CARY — "Pull. Pull!" Carrie Knowles, a Raleigh artist, grabs onto a thick vine in one of Bond Park's natural areas and coaches her student helpers to pull as hard as they can.
Knowles, her students and Lily Karmatz, an artist visiting from Australia, are getting their hands dirty on vines, stones, sticks and leaves to create ikebana for Cary's Spring Daze Festival.
As Karmatz explains on her Web site, "While painting is an expression of art drawn on a canvas with brush, ikebana is an expression in three dimensions composed of plant material arranged in a vase."
Or, in the case of Spring Daze, arranged right on site.
"Ikebana uses natural materials to bring you closer to nature," Karmatz said. "Nature is my paintbrush."
As part of a weeklong program through Cary Parks and Recreation, six students, ages 8 to 12, got to work with Karmatz and Knowles. They sketched their ideas, painted paper plates bright orange, red, yellow and blue and helped collect items from the landscape to complete their visions.
As they trooped around Bond Park's trails wearing gardening gloves and muddy shoes, a fine mist fell. Even the ducks tucked their heads under their wings, but the team kept a positive outlook.
"I like putting nature together and making artwork," said Cameron Biddy, 10, whose favorite part was sketching her design.
"This is really different; I like trying new things, " said Ryan Kam, 10.
"You can make any design you want," added Sara Dreyer, 8, a devoted artist who displays her work in her closet at home. Because of Karmatz's influence, now she won't have to contain her creations or even keep them inside.
Karmatz, who had never been to Cary before, wasn't sure what to expect when she was asked to create ikebana in a landscape she had never seen. "I am fascinated with the bending and twisting branches here," she said. "I find North Carolina really beautiful. It is quite different from Australia."
Different, indeed. Knowles pointed out the contrast between the tropical leaves found in Karmatz's hometown of Brisbane and the smaller leaves here.
Although Karmatz had seen photographs of Bond Park, the sense of scale was not clear. "She came here and said, 'Where are your big leaves?' " Knowles said. "But Lily thinks, 'How can we do this differently?' She is very open to trying new things."
As the week progressed, the work intensified and the sun came out. Suddenly, bright "flowers" created with the painted paper plates and lemons and oranges were juxtaposed against the browns and grays of the vines and branches. Large vines curved over a bed of stones. A sphere of vines held together with neon ties sat in the center of the piece.
Karmatz, as usual, found the silver lining. "The rain was good; it made the ground soft so that we can stick things into it easily." She smiled as she watched her team work. "It's good to see the sun."
Knowles said she hopes people who visit Bond Park enjoy the art pieces along the pathways near the boathouse. "I hope they come away with a sense of grace. I hope they see [the art] and think, 'That's made from nothing.' "