FleurAmour report on IkebanaWeb.com by Ekaterina Seehaus

FleurAmour 20: Where More is More

FleurAmour is an annual mega event for the floral world. It was the 20th anniversary of this happening hence the title FleurAmour 20 – in case you were like me thinking that it was intended to be FleurAmour 2015 on the header image and the “15” has just fallen off, no, it is supposed to be just “20”.

This event takes place in an old castle where dozens of indoor and outdoor spaces are decorated by professional florists and students. Lots of live demonstrations, shows, workshops… In one day I have seen more flowers and florists than I could handle 🙂 Jokes apart, I never expected to say that there are too many flowers. I suppose over the years Ikebana’s idea of the effective use of flowers and the minimalist view of “Less is More” has made some irreversible changes to my brain.

Apart from the overwhelming quantity of flowers, I have enjoyed the event greatly. So in the spirit of open-mindedness and focusing on the endless learning opportunities between the Eastern and Western floral art I went wondering through the Alden Biesen castle in Belgium.

Round shapes at FleaurAmour 2015 by Jan de Ridder - event report on IkebanaWeb.com
Round shapes at FleaurAmour 2015 by Jan de Ridder

A couple of themes I have found particularly interesting and somewhat enlightening at FleurAmour. First the shapes: the good old round shape still seems to be the most harmonic and self sufficient.  In the crowds of all possible sizes, colors and forms clean round shapes stood out quite distinctly.

Round shapes at FleurAmour by Fabio Pedone - event report on IkebanaWeb.com
Round shapes at FleurAmour 2015 by Fabio Pedone

This year’s decoration of the castle’s church was done by Stijn Simayes. He was also giving live demonstrations with explanations and a bit of small talk and jokes in 3 or 4 languages. You might love or hate jokes like “there are only 2 types of men: smart and married” but it did cause some multilingual laughter. What I really appreciated is his openness and down to earth approach. For example those large circles used in the decoration of the castle’s church are actually from an old kids’ trampoline. Those who follow me on the facebook know that I appreciate up-cycling and particularly using old useless stuff to create art. Another interesting and fresh element in this installation was the use of green aquatic plants floating on the water surface.

Decoration of the Castle Church by Tomas De Bruyne – up-cycling rings from a kids’ trampoline - event report at IkebanaWeb.com
Round shapes at FleaurAmour 2015: Decoration of the Castle Church by Stijn Simayes – up-cycling: the giant rings are from a kids’ trampoline

The second theme I enjoyed was the use of flower scents. Not all flower varieties are equally fragrant, especially those industrially grown. Therefore when you walk into a room filled with scent of roses you just wanted to stay there. I did spend quite some time going around this installation.

A Room Full of Rose Scent by Regine Motmans at Fleuramour - event report at IkebanaWeb.com
A Room Full of Rose Scent by Regine Motmans at Fleuramour

There was another installation with lavender made by Russian artists from Siberia. Lavender was arranged on top of a wire mesh, which gave sufficient shame but at the same time made the arrangement look floating and very much in tune with the fragrance. And yes, it was tempting to smell the arrangement. And a lot of visitors did.

A Lavender Scent Room by Vadim Karanskiy and Roman Steinhauer Fleuramour at FleurAmour - event report at IkebanaWeb.com
A Lavender Scent Room by Vadim Karanskiy and Roman Steinhauer at FleurAmour

And the final unexpected discovery of the FleurAmour 20: there was a booth of a neuroscientist from Australia. Yes, yes, there are people who study how human brain responds to flowers. For sure I want to find out more about it and share with you in one of the next posts. In short: there was a selection of different Gerbera flowers on display and visitors were voting on the website during the event for their favorite ones. You could see lights flashing above each flower when somebody clicked on the on-line picture of this particular flower. The most popular one was this white and red Gerbera:

The most popular Gerbera of FleurAmour 2015 - report from the event on IkebanaWeb.com
The most popular Gerbera of FleurAmour 2015

The reason? Apparently humans like contrast. Hmmm, something to keep in mind for the next arrangement.

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And the winner is….

Waterfall IkebanaWebFinally we can announce our Natural Creativity Challenge winner. The idea of this Challenge was to get people who have never been involved in Ikebana (or in any other type of flower arranging) to try making a flower composition. The main point is actually not the flower arrangement as such. It is more about restoring our connection with nature by communicating with flowers, branches and other plant material.

For the challenge folks were given a picture of a waterfall in a forest and were asked to reflect their impressions of the image in a flower arrangement. Simple… or may be not? Well, I did get feedback from some participants that it was simply too difficult and they are missing the “finesse”.

