The “oohs” and “ahs” coming from the audience was in response to the creativity of Master Teacher Ron Brown’s dynamic Sogetsu demonstration. His expertise thrilled the ikebana enthusiasts at the Palo Verde Room in the Maricopa Cooperative Extension this past Saturday, October 6.
Working with materials that ranged from large monstera leaves and bright yellow sunflowers to the delicate and bright orange Mexican bird of paradise (a favorite of Ron’s), he deftly created eleven beautiful arrangements using a variety of flowers, leaves, palms, and dried materials. Some were ordered from Hawaii (including monstera leaves, red and pink torch gingers, birds of paradise, and pale-colored anthuriums), while others were gathered from the nearby yards of Retta Marconi-Dooly and Carol Brecker, with local florists filling in the rest.
Since the art of ikebana focuses not just on the floral materials but how well they harmonize with the container, Ron selected a wide array of vessels, some traditional (such as a round, low suiban), others modern, and still others wholly original.
With an uncanny talent for turning mundane simple objects into exciting new receptacles or accents for ikebana arrangements, Ron’s ability was front and center as he used unique containers that he had constructed out of living as well as inorganic materials. One uncommon container that he featured was made from a very pretty lace placemat.
Another original creation that excited the audience was a trio of bamboo “vases” Ron created by partially splitting lengths of black bamboo and connecting them together to form a set of linear vessels. The small hollow bamboo opening at the top of each structure was filled with water so he could arrange a colorful spray of floral materials in each one to cap off the tall slim stems of the split bamboo.
Ron also created three miniature arrangements in tiny glass bottles, which he loosely wrapped with colored bendable wires for interest. He placed a single blossom (including a yellow mini pom, a purple mini carnation allium, and an orange Mexican bird of paradise) in each bottle, which he feels “forces” the viewer to look closely and appreciate the delicate features of each single bloom—an experience they may miss when the same flowers are used in bunches on a larger arrangement.
In contrast, his largest piece was a spectacular five-foot structure that was built upon a metal frame (made by artist Ping Wei). Selecting diverse materials that ranged from dried brown palm tree bark to succulent green fire sticks, red and pink torch gingers, and vivid birds of paradise, the arrangement provided a rousing end to his demonstration.
A light lunch was served, and materials (including horsetail reeds, hala and flax leaves plus a perfect, single anthurium) were passed out for the workshop portion of the program. Attendees created their own arrangements using either an upright or low bowl container. Following the technique that Ron demonstrated, they inserted wires through their hollow horsetail reeds, which allowed them to bend and manipulate the thin reeds into a myriad of new three-dimensional shapes. Hala and flax leaves were creatively added to each arrangement, which was completed by the perfect placement of the single anthurium.
As part of the ikebana study process, Sensei Ron took the time to evaluate every arrangement, tweaking the students’ work while explaining why and how the pieces could be improved—a great learning exercise.
When the day ended, all attendees left with a beautiful arrangement they had each created along with a renewed and profound sense of what is possible in the art of ikebana.t of the single anthurium.