized ones.


Before a short intermission, she requested two volunteers from the audience, one to choose a container and the other to choose the materials, with which she brought out a lovely composition. And finally it was a large mural-like composition, which filled the whole stage. In this what we have to observe is the stage-by-stage planning and execution, especially when the whole audience is patiently waiting in total silence for the finale.After completion, different hues of light on this composition made us gasp with wonder!        

On the whole it was a very memorable event."
Sensei Meenu says

The trip to Taiwan was a step going back into fairyland.  The venue The Grand Hotel was a trip perfectly suited for the event.  The easy friendship with the sole purpose of Ikebana is amazing to see. Ideas flowing effortlessly and the use of simple materials floors one.

Sensei Meenu's composition
Remarks and corrections from the Iemoto.

The exhibition put up by everyone left me astounded.

The highlight of the event was the workshop with Iemoto Akane where she was able to give 70 different type of corrections for all the works!

The welcome and the Sayonara Dinner were beautifully put together leaving lingering memories of five eventful days.

Divya says

"I am so glad that I could visit the Taipei conference with my sensei.  The venue for the event,  The Grand Palace Hotel was so well suited for the same.

The exhibition.  The various displays by members at the event was so spectacular and unique that it opened my mind to so many possibilities in Ikebana.The array of flowers and leaves kindled my perspective on how beautifully they can be used.
Preparing for the exhibition


Iemoto's piece at the exhibition, with rice paper and camellia

Malathi sensei's piece

Divya, with her arrangement at the workshop.
The hospitality of our Taiwanese hosts was so good. The banquet was a very special
event.  Each event was so flawlessly organised and meticulously planned.  The workshop
was yet another event I was so fortunate to attend. The sightseeing trips of the natural wonders around Taipei City will also stay in my memory for long.

Thank you for a wonderful time!"

Saturday, November 21, 2015

October workshop


October 9th 2015

The October workshop was held in the beginning of the month, as the festive season of Navaratri starts next week, and all the ladies will be busy with dolls, dancing and desserts!

It was a Freestyle workshop, and our two "new" senseis, Prerana and Trishala, demonstrated their freestyle work, before all those present participated.  Their demonstration was highly appreciated by the members present, and we wish them all success and fulfilment with Ikebana teaching!



Prerana sensei remarked, "my copper vases depict age, the bamboo strength, the dry branch is age and weakness and flowers add colour to life. Strength and weakness are two sides of a coin."


Trishala sensei used angles to complement her vase, and bring delicacy via the flowers and their colour.
Seethalakshmi experimented with space between her fresh flowers and the dry lines.
Dalley sensei created a moribana with a tropical look and feel.


Sensei Meenu looked to keep the rounded shape of the container repetitive by way of ixora and the cane twirls. Life is a full circle

Chitra R used a glass vase, and beautifully balanced colour, line and mass.

Zaitoon brought focus on the red jerberas, against the black of her vase.


Bhuvana's composition highlighted grace with the beautiful and graceful shin, so and hikae lines

Roopa's nagiere composition created a large space with the flamboyant palms and single colour as focus.
Janaki - "The rattle flower was my inspiration, as I'd never seen it before. I also wanted to showcase the container whose lines are reflected in the flower."
Chelvi - "the shells were the highlight in my arrangement. I chose lilies to compliment the delicate edges of the shell. The big open flowers were chosen to balance the heavy bottom of the shells."
Divya showed the surface of the large leaves to striking effect.

Sensei Malathi brought drama via the colourful heliconia and the large and interesting banana leaves.

The group dispersed after refreshments  A wonderful Navaratri celebrations to all.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Wabi sabi and Ikebana

September 26th 2015

The Study Group met at ABK AOT Dosokai for their monthly meeting. The theme for the workshop and meeting was "Ikebana and wabi sabi philisophy". 

There were introductory remarks by sensei Malathi and a slideshow by Ambika.  As we were running short of time, she did her planned demonstration pieces as part of the workshop.

Eight members were present.

Ambika began with the caveat that most Japanese do not discuss the concept of wabi sabi, they just recognise it when they see it, so deeply ingrained is it in their consciousness. 
Leonard Koren.  American artist and aesthetics expert says  “….it is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of what we think of as traditional Japanese beauty…”

“Wabi-sabi is an intuitive appreciation of a transient beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world. It is an understated beauty that exists in the modest, rustic, imperfect, or even decayed, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things.”  Andrew Juniper, Wabi-sabi: the Japanese Art of Impermanence.

It refers not to the absence of material possessions but to the non-dependence upon them.  Sabi objects are irregular in being, asymmetrical, unpretentious.  They are well cared for, reflecting their age and experience.

The origins of wabi sabi can be traced to the tea ceremony.  The tea masters looked to move away from the extravagance of the tea drinking parties of the Kamakura Shogunate.  This conscious move was accompanied by the use of simple, rustic, homestyle tea containers rather than the ornate expensive porcelain from China, simple tea rooms and contemplation and quiet.