But with all that our winner Asya U. have done a great job of reflecting the mood, the colors and the movement of the original image. And she did not have any prior experience! Well done. Here is the picture and I’ll talk about the prize in a minute.

The winner of the Natural Creativity Challenge www.ikebanaweb.com
“The Waterfall” arrangement by Asya U., the winner of the Natural Creativity Challenge on IkebanaWeb.com

The prize is a 1 month free access to the Online Ikebana membership website. This will be a great resource for Asya to explore Ikebana principles, techniques and get inspiration for her creations.

For the rest of the Ikebana Web followers I can offer a link to some limited free training material courtesy of the Online Ikebana. Click on the link, register your e-mail and you will get instant access to one free lesson for beginners and to one for advanced Ikebana students.

Take this opportunity to explore your creativity further. Try it out and send me pictures of your arrangements 🙂

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3D Challenge: Natural Creativity – entries are due in 5 days (Sept 20, 2015)

Good news folks: the deadline for the Natural Creativity Challenge is extended to September 20th. Photos of your arrangements have to be e-mailed to Ekaterina@IkebanaWeb.com by Sunday evening the latest.

THE PRIZE will be a 1 month FREE ACCESS to the new Online Ikebana subscription website.

This service is not yet released to the public. The exclusive early access is made available for the IkebanaWeb community. How cool is that? I already got the coupon code waiting for you here. (Thank you Online Ikebana team!) I had a sneak preview of the Online Ikebana site, there are loads of video tutorials for different levels of students. Really great stuff.

For those who have missed the original announcement of this challenge here is the link with the description. The entry is free. You need to take a picture of your flower arrangement and e-mail it to Ekaterina@IkebanaWeb.com no later than September 20.

Good luck and let your creative juices flow! Look forward to receiving your entries.

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Mass and like ikebana arrangement Sogetsu school by Ekaterina Seehaus ikebanaweb.com

3 Main Elements of Ikebana Flower Arrangements: #2 Mass

Mass in Ikebana arrangements is a somewhat controversial topic. On one hand it is quite similar to the appearance of Western arrangements and therefore is not “Ikebana-like”. On the other hand it is a rather difficult task to construct a proper mass. In several workshops I have seen advanced students and even teachers struggle with satisfying master instructors’ requirements with regard to their mass arrangements.

I will share with you what I consider important in arranging a mass. I am sure there are many points of view though, so feel free to leave your comments.

First, density is what defines a mass, so no compromise is acceptable. There should be no spaces  between flowers. If need be one can tighten the mass with a wire on the back of the arrangement.

Second, a shape of a mass does not have to be just a round ball of flowers. Interesting compositions can be created by constructing elongated or triangular shapes. Several masses together also can be quite impressive.

Ikebana Sogetsu Mass Color Gradient IkebanaWeb.com
Dahlias Color Gradient Arrangement with Elongated Mass Arrangement in Two Nageire Vases.

Third, a mass does not have to be made of the same color of flowers. Experimenting with color gradient is interesting. I have tried it in the above arrangement and then developed it further for one of my exhibition pieces described in an earlier post.

Mass ikebana arrangement Sogetsu school by Ekaterina Seehaus. Round Mass of Forget-me-Nots, Elongated Mass of Eucalyptus Leaves and a Cylindrical Mass of Cornus Twigs.
Round Mass of Forget-me-Nots, Elongated Mass of Eucalyptus Leaves and a Cylindrical Mass of Cornus Twigs.

And finally, flowers are not the only material, which could be used for construction mass. Mass in ikebana arrangements could be made of leaves, twigs, artificial objects, paper etc. Like in the top photo of this post I used a mass made of computer cable (or was it a printer cable?… not like it makes any difference). It nicely integrated with the color of the ceramic container, which I recently made and at the same time it gave good contrast to the color of the flower mass of Gerbera. Not to mention the contemporary look 🙂

Do you see how mass and color are closely interlinked and need each other to make the arrangement work? This brings us nicely to the next topic “Color”. Until the next post!

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Lines in ikebana arrangements gladiolus and reed lines by Ekaterina Seehaus Sogetsu school of ikebana. ikebanaweb.com

3 Main Elements of Ikebana Flower Arrangements: #1 Lines

In one of the recent post we introduced the three main elements of Ikebana arrangements: mass, color and line. Traditionally they are all equally important. Well, let me use the words of Gorge Orwell “we are all equal but some are more equal than others” to express by bias towards the lines. Of course it is all about the overall harmony and balance but we all have our preferences. You guessed it right: lines in ikebana arrangements are my favorite element.

