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Lexington Minuteman Article

Inspired by flowers
Local artist journeyed to Japan to master the craft of dried orchids

By Eva Heney

Yellow, purple and white orchids in the painting in Judith Seeger's living room look so vibrant the flowers seem real. On closer examination, it turns out they are real.

Judith Seeger at work

But the blooms have been pressed, vacuum-sealed and color-enhanced so that the colors can retain their vivid hues for decades. And then some brush strokes have been added to the background to produce an effect like a painting.

Seeger, a pressed flower artist with a background in horticulture, floral design, and Chinese and Japanese painting, has learned this unusual flower-pressing technique from an 80 year old Japanese man who has spent the past 50 years perfecting the preservation of orchids. Teizo Watanabe has never sold a picture but Seeger saw his work last spring at the Philadelphia Flower Show and fell in love with it.

"I felt like his flowers were alive," the Lexington artist said "It was like they had their spirit. You can see where the wind is blowing. Mine always looked dead to me. His work looked like a painting but when I read the blurb it said they were pressed flower orchids."

Seeger was so inspired by Watanabe's exhibit that she tracked him down and, with the help of translators, asked him to teach her his flower preservation methods.

Less is More

The Japanese master, a former engineer who spoke no EngIish, had never taught a student before but he responded favorably to Seeger's passion for flowers.

And, after many negotiations with the help of third parties, Seeger flew to Japan last October where Watanabe and his wife met her at the airport. She had planned to stay in a hotel but when Watanabe realized she was traveling alone and had some dietary restrictions, he insisted she stay at his home.

A cook prepared fresh, sugar-free foods for Seeger every day and Watanabe had also arranged for a translator to be present. He would not accept any payment from Seeger for her food or translator.

"They treated me as a most honored guest," said Seeger. "They acted as if they had nothing more to do in the world than to teach me and make me comfortable."

During her two-week stay, master and student began the day at 6 a.m. with a 30 minute walk in the adjacent rice fields and orchid greenhouses with Watanabe stopping along the way to pick fresh flowers to be put into vases at home.

Artwork in the Watanabe style

"He allowed himself to enjoy all flowers," Seeger said, adding that often when she works on a picture or project for a client the flowers, whether they are from a wedding. funeral, engagement or anniversary bouquet, have usually passed their peak before she puts them in the flower press.

And, if she grows flowers herself, she is so busy waiting for the perfect time to pick them for pressing that she cannot enjoy their beauty along the way.

Continuation of the Article


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