Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Aging Process

It was a month ago my co-worker Lydia brought me some bird paradise flowers and leaves. I had lots of fun to arrange the birds since I never had this many at same time before. Birds are always challenge to arrange since they are “directional”, to arrange them is to make them talk to each other and communicate with viewers. My first try was not too bad but I was not satisfied.

I thought about it and came out a much better arrangement the next day.

At the time, I thought about to use the leaves but did not have any good idea. They were not interesting enough to me. I kept them in water.

Last Saturday, my ikebana friend Lingling invited me to her house for tea tasting along with another ikebana friend Rita. Lingling is a tea master, Rita and I learned a lot about tea. When Lingling gave us a brief introduction about the tea process, she talked about aging process, that led the topic to sake and wine. It turned out both Lingling and Rita like wine tasting, so they tasted few sake and wines. I am not a drinker, it was very interesting to learn the comments from them after they tasted each one. Both liked an aged wine, especially, they liked the feeling when the wine was in their month and the after taste.

The following Sunday morning I went to San Francisco City College to see Mami School Flower demonstration, I turned off my cell phone and forgot to turn it back on after the demo. A friend tried very hard to reach me and offer me to cut her blooming roses. I was very touched. In Chinese cultural, since I am much younger than her, I should pay my respect to her but not let her do favor to me. I went to cut the roses Monday morning on my way to the office. When thinking about what to go with the roses, I noticed the bird paradise leaves, after the aging process, they became interesting, I arranged them with the roses.

This made me think about the aging process. Most of people who participate ikebana, ceramics, writing, and volunteering are women in the 50 ~ 70 age group. Those are the activities I do, therefore, I had opportunity to know those women in this age group. I am lucky to make friends with them and benefit from their friendship. There are many good common qualities among the women in this age group, especially, I found that they appreciate life, have wisdom and are interesting. They learned from their life experience.

I wish that the human aging process can be separated., slow down the physical aging process to live health and longer, speed up the mental aging process to have the appreciation and wisdom like the elder generation. I am trying my best to learn from them.

Enjoy the arrangements and Happy Monday!

In Friendship through Flowers,


Monday, July 20, 2009

Report 3 from Green Project – The Learning Continued

Last Saturday SOAR Foundation had volunteer and supporter appreciation party. I made ten center pieces. I used crabapple fruits from office yard and added some greens and flowers from my yard. I had been thinking what containers to use, later I remembered that I had saved bubble tea cups whenever I had the tea, those cups were perfect containers for the event. People liked the Chinese character “dream” on the containers and asked me where I bought the containers. They were surprised to learn that the cups were the used bubble tea cup from “Fantasia Coffee & Tea”, my favorite bubble tea place.

The learning experience of the green project was not all successful like this. So far, it has been mixed.

Bottle brush tree is common in San Francisco bay area. Their flowers are pretty. I had been wondered for long time why I never saw an arrangement with it. In all the books and magazines I read, there was only one arrangement used dried bottle brush branches. I asked my teacher once if she could get some bottle brash branches to try. “It’s not an arranger.” She simply answered without farther explain. If I had access to it, I would try it to find out, but I did not have the chance.

Since I took the green challenge, I emailed everyone in the office to ask floral donations. My director gave me permission to use any materials in our yard, she also suggested me to put a bucket in the kitchen to take the donations. A week later, she brought me some blooming bottle brush branches along with a list of the plants in her yard.

I was excited when I saw the bottle brash branches. I arranged them in the lobby an hour later. After few hours, I went back to check the arrangement. To my surprise, the table surface was yellow, covered by pollens. Second morning, I brought my camera in but found the blooms were down.

The following week I picked up some ferns from the office yard and arranged them in the lobby. That night, my neck was itch so badly I scratched hard while in sleep, the skin was red and swollen in the morning. I did not know why until I saw the yellow layer on the lobby table second day, I realized that I had allergy reaction from the spores since the fern touched my neck while I arranged it. I suffered for few days.

Trying is one way to learn. I will keep exploring and report back to you.

Enjoy the pictures and Happy Monday!

In Friendship through Flowers,

Here are the previous green reports:

Being Green
Report 1 from Green Project: SOAR Fund Raising Dinner Party
Report 2 from Green Project: The Father


Monday, July 13, 2009

A Fun Day Two Years Ago

This past Saturday afternoon I went to the 17th Annual Palo Alto Clay & Glass Festival, which was presented by the Association of Clay and Glass Artists of California. It is one of the largest in west coast. Many collectors come to the festival each year. I went with two friends and we all had great time.

That reminded me two years ago, I was invited to demonstrate ikebana at the 15th festival. The purpose to have the ikebana demonstration at the show is to give audience some idea to use the containers in order to promote the sale and entertain the audience as well. This type of demonstration is fun and challenge at the same time for the demonstrator. The fun part is that the demonstrator can choose almost any container to use on the day. The challenge is that the demonstrator prepares materials without knowing the container. There is no requirement to give the arrangement to the container owner, however, most of demonstrators avoided to use pin frogs in order to give the arrangements to the container owners. That makes the clay/glass artists happy to lend their containers.

I made seven flower arrangements at my demonstration in less than an hour.

The first container I used was from Bruno Kirk. Bruno lived in Japan for 10 years to learn ceramics. He also took some ikebana classes. His containers are well known among ikebana artists. I love his works. When I went to his booth, I thought to pick up a large tall vase, then I noticed that he had pin frogs. I changed mind and chose a big plate instead and borrowed his pin frogs. I had few large anthuriums and bamboo from the previous week, they fit in Bruno’s plate very well.

