Afterglow 2016: The Beauty of Imperfection

Added on by the ikebana shop.

Afterglow Art Festival was held on Sept 24th, 2016 in Bridgewater, NS.  We were again fortunate for the opportunity to participate, this time in collaboration with talented textile artists Susan Lilley (shibori dyeing) and Phyllis Price (sashiko stitching).  The ikebana team is Miyako Ballesteros and Susan Robertson.

The four of them have joined forces in an exploration of Japanese culture through its application to contemporary textile art and flower arranging.

Suan Lilley (shibori dyeing)

Phyllis Price (sashiko stitching)

Susan Robertson (ikebana)

Miyako Ballesteros (ikebana)

Pulling ideas together and seeing them all come to fruition were a lot of fun!

The exhibit sought to expose viewers to two deeply held Japanese values: mottainai (disdain for waste) and wabi-sabi (appreciation for old and imperfect items).  In North American throw-away, these lesson have important application for achieving sustainability in the 21st century.

Truth be told, I just love dyeing cloth, cutting it up and sewing it back together again to create exciting, original artwork.

I’ve been doing this for near on 10 years, sometimes inspired by a place or a feeling, but more often inspired by the marks and the light I’ve created on white, (often old) fabric, using various techniques, including the ancient Japanese art of shibori.

I’m drawn to shibori for so many reasons. My brain is challenged by an exploration of cause and effect, as I repeatedly stitch, fold, clamp, and dye each piece of fabric to achieve a desired result. And yet the results are always unpredictable. Mysterious. Imperfect. Inspiring. Forcing me to release control of the outcome, leading me along new pathways, challenging me to create simple, abstract artwork that evokes an emotional response for me, and I hope, in the viewer.
— Susan Lilley
In some thirty-odd years of textile work, I’ve always been drawn to the random combination of seemingly disparate and often reclaimed fabrics, embellished through the Zen process of hand stitching. The use of recycled fabrics appealed to the frugality I inherited from my ancestors, as well as my environmentalism. The Depression-era mantra of “use it up, wear it out, make it over or do without” guides not only my textile work but my general approach to life.

This past year, through connection with friends more knowledgeable than I about Japan, I’ve discovered how these concepts have been important touchstones in that country’s culture as well. The reverence for much-loved, much-used and often imperfect everyday items, the collage-like approach to layering old fabrics joined together through the meditative process of sashiko stitching, and the Japanese interpretation of frugality (mottanai) have both deepened and broadened my textile work. I expect that these “lessons from Japan” will continue to influence both my stitching and my life in days ahead.
— Phyllis Price
It seemed like time stood still the first time I saw an ikebana arrangement. That unexpected response drew me to this art of arranging plant material. Initially I was a passionate admirer. Over a period of years I took a few classes, played around with it a little and enjoyed other people’s work. In 2009 I became a serious student.

Ikebana has taught me a new way of seeing detail, simplicity, imperfection, balance and space. I love the way each composition reveals and highlights the unnoticed or hidden beauty of not only the plant material but water, a container, or the empty space that surrounds it. I can delight in the most minute detail, an intriguing line, or a color that’s been made apparent or more prominent through trimming, placement, and use of the space.

In the process of creating some new arrangement I am totally absorbed and literally lost never knowing where it will end up. When I am finally satisfied that it’s complete I enjoy a quiet state of overwhelming ecstasy.
— Susan Robertson
Ikebana is an art form that constantly reminds us of our connection to nature. Using plant materials taken from the backyard (even the weeds!) and maybe a few flower stems, we are able to create an arrangement. In the spring/summer, we have fresh and vibrant foliage, full of green; in the fall, a change of colour; in the winter, simply bare branches, revealing their beautiful lines. The eternal changing of seasons never seem to bore us. No two seasons are ever identical. So it is with ikebana. There is always something the same yet there is always something different. After more than 20 years of practice, every arrangement is still refreshingly new.

In Nova Scotia, I am surrounded by nature. Trees and shrubs growing in their native habitat show me the beauty of their natural forms and lines. Even worm-eaten leaves reminds me that life is happening everywhere. All this is an inspiration to me.
— Miyako Ballesteros

Hanging Arrangement by Susan Robertson.

We are especially grateful to the people at Keller Williams Select Realty, Bridgewater office--Monica, Carol & Henry--for your help and generosity in letting us use your offices!  Also a big thank-you to Ashton Rodenhiser and the rest of the Afterglow organizing committee for having us and making this magical night happen!  

P.S. Thank you Phyllis for letting us use some of your photos!