3 examples of different usages of lines in Ikebana. Sogetsu school. IkebanaWeb.com
Just a few example: combination of straight lines with curved ones, building a structure of crossed lines, using leaf surfaces as lines.

I find it interesting how the use of lines completely changes the character of your arrangement. It can make your arrangement static if you use horizontal or vertical lines or can add dramatic movement with diagonal or curved lines. Can you imagine all the possibilities!

Ikebana Sogetsu curved branch in a curved container emphasizing the movement.
Single curved branch in a curved container emphasizes the movement.

Even a single strong line in an arrangement makes it into a statement piece, into something, which catches attention and looks quite different from what you typically see in a florists’ shops. With bold lines and minimal number of flowers you can create arrangements, which will have a dramatic impact on the space where they are displayed.

There are plenty of different types of lines you can use in your arrangements: natural curves of branches, straight lines of reed and bamboo, peculiarly curled stems of flowers just to name a few. And if you add the lines made of artificial materials such as colorful cocktail straws, electrical wires (those could get pretty colorful as well), thin metal pipes … the possibilities are endless. You can combine straight and curved lines, add different texture, create modern look and test the limits of your creativity.

Sogetsu Ikebana Diagonal Lines with 2 moribana containers IkebenaWeb.com
Bundling several reed stems together for stronger impression. Containers leaned against each other to emphasize the movement.

Just start experimenting. If your material is really thin such as straw or reed, you can put several pieces together or even tie them together to make stronger impression like on the above photo. Another trick is using color to make your lines look more pronounced. On the first image of this post there are 2 reed stems, which are painted red. This gives them more visual “weight” and prevents the flowers from overpowering the thin pale reed stems.

Hope this post gave you some new ideas coming from the ancient Japanese art of Ikebana and inspired you to try expressing your creativity through arranging flowers in some new ways. If you make any pictures of your arrangements feel free to e-mail them to me Ekaterina@IkebanaWeb.com. It would be interesting to share those in the future posts.

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Here is another free report for our subscribers Essential Japanese Vocabulary for Ikebana. It is downloadable as PDF document.

Don’t want to miss the next post? Sign up for e-mail updates from IkebanaWEB.com and we will e-mail you a free report “How to keep your flowers fresh, longer”. This report covers many ikebana techniques for prolonging life of your arrangements through different treatments of stems.

 

ikebana flower arrangements Sogetsu Mass, Color, Line - 3 main elements. IkebanaWeb.com

3 Main Elements of Ikebana Flower Arrangements

Ikebana flower arrangements are mostly known for their minimalist aesthetics. Unlike the typical Western styles, which predominantly focus on creating large volumes of blooms, Ikebana puts equal emphases on the three main elements: mass, color and line.

This image is a simplified representation of an arrangement with the 3 elements being added one by one. First mass, then color and at the end the horizontal lines join the composition. See how they work together and change the overall impression of a simple Syringa (Lilac) branch?

Ikebana flower arrangements: Mass, Color and Line. Sogetsu school. IkebanaWeb.com
Main elements of Ikebana flower arrangements: Mass, Color and Line

Out of the 3 elements we are most familiar with the mass. Traditional bouquets are essentially masses of flowers. Color is an obvious one as well. But the line is not used much in the Western floral art. On a rare occasion we might see a line of a brunch being emphasized but that is pretty much it. Such details as flower stems or roots are almost never in the spotlight. Bamboo stems, reed, tall grasses can also provide wonderful inspiration and give a sense of movement to a composition.

But Ikebana flower arrangements do not have to contain all three element all the time. Sometimes you might consider focusing on one element and showcasing its beauty. It is all about balancing the 3 and using them effectively to create arrangements, which express your ideas and feeling.

To explore this topic further read the following articles focusing on mass, color and line. In those articles we provide illustrations of using each element in different types of arrangement. There is also some theoretical insights such as link to the color theory.

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A 3D Challenge: Natural Creativity

A guided meditation to boost your creativity using the main source of it all: the nature.

I would like to take you on a quiet self exploration journey. The intention is to experience one of the important sources of your creativity: your connection with nature. No prior experience or special knowledge is required. You do not even need to see yourself as a creative person. Just let me explain first.

I became aware of this technique through my Ikebana flower arrangement studies. But similar exercise can be done in any field of self expression. The assignment we were given was quite simple: we received a photograph of a landscape and then we had to make an arrangement based on the personal impressions. And sure enough, everybody had arranged a very different composition. Here is the original photograph and my Ikebana composition inspired by it.

