You have perhaps noticed that I love creating ikebana installations for events. Themed events are even better: they give constraints and nothing fires up my creativity like having limitations. This time the event is called Fleurs Des Dames and I am the only ikebanist in the crowd of Western florists. It is an excellent opportunity to get wider flower lovers audience introduced to our beloved ikebana. The pressure is on, I need to make an art work representing ikebana in a modern yet authentic way.
The theme of the event is Fairy tales. For ikebana, which is quite abstract, such a literate theme is a challenge. Plus all my cultural childhood references are based on symbols from Russian fairy tales. If you are not from the Russian speaking background such concepts as “live water vs. dead water” or a “crimson flower” or a “stone flower” will not associate with any image for you. And those were the only things I could think of. For weeks. I spent loads of time looking for the right visual fairy tale symbol. What internationally known fairy tales did I read as a child? And then it came: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll! I was fascinated by it and at some point even re-reading it as an adult.
So I made a giant key hole from gold painted bamboo. It is huge. I can actually squeeze through it myself – it is about 2 meters tall. I guess this is how Alice might have felt after considerably reducing in size and looking into the secret garden “on the other side”.
There was still space for 2 normal size more traditional ikebana arrangements. I had the whole Chinese bedroom to myself to decorate.
The first ikebana I made in a red wooden Chinese vase. And there is a story behind it.
I took this vase with me to the castle absolutely not knowing why. Just in case. I was joking with a friend afterwards that it must have been my ikebana angel looking after me. And here is why.
Originally there was a small sculpture standing on this stand in front of the Chinese embroidered wall panel.
Suddenly, when I was in the middle of my work, the castle boss showed up and removed this sculpture saying that I can place an arrangement there as well. Can you imagine how I felt at that point? There would have been no way I could go, get an extra vase, come back and finish my installations in time. Just not feasible. And besides, it was The Perfect vase for the Chinese embroidered background. And Ii just happened to have it with me.
The flowers were provided by the sponsors of the Fleurs Des Dames in abundance. So I got gorgeous green chrysanthemums for this arrangement. They made wonderful contrast with the red vase. The hanging style ikebana integrated with the image on the background panel very well.
One of the visitors yesterday told me that the arrangement “spoke to her”. She was standing in front of it for a few minutes and taking notes in her little notebook. It was one of those moments that make all your effort worthwhile.
The second ikebana arrangement was slightly less fortunate with the background. It was in front of a poster on top of the fireplace. Not ideal. But still bringing in the color of the surrounding interior into the arrangement helped integrating the piece into the room.
I loved the drama of the branch. I had it grown to this shape for several years. Now it was just the right occasion for showing it off. Admittedly many people thought it was a bonsai. Of course they were wondering why it stands in water? Oh well, I take it as a complement. Apparently bonsai people made a much better job of popularizing this Japanese art in Europe. We, ikebanists should learn from them.
I hope we can get more ikebana representation in the next Fleurs Des Dames exhibition. It was a great event to participate in. All the people were super friendly, helpful and the overall atmosphere was very positive. I believe such events are a great opportunity to introduce European flower lovers to the wonderful art of ikebana.
You might ask why would I spend all the effort doing that? Because I am convinced that ikebana can tremendously enrich people’s lives by bringing peace and harmony into their daily experience. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we all could effortlessly surf through our lives on a Zen wave?