Pamela Croci is an ikebanist creating and teaching in the Blue Mountains. She tells Bella about an art form unfamiliar to many Australians but so well suited to our place.
Bella: What is Ikebana?
Pamela: Keeping in mind asymmetry, space and depth , Ikebana, unlike Western flower arranging, is very much a contemplative creative process. The four principles of ikebana are a fresh approach, movement, balance, and harmony. There are time honoured methods and through practise, these methods are absorbed into your being allowing artistic freedom. As a three dimensional display the characteristics of Ikebana are common to sculpture.
Bella: What is its appeal for you?
Pamela: For me Ikebana is a meditation on impermanence, deepening awareness and bringing an ability to notice the many subtleties in plant material. I practise it almost daily, in silence , on my verandah here in the Blue Mountains using material from my garden, friends and local laneways.
Bella: Where did it start?
Pamela: It came to Japan in the 6th century with Chinese Buddhist monks who made flower offerings to Buddha. In the 7th century the first school of Ikebana, the Ikenobo School , which still exists in Kyoto, developed a formal method of flower arranging called Rikka. Later in the 12th century with the arrival of Zen Buddhism and its associated philosophy of wabi-sabi, ikebana grew into the many schools that exist worldwide today.
Bella: How and when did it emerge in Australia?
Pamela: Ikebana was brought to Australia by Norman Sparnon, when he returned here over 60 years ago. While living in Japan working as an interpreter he studied Ikebana at both Sogetsu and Ikenobo schools and acquired the most senior rank as teacher within both schools.
Bella: I associate it, rightly or wrongly, with the 1960s. Is it still as popular in Australia as it was previously?
Pamela: Maybe people associate Ikebana with the 1960’s because stylistically it suits the architecture of that period eg the work of Ken Woolley.
And yes It is still popular here and growing…currently the Sogetsu School has branches in every state except Northern Territory and there are other schools here including Ikenobo and Ohara.
Bella: Are there any plants in particular that suit it?
Pamela: Traditionally one thinks of Irises, Camellias , Japonica , Pine etc and the associated symbolism however as a dynamic art form Ikebana has evolved to include all plant materials. Indeed especially within the Sogetsu school all sorts of unconventional materials are used.
Bella: Is there any way your work is inspired by the Blue Mountains, for example by the landscape, or through use of local plants?
Pamela: Absolutely. Living here for the last 25yrs I have come to deeply appreciate the extraordinary flora with its often very graphic forms. The banksia is a favourite with its gnarly trunks and candle like flowers. Seasons are not so obvious in the bush and ones eye is sharpened to notice the changes.
Also can I say that I strongly suggest beginners and practitioners alike use locally grown material. Making a considered arrangement using flowers flown in from overseas does not make sense to me.
Bella: How can people view ikebana?
Pamela: This question reminds me that In Japan in many train stations there are ikebana arrangements behind glass cabinets situated along the walkways bringing the beauty of nature to the commuters. How fortunate are we, living up here.
The internet has some good viewing to inspire you. Instagram. #ikebana #sogetsu #ikenobo
Two programs I advise readers to see on youtube are:
Ikebana: Flower Arrangement (Japanese documentary)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTVpFWBjYIo
The other is Born in a Broken Heart: Ikebana, a Smile Mixed with Tears
For formal classes in the Sogetsu School contact : www.sogetsu-ikebana.org.au
Other ikebana schools through Ikebana International Sydney: www.ikebanainternationalsydney.com
For one day workshop here in Blue Mountains contact
Pamela Croci : firstname.lastname@example.org