Tea Master, Sen no Rikyu, who is considered the father of the wabi cha (Way of Tea), also brought the philosophy of simplicity, tranquility and naturalness to Ikebana, and is considered the first person to introduce the nagiere style as well.  

The philosophy teaches us to embrace the imperfect and celebrate the worn both as a decorative concept and as a spiritual one.  

Fortified by lovely hot tea from Dalley and some tasty sweets from Meenu, we set to work.


Ambika used a handmade ceramic container with beautiful texture, with anthurium leaves that revealed their age.  The Amarylis lily representing the natural cycle of life.
The drooping Copsia flowers bring a  sense of melancholy to this simple nagiere - Ambika
Malathi sensei used a uniquely crafted handmade ceramic vase to showcase her wabi sabi Ikebana with material from her garden.

sensei Meenu celebrated the humble coconut fibre waste, from which seemed to emerge the conventional beauty of a flower in bloom.


sensei Molly emphasised space in her minimalistic wabi sabi arrangement, with ixora.  The innocous "aapam" pan from her kitchen was her container.

Janaki used what we usually consider untidy and clumsy - dried banana laeaves in this piece.
Zaitoon used a drying and thorny branch as the shin  of her wabi sabi arrangement. 


Janaki was inspired by another Leonard Koren quote to use the avocado seedlings, seed and fruit in her work. 

"But when does something's destiny finally come to fruition? Is the plant complete when it flowers? When it goes to seed? When the seeds sprout? When everything turns to compost? "
Leonard Koren: Wabi Sabi for Artists,  Designers, Poets and Philosophers

We experimented with the material, using the African wooden ladle, with its beautiful worn texture, in focus.
The next meeting will be on Oct 9th at 11 am at ABK, when Trishala and Prerana will demonstrate.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Madras Day with the Chennai Study Group

August 22nd, 2015

It is Madras Day here in Chennai as our city celebrates its founding.

Our Chairperson, Malathi Sensei requested members to honour this meeting as part of the celebrations. She reminisced how Madras was during 1968 to '73 and how it was between 1976 till today. Young girls were in ' half sarees' and salwar kameez was not in fashion!

Madras and a single  5 Star hotel called Connemara, and there were no florist shops other than garland sellers. In such a situation she started ikebana lessons,where cut flowers were available only at 'Rosedale' situated in Connemara and an outlet in Dhun Buildings. Only few  varieties of flowers were available then -  Gladiolus, Arum lily, Rose, Asters and Tube rose in season. 

To keep the interest alive among the students was the greatest challenge, with these same materials on and on, and handling ' Lines ' as per the curriculum. Today the city boasts of florist shops in every neighbourhood and girls sport the latest international fashions!  

Sogetsu Ikebana too has grown from strength to strength, and we have made the neighbourhoods more colourful and she has no doubt Ikebana in the city will be an established  activity.



After a brief introduction of two new members - Divya and Chitra - Molly sensei made use of local Madras materials in her demonstration, with the "no kenzan" theme.

She began with a lovely ceramic vase, with a beautiful inner surface, and her composition helped to highlight this surface, with the red Gladioli adding colour.  The strong sapota branches intersected  one another to achieve balance.
Molly sensei's first composition, demonstrating arranging without a pinholder.  
For her second arrangement she chose a wide black moribana container, and used a material that is so typical of our city - palm leaves.

Given the tropical and sultry nature of our city, these palms thrive well and can be seen in many a garden.  They are dramatic and make for bold lines, helping to increase the scale of a composition.

Molly sensei trimmed some of the leaves, so that the stems formed extra lines that added depth to the arrangement.  They were wired together to ensure they stayed balanced.

She then used a deep red Asia Lily to add colour and bring a focus to the composition.



The second demo arrangement.
The eleven members then participated in a workshop on the same theme.  While many tried slanting style in the no kenzan positions, others used their materials innovatively to maintain balance and achieve focus.


Trishala also displayed the inner surface of her moribana vase, with a bright yellow focus of the jerberas.
Malathi sensei used materials from her garden - allamanda buds and dressina lines.

Prerana worked to develop another"still life" composition, with the green of her vase complemented by the apple, and the rose providing a stark contrast of livingness and colour to the dried line of the branch.


Zaitoon  cleverly worked with an empty coconut shell as her "kenzan", using the beautiful ixoras to celebrate the spirit of Madras.

After a dialogue with the senseis she also experimented with a large surface leaf to balance the masses of the coconut and the vase.  

Which one do you prefer?
Chitra also used horizontal expression with this free style composition.


Pushkala's upright style has no kenzan, using the telephone wires imaginatively to hold the material in place, working with  three different flowers, innovatively.

Divya Selvam's no kenzan composition was also upright, with the bougainvillea adding a dash of colour and softness to the bold umbrella plant lines.

Rupa tried the open style, using pebbles.

Bhuvana displayed the conventional no-kenzan method of tripod balancing.

The new member Chitra also attempted a composition, using a basket with leaves in order to achieve the no kenzan effect.
Meenu, Ambika, Nirmala and the new member Divya were observers this time, and did not take part in the workshop.