Thursday, February 16, 2012

Branching into Ikebana

Ikebana is a traditional Japanese art form that reflects the coming together of nature and humanity through flower arrangements. In Japan, there are many schools and types of Ikebana and within these schools there are various styles which emphasize shapes, lines, and forms differently. I have watched Ikebana demonstrations and wondered what ideas guided the master's work. I use the word master because passions and hobbies are studied and worked at for many years as a discipline like nothing I have observed in the West. I came away from a recent workshop through the Kamakura Chapter of Ikebana International with a glimpse of insight from an Ikebana master that helped guide my hand and eye as I arranged flowers that may help others to begin too. The sensei, Mikami Midori, belongs to the Ohara school of Ikebana.

The containers are generally flat and shallow of a neutral color so as not to detract from the flowers to be placed inside. My container was a half moon shape. A kenzan or spiky frog was placed inside. Water is poured into the container when you are ready to start to just above the kenzan's level so that the stems can absorb water.

"Which way do I place the stem?" I asked the Ikebana Sensei. "It's up to the branch," she said. I felt like I was, at last, on The Karate Kid movie set. Look at the branch and determine, "Is it an upright form or a slanting form?" Remove stems that detract from the line by clipping unnecessary stems and leaves to strengthen the line's flow. Cut stems at an angle. Insert stems straight down onto the kenzan or spiky frog and then push them to the side to prevent drooping. I went with the slanting form. We snipped, we pushed, we bent.

We studied the roses. Look at the flowers until they speak to you. She asked me, "Which is the strongest flower?" I knew what she meant. I pointed. She agreed. "This is your 'object' the power flower," she said. The pink rose was bold, strong, and it did show me the strength of nature which a day before I would have thought of as too sweet. "The object is one third the length of your branch." I snipped. "O-kyaku-sama, it wants us to look at it, to be our guest. Place it so it shows us it's strength" she instructed. She turned the rose down shaking her head and then she turned it up and gave it to me to place.

"The second flower is half the length of the branch," she continued. I fiddled, she plucked and tucked. So like life, it is up to the branch. I wondered why I waited so long to play with flowers as an adult. It takes a only a few items- a small dish, a pair of clippers, a kenzan or spiky frog, some flowers and branches that are in season, and a willingness to notice what the flowers are saying, what the branches are up to. Try it.

Ikebana arrangement made with these instructions