Ikebana International Lismore Chapter No. 32 founder Dorothy Edwards (front) with members (rear l-r) Bonnie Kerkenezov (also a founding member), Merle Thearle, Patricia Wilson, Faye Robinson, Dorothy Welstead, Brenda Carmichael, Noreen Coe, Glenda Schofield and Joan Mills with (front l-r) Nancy Farrell, Jackie Ritchie, Kaye Pearson and Virginia Black.
Ikebana International Lismore Chapter No. 32 founder Dorothy Edwards (front) with members (rear l-r) Bonnie Kerkenezov (also a founding member), Merle Thearle, Patricia Wilson, Faye Robinson, Dorothy Welstead, Brenda Carmichael, Noreen Coe, Glenda Schofield and Joan Mills with (front l-r) Nancy Farrell, Jackie Ritchie, Kaye Pearson and Virginia Black.

Friendship through flowers

In 1959 Dorothy Edwards was flicking through the Women’s Weekly when she saw a full-page article on ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, which caught both her eye and her imagination.

“My grandfather was a florist and I was involved with flowers from when I was two weeks old. Flowers were just my whole life, so when I saw that article I thought, ‘Here’s something different, I want to find out about that!’,” Dorothy said. “The simplicity and the beauty really struck me.”

The exhibition at David Jones in Sydney was presented by Mr Norman Sparnon, who had been with General MacArthur’s Occupation Forces in Japan and had spent 13 years learning Sogetsu ikebana.

Dorothy wrote to Mr Sparnon and, after much correspondence, convinced him to come to Lismore and teach ikebana, something he did from 1961 through to 1987. In her correspondence with Mr Sparnon Dorothy learnt about Ikebana International, an organisation started by Ellen Gordon Allen, whose husband had been with the Occupation Forces.

“She thought it would be a good thing for the wives who had been learning ikebana to keep in touch with one another when they returned home from their husband’s tour of duty and chapters began to spread throughout the world,” Dorothy said. “But it wasn’t an easy thing to start a charter – we had to prove ourselves.”

One of the conditions for forming a chapter was that all correspondence had to be typewritten, so a typewriter and a typist were found and Dorothy recruited ladies to try and generate interest in the region.

“It took us 12 months to put our application in… three women who knew about floral art went and talked to ladies about flowers and the ikebana organisation, because we had to have a certain number of members. Part of it was about forming a better bond between Japan and the outside world,” Dorothy said. “I think in those days most women were at home and they weren’t working so they were looking for something to do, and in those days everyone loved floral art, and everyone was very keen and enthusiastic about it.”

On March 22 1960 Dorothy was presented with the charter by then Mayor of Lismore, Clyde Campbell, and the Lismore Chapter No. 32 was born with 14 women joining that evening.

Dorothy and fellow founding member Bonnie Kerkenezov are still members to this day.

“I’ve made hundreds of friends all over Australia, New Zealand and other places overseas,” she said. “We’ve always been a close-knit friendly group. I think people interested in flowers are a different sort of people – we’re close to nature and that makes us close to the spirit of life.”

Dorothy said the Sogetsu school, which was formed in 1927 by Sofu Teshigahara, has changed the art of its school over the years to reflect the changing trends in global culture.

“We always have to learn the new fashions, but you always have to fit them into Sofu’s original principles,” Dorothy. “It’s exciting creating arrangements – I could take just a few different materials and use them in 50 different ways, creating something new each time. These are works of art – we’re always striving for perfection.”

The Ikebana International Lismore Chapter No. 32 is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a special event called Touch of Gold, which includes a luncheon, demonstration and exhibition at the Lismore Workers Club on Monday, March 22. A demonstration from a Japanese ikebana sensei will be held from 10.30am where for just $10 you can see this master create a huge installation before your eyes. There’s also a cocktail party at the Workers Club that evening from 5pm (tickets $10) and on Tuesday, March 23, the exhibition of ikebana will be open to the public.

Member Glenda Schofield invites people to come and learn more about this fascinating artform and if you’re interested in trying ikebana, it’s a chance to meet the members and see for yourself some of the amazing creations.

For tickets and more information, phone Glenda on 6689 5284.


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