Workshops with Elin Dahlin

Written by Alexander Evans

Apologies from Sandy Marker in regard to the delay in posting this Blog story. As you may well know our website had to be redesigned due to a server problem. I did not want this great workshop to be missed, hence the delay.

It was a fine morning on Saturday 13th of October. The hall at Greenwich was filled with the happy sounds of friends greeting each other after time apart as well as the excited buzz that is unique to the minutes before an Ikebana workshop begins. Over here, someone selling a container they weren’t using, over there a friend telling of their travels and ikebana journeys overseas. The feeling was one of welcome, friendly anticipation. We were called to quiet as the hour reached 10am and Margaret Hall (president of NSW ASTA) introduced us to our visiting Ikebana Master, Elin Dahlin.

An unusual workshop in a way, the Master began with a visual presentation and spoke about the intricacies of creating ikebana to complement an artwork. Using the forms, colour, texture, mass and line of living and unconventional materials to extend the ideas or motifs in an art work as well as translating the idea of space represented in two dimensions as in a painting into the three dimensions of ikebana. All challenges we would experience shortly. Of course in order to fully understand what we would be doing we needed some background on the artworks that we would be complimenting. We were shown and introduced to the artworks of Kandinsky, Klee and other artists of the “Blue Rider” group who moved from realistic representation towards abstraction bringing to the fore the use of bold colours. Works that would be perfect for ikebana and the magnificent colours of flowers. The presentation moved on to show many combination works of arrangement and art as examples, far more than could be achieved by demonstrating in person. This was a great benefit in this particular case as it gave a sound base of understanding with numerous examples for us all to sink our teeth into as well took to the task at hand.

Yumiko Soo Yumiko Soo

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We collected our flowers and the work began. Voices grew hushed and the sound of snipping hasami could be heard throughout the hall. Some worked quickly and finished fast and others took longer but all happily progressing towards a completed arrangement. Eventually everyone was finished and it was time for feedback and corrections from Master Elin. With care and consideration she approached each students work with sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Feedback for each student recognised the positives of their work as well as providing helpful observations on how things might be improved, all delivered with tact and grace with a smile and good humour. As feedback concluded everyone seemed happy and pleased with their results. Onward we went! Photography ensued as people were enjoying their lunches. All very casual but maintaining the positive feeling in the hall as people mingled and observed each others works, ate and shared their meals and caught up on events.

The afternoon was all about fruit and vegetables as we dove into the amazing ikebana rabbit hole that is Mori Mono! Another presentation from Master Elin seemed to fly by and before we knew it we were reaching for peppers and artichokes, eggplants and kale, pomegranates and garlic bulbs! We were encouraged by the master to add another dimension to our arrangements with the use of plastic recycled from drink bottles. Cut up, sliced, shredded, crumpled and melted the plastic took on new and interesting forms complimenting the fruits and vegetables we were all working with. Again quiet fell across the hall as the sounds of cutting and shaping, skewering and balancing were heard in all quarters. At the designated time we were once again provided feedback and advice from the Master who mentioned that it was really wonderful to see such diversity of ideas and approaches and that the creativity around the room was terrific. As feedback once more concluded the room was filled with smiling faces and inspired thoughts. The day came to a close with some thank yous and exchanges of gifts, a happy visiting master and happy workshop participants.

Kevin Walpole Kevin Walpole

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Many sincere thanks to Master Elin Dahlin for providing the workshop and to Margaret Hall and the members of ASTA NSW for organising everything as well as to all who assisted with transport, preparations, providing materials, setting up and cleaning of the hall, producing photography and the myriad tasks that make these occasions possible.