Ikebana Sogetsu Impression of an image IkebanaWeb

For me it was all about the contrast of the sharp, hard cliff with the soft blue of the sky and of the sea. Diagonal lines were also important as they gave some dynamic.

The materials are very simple and completely free: the piece of a tree trunk we picked up while walking through the fields nearby – an old hollow tree was cut and disposed off. The blue flowers are from a shrub in our garden and the yellow ones were just some weeds on the side of the road. The flowers are placed in a small bottle standing behind the piece of wood. Absolutely nothing special. Just going with a flow and keeping eyes open. Anybody can do this, right?

Now I want to challenge you with this:

1) Have a look at the picture of a waterfall below, get a feel of it, focus on your personal associations.

2) Then go for a walk in the woods or step out into your garden, pick up any materials, which seem to be resonating with you and with your impressions of the picture.

3) Make an arrangement. The simpler the better. Remember “less is more”.

4) Take a picture of your arrangement and e-mail it to me before September 15, 2015 ekaterina @ ikebanaweb dot com.

If there are enough participants (I would say should be at least 5) we will make a poll to select the winner and I will organize a nice prize. Are you in? If you are still hesitant, read on and I will give you a few hints on how to go about it. You will be surprised how much more you could feel and express if you just give yourself a chance.

Waterfall IkebanaWeb

For a few minutes just put on hold all the 10 000 things, which you should have done “yesterday” and quiet down those voices in your head, which say you don’t have time for this. You do have 5 minutes for exploring yourself. Just stay for a moment with the waterfall… in the forest… alone…

If you were standing there, would you feel the water with your bare feet? Would it be cold? Would you hear the waterfall, birds? Would you smell moss or freshness? Notice the emotions arising in your body, acknowledge them. Remember this feeling.

If you think of it, it is a miracle that you have just vividly experienced a place, which you have never visited. A photographer has captured a small part of a (remarkable) 3D reality into a two-dimensional frame. And now miles away and perhaps years later you feel real sensations of this waterfall. And what I want you to do is to continue the magic wheel of art and to try expressing those feeling back in the 3D world. You can use any materials or techniques you want.

When the next time (perhaps later this weekend) you wonder around nature try to remember this feeling of the waterfall. Look at grasses, trees, branches of shrubs, see if any are resonating with the feelings you have experienced “at the waterfall”. May be it will be the color, or texture of foliage, or a curve of a dry branch resembling the waterfall lines. There is no right or wrong, just go with what catches your eye, do not overthink it.

Bring your finds home. Look for a container. A big glass bottle or several cups together could make a great start. Even a plastic bottle could be made into an interesting container if you cut the top off or cut a large opening on the side. Do not restrict yourself to what is considered a proper flower container. Although there is nothing wrong with a normal vase either. Just listen to the sound of water while you are pouring it into the container and contemplate for a moment.

When you are done arranging your materials in the container, make sure you take time to enjoy it. Then take a few photos and attach them to the e-mail addressed to me. I am already getting excited thinking of the variety of pictures you folks will send. Can’t wait.

Enjoy your time with nature!

P.S. I need to make a disclaimer here: if you live in a city and visiting nature is not in your plan you can also try your nearest florist shop. Just make sure you give yourself time to feel which plant materials resonate with your “waterfall” emotions before buying them. Here is the picture of the waterfall once again, a bigger version.

Waterfall IkebanaWeb

 

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The essence of a woman

Ikebana Sogetsu exhibitionI see a difference between creating Ikebana arrangements for private viewing and for exhibitions. Once it is intended to be seen by many people in my opinion it becomes a variety of show business (in a good sense of the word). So I try to add a bit of entertainment to my arrangements and to avoid being too serious.

For one of the recent exhibitions I have made a somewhat whimsical arrangement combining a mass of high heel shoes with  a white-pink-purple color gradient of Dahlias.

I like watching people passing by my arrangements. Always interesting to see what the reactions are and whether the desired effect is achieved. And yes, this time it worked! There were smiles, and curiosity, and of course occasional attempts to see how it is all holding together.

I was pleased when a journalist covering the exhibition asked my permission to use a picture of my arrangement for her article. She also wanted to know whether the arrangement had a name. It never occurred to me that you can name your Ikebana arrangements. But somehow a name just popped in my head when she asked. “The essence of a woman”.  I do not mean to be sexist. Shoes and pink flowers are not the most important part of our lives. But they do make some of us very happy. Besides it sounded like fun and well, it was the first thing which came to my mind.

