Ikebana by Margaret Jenkinson

Margaret and her colleagues from the Ichiyo School of Ikebana have won many awards including thirteen Gold Medals at the Chelsea Flower show.

Margaret writes “I was never very interested in Western Flower Arranging. In the late 1960’s a neighbour invited me to accompany her to her Flower Club Meeting, saying that she thought that I would find the demonstration interesting. I did.  The demonstration was by a lady named Stella Coe, and it was she who had introduced Ikebana into the U.K. – I was hooked!

I eventually found a correspondence course (run by a lady living in Devon) advertised in the RHS monthly magazine. I wrote to her and in her reply she told me that she also held classes most months at the RHS Halls in London and could I attend those, which I was able to do, as I was not working full time. From then on I never looked back. I fitted my classes in London and Devon, Symposiums, Chelsea Flower shows and other activities in with a full time job, using vacation time for much of it. When I took early retirement at the end of 1991, I already had a hobby waiting for me to be developed, and to which I would now be able to devote more time.

I eventually gained all my certificates and became a Master of the Ichiyo School of Ikebana in 2002. The Ichiyo School is considered to be a ‘Modern School’, having only been started in 1937. There are many ikebana schools and the ‘Classical Schools’ can trace their origins back for several centuries. In 1998, I thought that I should make some attempt to study a Classical School, which has much stricter rules than the modern ones. I have a very good Japanese friend who is a Senior Master of the Koryu School and I started taking lessons with her. I now have a Teachers’ Certificate in that school, but after only six years of tuition, do not consider myself efficient enough to teach it, although I do include some of the arrangements in my demonstrations. Being a ‘glutton for punishment’, the previous year I had decided that I really ought to study some Western Flower Arranging, as I felt that knowledge of one could be beneficial to the other. So I took a 3-year evening class course in Floral Art and Design, which entailed studying flower arranging from the Egyptian era to the 1950’s. It involved a lot of research and I we had to produce a portfolio on each era. This I enjoyed, but not always the practical side of it! I made some good friends and feel that I have been able to make use of knowledge and experience.

In the 2001 Chelsea Flower Show, anything associated with Japan was featured. Three of our ladies were televised on their visit to Japan and the stand was highlighted in the televised programmes of the Show. Although I was not involved in the interview with Alan Tichmarsh, some eagled eyed Chevron retirees spotted me working in the background – my one and only claim to stardom! In the 20 years that we exhibited at Chelsea, we were awarded 13 Gold, 5 Silver Gilt and 2 Silver. A worthy record and I am very proud to have helped to achieve 18 of them. It was hard work, not only during the show, but all the planning and preparation before hand and that, before the flower arranging. Every year, we said ‘never again’, but for 20 years we returned, and although the heart is willing, the legs and back are not as agile as they used to be, and I was one of those who felt it was time to put away the hammer, paint brush and staple gun and retire gracefully. I knew that I would miss the “buzz” of Chelsea, the ambience, the camaraderie with the other exhibitors, the common endeavour of the rest of the team (who came from all over the country and abroad) and the sense of achievement when it is all over, but I think that the charm of Chelsea started to fade a little when the old marquee, with all its creaks and groans, was replaced by the modern ‘egg box’.

I am secretary to the U.K. Chapter of the Ichiyo School and do a little teaching and demonstration. When we lived in Surrey I belonged to Ikebana International in London, but on moving to Bedfordshire, found it was easier to drive to the Chapter in Leicester than commuting into London (after all it is only a round trip of 146 miles on the M1!). I have retained an associate membership with London and make the occasional trip, but have become a full member of the Leicester Chapter. I have done my ‘duty’ as President for three years and I represented them in Japan at the 9th International Convention and the 50th Anniversary of the founding of Ikebana International, held in October 2006. After the Convention, I was able to travelling across Tokyo on the rail system and visit the Ichiyo School Headquarters for 3 days of workshop – exhausting, but very enjoyable.

I have been fortunate to be able to travel to Australia, France, Switzerland and The Netherlands as well as Japan, which of course, is the ‘icing on the cake’. I have many friends spread around the world and although these events are sometimes hectic, it is a good time to renew friendships, and, as I did in 2006, make many new ones.

Ikebana has been a great friend to me and seen me through many ups and downs of life and I believe keeping an active brain is an essential ingredient to my, not quite so physically active, twilight years.”

By Margaret Jenkinson

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