Melbourne Ikebana Container Award & Exhibition (Biennale)

Wa Melbourne Ikebana Festival is pleased to present an opportunity for ceramic artists to create artworks to inspire ikebana artists.

The choice of container is a quintessential element of ikebana. The artistic essence of ikebana lies in the creation of unity between a container and cut flowers by an ikebana artist. This unity makes it possible to capture the true spirit of the flowers.

Internationally renowned ceramic artist, Hiroe Swen will be the judge for this award.  

Exhibition: 7 & 8 September 2024

Venue: Bishop's Parlor, Abbotsford Convent, Abbotsford, Victoria (Please check where Bishop's Parlor is on the map in our contact page before you arrive Abbotsford Convent)    

Important dates: 

1 June 2024: Entries open

9 August 2024: Entries close

19 August 2022: Finalists Announcement. See our News page. 

5 pm - 7 pm, 6 September 2024: Delivery of artwork

8 pm, 6 September 2024: Judging

11 pm, 6 September 2024: Winner announcement 

10am, 7 September 2024: Award ceremony

11:00 am - 5:00 pm, 7 & 8 September 2024: Exhibition (Admission Free)

5 pm - 7 pm, 8 September 2024: Collection of artwork

How to Apply (Click to visit the page)


Prize: Hiroe Swen Award - $1000 Cash Prize (non-acquisitive)


Judge: Hiroe Swen

Ceramic artist, Former Lecturer in Ceramics at the Australian National University Institute of the Arts.

Hiroe Swen AM (née: Takebe) is an Australian ceramic artist based in Queanbeyan, NSW, originally from Kyoto, Japan. 

Influenced by her extensive exploration of classic literature and her love for classical music, Hiroe's ceramics exude timeless elegance. Her hand-built pieces are the result of a unique exploration of shape, color, and texture, with Hiroe personally experimenting and creating her glazes. The arrays of colors and textures in her ceramics are second to none.

Born in Kyoto in 1934, Hiroe became a ceramicist during a vibrant period in Kyoto's art scene, marked by movements such as the 'Sodeisha' ceramic group. She relocated to Australia with her designer/artist husband, Cornel Swen, in 1968. 

Today, she stands as one of the most celebrated ceramicists in Australia. Throughout her career spanning over 60 years, Hiroe has navigated numerous life challenges, and her ceramics have evolved into something new with each phase.

In recognition of her contributions, Hiroe was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2023 and an Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays from the Japanese government in 2016. Additionally, she received the Canberra Times Artist of the Year award in 2000. 

Her impact extends beyond awards, with over 120 pieces of her works held in public institutions, including 20 Australian galleries, the Australian Parliament House, and Australian embassies.

To share her knowledge and passion for ceramics, a digital archive titled 'The World of Hiroe Swen’s Ceramic Art’ was launched in 2023."

Hiroe has been a judge for Ikebana Gallery Award, the first online ikebana competition for all ikebana students.  

Message from Hiroe Swen 

Ikebana is an art consisting of flower and container. Choice of container reveals aesthetics that each ikebana artist has. The role of containers in ikebana is that of frames in painting and that of dishes in cooking. 

I always hoped that ikebana artists would choose a container carefully and also pay special attention to the ceramic artists who created it. Melbourne Ikebana Festival, where an international ikebana exhibition and a container exhibition are held side by side would provide an opportunity that ikebana artists and ceramic artists would cooperate and stimulate each other. 

After seeing many excellent finalists' works, I found it extremely difficult to judge. However, I would like to choose the work that would meets the following criteria. 

1. An Ikebana container created with unique and individual aesthetics,          

2. Not just beautiful to look at but also would give joy to ikebana artists, inspiring them to arrange their own ikebana work using it. 

Although there are many ceramic art exhibitions, this project established in Melbourne by ikebana artists is internationally and historically distinctive. I really look forward to seeing the development of this exhibition as well as the future of Australia’s own ceramic art that may be different from that of Japanese ceramic art. 

Curators: Ryoko Winstanley (Chief Curator), Shoan Lo, Sue Healey & Shoto Duke (Ikebana Artists)