While living in Japan with their husbands, Gerry Tinder of Pleasant Hills and Shirley Winkler of Saxonburg discovered the Ichiyo School of Ikebana, traditional Japanese flower arranging.
When they returned, they couldn't help but to continue practicing this art form that is so much more than a hobby.
"I think you get hooked on it," Mrs. Tinder said. "It's the creating that I love. It's much more involved than just cutting flowers and putting them in a vase."
Next week, the two longtime members of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Ichiyo School of Ikebana will be joined by members from around the country for a series of workshops here by the school's headmaster, Akihiro Kasuya, and his son, Naohiro Kasuya.
They will help celebrate the Pittsburgh chapter's 30th anniversary on Sept. 19-21 at the Butler Country Club. The workshops are open to members only.
Mrs. Winkler founded the chapter in 1982 and is its president and one of only three U.S. executive masters. When Pennzoil sent her husband to work in Kobe, Japan, for six years in the '70s, she joined him. Although not a gardener, she chose to study Ikebana, which means "living things."
The only English-speaking teacher in Kobe was Ichiyo Kasuya, who in 1937 had founded the school that bears her name with her brother, Meikof. The current headmaster is Meikof's third son.
In Japanese, Ichiyo means "one leaf." Mrs. Winkler says that's appropriate because, in this style, "less is more."
"You use very few materials, usually flowers and plants of the season. There are lines and there are voids. It is so sparse that birds can fly through."
When she is creating an arrangement, either alone or with chapter members, she listens to Japanese music.
"It's just relaxing, beautiful. You are working with nature," she said.
Mrs. Winkler said her husband enjoys having Ichiyo arrangments, and that there are usually at least three in their home at any time.
Mrs. Tinder usually has only one, but she regularly makes arrangements for her church, Baldwin Community United Methodist. Although her small, simple arrangements are sometimes displayed alongside Western-style arrangements by other church members, she believes they work best alone, in the smaller chapel.
Scotch broom and hostas are among her favorite materials, but she does not mix them. Ikebana arrangements rarely mix plants.
"The Scotch broom can bend and create a flow," she said. "A hosta leaf has its own flow."
Both women will provide arrangements for the Phipps Fall Flower Show in October.
Kevin Kirkland: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1978.