In the second arrangement, I used a vase from Linda Mau. I remembered her name years ago when I saw her ceramics kimono. She makes ikebana vases as well, all her vases can be used without pin frogs easily. I chose a black basic one and used bamboo to give support. I inserted some golden astries in one corner, a sunflower in the other corner. The black vase and the yellow flowers made nice color contrast.

In this arrangement, I used the bamboo from my friend Yanping’s yard. Those bamboos were not flexible at all. When I tried to bend them, they broke on me. After I finished the arrangement, I had about 5 broken bamboo sticks. Not to waste them, I decided to use them as the support for the third arrangement. I inserted some baby breath as the filler. The baby breath hideed the bamboo sticks and set the background color for 5 stems of Mickey mouse anthuriums. The vase was made by Hsie who is the teacher at Sunnyvale Community center where I learn ceramics. I own a rice bowl and a cup made by him.

When I received the demonstration invitation, I was especially excited for the opportunity to use some of the very fine glass containers since I do not own any high quality glass containers myself. I found one booth with two vases I love. I had difficult time to only choose one since I wanted to give other artists opportunity. However, when I introduced myself to the owner of the next booth and asked her permission to use one of her glass works, she said no immediately and told me to not take advantage of her. I did not want to leave her with bad feeling, I explained to her that I wanted to help her for the sale. She turned around to give me her back. There was no time to find another glass container, I went back Josh, the first glass artist, and borrowed the other one I liked. Later, when I returned the vases with the flower arrangements to Josh, the woman who turned me down came to me, she told me that she regret and offered the vase. Unfortunately, it was too late. “Maybe next time.” I comforted her.

The first glass container was a large dark blue plate with baby blue center and a gold edge. I used dry wisteria vines from my teacher’s yard to get some lines and placed a sunflower in the middle. I hoped that would catch people’s attention to sale the vase. After all, my purpose to be at the show was to help the artists to sale their works. This arrangement was my own favorite if I chose one among all the seven I did.

The second glass vase was my color. The mouth was dark blue, clear in the middle, and baby blue in the bottom. I inserted few agapanthus flowers into the vase first. Their color matched the baby blue in the bottom and provided support for two dark pink dendrobium orchids, which made perfect color contrast with the blues. They also brought movement to the arrangement.

One week before the show, I received an email from an artist named Dick. In his email, Dick introduced himself and one container. He asked me to make a traditional ikebana arrangement in it. Study the picture, I explained to him that a traditional ikebana flower arrangement would be too much for this vase. The arrangement should be very simple in order to show the vase. When I saw the vase in person, my first thought was to use a pink lily to match the egg white blue glaze and gave some cool summer feeling. Later, I found out that it was perfect size for a piece of agave mericana leaf from my teacher. While I made the arrangement, I told audience about Dick. He used to be a professor in philosophy. He loves ceramics art too much and became a full time potter.

The last arrangement was a big one. A friend brought me some kangaroo paws from her garden the previous Saturday. They were more than 2 meters tall. She had to be creative to fit those into her passage car. I needed tall materials for the show, so I talked to those kangaroo paws. I promised them that I would make them shine at the show if they stayed fresh for the demo. I stored them in my teacher’s studio since it was cooler than my home. When I arrived the demo site in the morning, I found three stems kangaroo paw waiting for me there. Later I found out that were from Irene, my ikebana classmate and my mentor in ceramics.

I could tell the vase was built by slab. The artist, Joe Battiato, explained to me that the vase was glazed with ohata and soda fired to create the special effects. Many of my works were built by slab, I knew it was not easy to build tall slab piece. I pointed it out to the audience.

During the demonstration, I had interactions with my audience. I shared what I know about the artists and how I appreciate their works myself. I also showed the arranging techniques and the tips for taking care of the cut flowers. I found that this was a great group of audience with artistic eyes. For the last arrangement, after I inserted kangaroo paws, I decided to let my audiences lead me to finish the arrangement. They pointed out that I need something to soft the kangaroo paws. So I followed the suggestion to insert some grass. Then I started to insert lilies. For the last lily, I asked audiences where they wanted me to insert, I was not surprised that they had read my mind.

A successful demo is always a good teamwork. My teacher gave me few tips, my friends Chaoying and Sally are not ikebana arrangers and never saw an ikebana demo before, they amazingly assisted me finished seven arrangements in less than an hour. Their husbands were the photographers. My friends gave me materials. Some friends came to the demo and helped whenever they could. Without all the supports, I could not finish the demo. I appreciated all the help and support.

It was a fun day to remember.

Hope you enjoy the pictures and Happy Monday.

In Friendship Through Flowers,


Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Price of Pain

One Saturday noon, I was on my way to the restaurant to join my friends for a group lunch when I received a phone call from my teacher Sumi sensei.

“Kathy, I got some very special materials, could you come to study with me?”

I could tell the excitement in her voice, without any hesitation, I called my friends of changing plan and rushed to my teacher’s studio.

The special materials were few wild blackberry vines. Sumi sensei and Shao sensei had been working on them for a while before I joined them. The vines tangled, we had to separate them before we could arrange them. I never knew there were lots of thorns not only on the vines but also on leaves. Our hands were hurt so bad, when we finally made the vines ready for use, our hands were swollen.

Since wild blackberry vines were not everyday materials, Sumi sensei arranged them and Shao sensei and I offered few suggestions and cheers. Sumi sensei made three arrangements. We enjoyed them from different view angles.

“It’s worth the efforts and the pain.” Sumi sensei said while looked at her swollen hands then the arrangements. The arrangements were beautiful.

When I went in my car and ready to head home, I felt so hungry, I just realized that our study lasted more than two hours and I did not eat my lunch yet.

Wish you enjoy the arrangements and have a very Happy Monday!

In friendship through flowers,