I hope you find it fun too, let me know what you think. Ikebana Shoes Dhalias Sogetsu

 

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“Poetical Ikebana” is published

I am super excited about being a participant in a recently published art book “Poetical Ikebana”. Two of my compositions are featured in the book along with about 150 other works of Ikebana artists from around the world.

The concept of this book is quite unique: participants were invited to illustrate 3 haiku poems with their Ikebana arrangements. We could select from a list of 35 haiku – traditional Japanese poetic form, very minimalist and philosophical, just like Ikebana is.

It was an interesting challenge and I enjoyed it immensely. Creating the arrangements is always a great pleasure for me. The more intense part is working together with a photographer on “letting others see what I have seen”. It is an interesting collaborative process. A photographer participates in part of creation as much as the artist: the final product is a photograph of the arrangement, not just the arrangement itself. Having similar artistic tastes and being able to communicate well is critical.

Ikebana Black Bird haiku Poetical Ikebana
This was my favorite out of the 3 compositions I have submitted. Photography by Frank Van Den Block

Selection of the illustrations for the book was made through blind voting by a team of Ikebana experts. As a participant you literally do not know whether your arrangements are selected or not until you arrive to the book presentation at the publisher. I was very happy to find out that 2 out of my 3 haiku illustration were published. The one, which did not make it to the book was actually my favorite! But of course every cloud has a silver lining: this means I retain the rights for the picture and therefore can share it with you here.

The haiku I illustrated with this arrangement is by Ann Colpaert:

just before dawn

the whole universe

filled by one blackbird.

…..

I have recently searched for the “Poetical ikebana” book online. You can buy it on Amazon anywhere in the world! Here is the link to this book on the German Amazon:

on the UK Amazon:

Amazon.com also has it, check it out in case shipping and handling from the US makes fore sense for you:

Can you learn Ikebana on-line?

There are many ways to learn new things in life. Some of us prefer to learn by trying, others by reading, but the majority still prefers to have the good old teacher – student interaction.

In recent years technology has widened our learning horizons far beyond the book selection of the local library or courses offered in the nearby university. The on-line world offers pretty much anything our souls desire. How about learning Ikebana, the ancient Japanese art of flower arrangement?

Ikebana Ohara Stephen Coler

Typically when you study Ikebana you are expected to attend weekly group classes. But what if your busy schedule does not allow for regular Ikebana lessons? And even if you have a few hours for yourself in the evening (read: after your kids are asleep), who would provide you with Ikebana lessons after 8 p.m. anyway? Being a working mom of 2 and understanding the need for a flexible class schedule, I went on a quest of finding an Ikebana on-line course.

To my surprise, I was only able to find one such course. This course is made by Stephen Coler of the Ohara School. Stephen is originally from the United States and lives and teaches in Japan.

stephen8 portraitThis course includes video lessons and offers one-to-one follow up opportunities with the teacher. Here is how it works: you watch the lesson, make your arrangement according to the instructions, take a picture of this arrangement, and e-mail it to Stephen. He will respond to you with his remarks on what worked well and what can be further improved. And if you wish, you can send him a picture of the re-worked arrangement to confirm your understanding.

To me this follow up is THE differentiator of such a course vs. video materials alone. With this guidance you can get quite close to the traditional teacher – student interaction without having to rush to the scheduled lesson, spend time in traffic, and perhaps even having to pay a babysitter.

What is interesting in Stephen’s approach is that he is quite keen on explaining the “why”. This is something developed in Ikebana thanks to the influence of Western teaching style. The original Ikebana teaching just 50 years ago was more silent and contemplative, expecting that a student would sense what the teacher was trying to convey by making adjustments to the arrangements. Fortunately nowadays, Ikebana is taught in a much more comprehensive and open way.

Stephen has already been offering this on-line course for about 2 years. Here is the link to his website, where you can find feedback from his students and more information about Stephen and his course. You can also watch some free videos, which can give you an idea of his teaching style.

At the end of the 8-lesson-course students can apply for a completion certificate which can be used to build towards an Ohara School of Ikebana teacher’s degree.

Price: 24,95 USD per lesson. The opportunity to receive feedback and guidance from Stephen are included in the fee.

I hope I can find more distance learning courses on the Web and tell you about them. If you come across any yourself, or if you are already taking courses in some virtual way, please leave a comment. I am sure this will be helpful for many people in the Ikebana community.

Enjoy your flexible Ikebana lessons!

P.S. Here are a couple of arrangements made by Stephen’s students. Inspiring!

Student Ohara school of Ikebana

Student Ohara school of Ikebana Japan

Student of Ohara Ikebana

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