Branch Director

Demonstration by Leslie Dolin, Spring Workshop in 2011

Yom Kippur arrangement by Leslie Dolin

Rosh Hashana arrangement by Leslie Dolin

Portland area residents are fortunate to have three active Sogetsu teachers who offer instruction to both beginning and advanced students. Mrs. Keiko Kodachi, founder of the Sogetsu branch in Portland, teaches in SW Portland, and Mrs. Hideko Hearn teaches in Beaverton. This issue profiles the third instructor, Mrs. Leslie Dolin, who teaches in NE Portland and edits the quarterly Sogetsu News. Kodachi-sensei and Hearn-sensei will be interviewed in the near future. Answers from Dolin-sensei have been edited for brevity.

What attracts you to the art of ikebana?

At first I studied ikebana because it seemed like an interesting thing to do while in Japan but it wasn't until I did it for a while and went to a couple of exhibits that I really understood how meaningful it could be. I especially like the impermanence of the materials, that our works don't last, so that we must be continually creative.

Ikebana also changes one's perception of nature. It helps us to notice the details--the individual branch or leaf, the perfect and imperfect flower. We even take what others throw out and make something of beauty. The seasonal nature of ikebana is also important, even though many flowers are now available year-round. It is a constant reminder that life always changes and that nothing lasts forever.

Share your work with the synagogue.

Since our synagogue was founded, I have done large arrangements for the two major fall holidays, Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur. They are not typical arrangements for these holidays, since traditionally the flowers are white (and the Torah will have a white cover; also, people wear white to services). So I rarely use white.

For me, the ikebana arrangements I do for the synagogue represent the inner work we do during these seasons--looking at how we have wronged others, and ourselves, repairing the damage (including speaking to those we have wronged), and figuring out how to change so that we don't continue to make the same mistakes. I find that my Rosh Hashana arrangements often have prickly materials or thorns, or are "held in" by circular shapes or branches. My Yom Kippur arrangements are more exuberant, indicating the opening of our hearts and the joy that ends this intense process of introspection.

How do students find you?

I started teaching in Astoria in 1986 and began in Portland around 10 years ago. A couple of my Astoria students also moved to Portland and found me to resume their studies. Nowadays most students find me through the internet--through the Sogetsu website! I can't remember how students found me in the days before the website, probably through word-of-mouth, folks I knew in other contexts who know I teach, and some that called after they attended our Sogetsu Rose Show.