About ANZ Sogetsu Teachers Association Inc.

History of the Townsville Branch

The Sogetsu School of Ikebana was established in Townsville on 30th Sept 1975 with the formation of the Townsville Sogetsu Study Group. This group grew out of a venture by the Townsville Floral Art Group and the happy circumstance of a visit to Townsville by Ikebana Master, Mrs. Mildred Goldsmith to her daughter who was living in the city at the time.

Mildred, true to the mission of extending Ikebana and “friendship through flowers”, made contact with the Floral Art Group, gave a demonstration and on 15th July 1975, she commenced giving lessons. She continued coming to Townsville two or three times a year until 1996.

Initially we were a Study Group with Mavis Beer as President. Activities were conducted at the home of Mavis. A large portion under the home of the Beers has become a place for lessons, meetings and perhaps a few parties.

In 1979, a number of students had reached teacher level and the group became a branch of the Sogetsu Teacher’s Association.

In 1976, the first Australian Master of the Sogetsu School, Mr. Norman Sparnon made the first of several visits to Townsville. The demonstration that he gave at the lecture theatre in James Cook University is well remembered by those who attended. Over the years, we have had visits from other masters, Mr. Ken Katayama and Mr. Toshiyuki Ohki from Japan and frequently Mr. Seiseki Umemura of Sydney.

In 1979, Mavis Beer began teaching in Townsville with an initial group of five students. She has taught continuously with two Tuesday classes and one Sunday class each month. One of her initial students was Shirley Behan who eventually became a teacher in Townsville and later in Brisbane where she eventually moved.

Both Mildred and Mavis were members of that memorable trip to Japan in 1978 with about 80 or so taking part. Great friendships were formed on that trip and there are wonderful memories of classes in the Sogetsu building, visits to other studios that weren’t Sogetsu, but helped us to appreciate Ikebana in all its various forms.

The group has continued to have two exhibitions a year – in galleries, libraries, council reception rooms and sometimes in shopping centres. The exhibits have received appreciative responses. For many years Mavis Beer has created haikus each year at our large Gallery exhibition. These are published in the exhibition programme. We always have a gala opening night at this exhibition. In 2008, on this night, Ron Hamilton, a talented actor, writer and supporter of Ikebana stood beside selected arrangements and read out the haikus. It was very well received, as was the koto being played by a young Japanese girl.

In 1995, the group took part in the Townsville/Japan sister cities event “People to People”. Ikebana artists from Japan visited counterparts in Townsville. Many classes of school children took part in this where they had Ikebana lessons by the visitors and local artists. The students revelled in it.

When invited to participate in the Strand Ephemera in 2005, (a very long, long stretch of Art on the beach forefront), the group chose to use bamboo for its strength and as an acknowledgement of the late Iemoto’s work in this medium. We constructed a two tier arrangement over the existing fountain and this had the appearance of waves rolling onto the shore. This creation formed part of the Townsville Group’s celebration of 30 years of Ikebana in our city. In one of the magazines sent regularly from Japan was a 2-page spread of photographs covering the finished work and some of the work being done over several weeks beforehand.

There are approximately 20 members in the Townsville Group, with some members not attending classes. Peg Sandery, who formerly lived in Adelaide, came to Bucasia, near Mackay, in 1990 and started teaching. She and a student or two try to get to Townsville each year for a workshop.
Townsville residents are not all here on a permanent basis and many of the Sogetsu students share their talents for a while and then move to another city. This reflects the ephemeral nature of the art that inspires us.

Ikebana News

The publication of Ikebana News commenced in March 1997 and went until November 2007 – a good 10 years. The previous little newsletter from branches had folded up and our small group decided to do something a bit different. It was actually a little magazine about 12 or so pages. It featured photographs of people and of arrangements, puzzles, recipes, jokes, doings in other centres and a profile and photograph of an interesting Ikebana person.

It was great when people sent in contributions and photographs. Mavis Beer was the Editor and gathered all the articles etc together. Mavis begged other centres for articles and we included profiles of people from all states.

For some years Shirley Behan was the publisher, gathering it all together and assembling it into Magazine shape. This was something Mavis didn’t have the talent and the patience to do. In 2005, Shirley left to live in Brisbane and this very demanding job was undertaken by Gail Adamson. Both of these ladies did wonderful work.

For many years we sent the magazine out free, but eventually put a charge on it. This reduced the number of people contributing. Eventually, age, time and a few other things caught up with us and the last issue was sent out in November, 2007.

A Journey into the Art of Ikebana

In 2002, Mildred Goldsmith and Mavis Beer created a beautiful Ikebana book with Ron Beer doing his fantastic photography. The book has 57 full page colour photographs of arrangements. On the opposite page is a short description and a Haiku. A short chapter precedes each section which describes various aspects of Ikebana arranging – Nature’s Jewels, Nature’s Sculpture, Unconventional Material, Sculpture. There is a short final chapter which asks, “Is the Journey Complete?” We know, of course, that it never is complete.

Compiled by June Aylward & Mavis Beer, April 2009