ikebana arrangement in two containers by Ekaterina Seehaus, Materials: calla, Australian flax икебана Согэтсу Sogetsu school ikebanaweb.com ikebana meditation article

Ikebana as meditation

I have been reflecting on the meditative aspect of ikebana already for a while. This article covers my discoveries. I am also launching a series of workshops “Ikebana as meditative practice”.  The next workshop is on May 14, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. You can register here.

If you ask your friend Wikipedia “what is ikebana?” it will say that it is an art of arranging flowers. But then it will also tell you that it is a Kado – the way of spiritual developments, a path of self-knowledge similar to the martial arts (karate-do, aikido, judo etc). This perhaps is what sets ikebana apart from other forms of floral art.

I have been curious about spiritual development systems for years. They vary a lot but one thing they all seem to have in common: a practice of connecting with the inner peaceful core. In the contemporary language we often call it meditation.

My personal experience with mediation is all about taking distance from the thinking mind. Or rather bypassing the worrying, chatting, busy part of the brain and connecting directly to the wise, silent, peaceful part of it.

All who have ever attempted mediation know that it is easier said than done. Many of us spent vast amount of time trying to stop thinking. We get frustrated, discouraged and insecure once we realize we are not able to do it for a meaningful length of time. What’s next?

A while ago I came across a helpful hint. The speaker was comparing thinking mind with a very active monkey who is constantly busy jumping from task to task. How do we keep the monkey quiet? The answer was simple. We give her a banana. And while she is busy with it we can do our peaceful meditation.

What can we use as our metaphoric banana? There are many tools created by humanity. Repeating memorized verses of prayers and religious chants is perhaps the most common one. Doing dynamic meditations like martial arts is another well-known form. Any extreme sport would be a “banana on steroids”. Those are needed for the brains of top executives or world leaders. Their minds are filled with so much serious stuff that switching them off is nearly impossible unless you are a well-trained meditator.

A side note to be explored later: I am convinced that most of the successful people are skilled in some form of meditation and do it regularly be it extensive running or a yoga practice. Did they became successful because they were good at controlling their brains? Or did they learn to control their brains to cope with the increasing level of worry as they went up? In either case the ability to find stillness in the most crazy situation seems to be the distinguishing factor between those who “make it” and… the rest of us.

I hope by now I have convinced you that meditation is a serious matter and not a spiritual mumbo-jumbo. Finding our personal way of distracting the monkey brain is worth investing some time into.

After years of yoga and Tai Chi I absolutely unexpectedly found a very easy way of entering into this highly desirable meditative state. For me it is through practicing the art of ikebana. It was a perfect distraction to my thinking patterns minus the dangers of the extreme sports. And it had a bonus compared to yoga: at the end of each lesson I had a nice flower arrangement to remind me of the experience I had.

I have elaborated on my experience many times when talking to people about ikebana. For me, when I come to my teacher’s place for the lesson I leave the world behind the door. I am a different person with a different purpose and a very difficult task at hand. I am working on the assignment and nothing else matters.

I love this perfect moment during an ikebana lesson when there is complete focus, silence and concentration in the group. Keep in mind that it is typically a group of women, who were happily chatting just before the lesson and will carry on chatting right after. They are all transformed for this brief moment. They have fully given themselves to the process of creation. And the more they are able to let go of anything outside of the ikebana world the more enchanting their arrangements are.

In the book “Zen in the Art of Flower Arrangement” Gustie Herrigel speaks about the way teachers in Japan used to review students’ works. Teachers were evaluating whether the true connection with the essence of the flower was achieved by the student. Nowadays we perhaps would not use such wording. Nevertheless it is clear what she means. It is not tangible and you can’t put your finger on it but sometimes an arrangement just works and sometimes it does not. Even if there is no fundamental difference. You are just tuning into harmony or you are not.

So how do we enter into this special state of complete presence to our creation process? Well, first of all we try to avoid over complicating it. We just stay with feeling and avoid thinking. The simplest way is to concentrate on the sensory contact with the material.

Listen – pour water into the container as the first step. Listen to the sound of water. This will make you do it slower because it is actually quite enjoyable.  It also prompts you to handle your tools more carefully without making noise when you put them on the surface of the table. This in turn makes your movements more conscious, which is the whole point really.

Touch – different materials have different texture. Try touching stems of different flowers, bark of branches, petals and stamens. Rub pollen between your fingertip (careful, don’t mark your clothes! Some pollen is not possible to wash off). It is fascinating how much variety nature has in it. Humbling really.

Smell – yes, this is the best part. Even if you are using flowers which do not have an iconic perfume smell there is for sure a subtle scent present. And it is not always a pleasant one. 🙂 But this is yet another discovery you can make to get acquainted with your materials. And don’t forget that leafs, grasses they all have their own less pronounced scents.

Observe – colors, shapes, lines, big curves and small details. They all are worth our attention. They are out there patiently waiting to be discovered. And once you discover them it is your job to create an arrangement to share your discovery with the others.

There are so many fundamental principles and laws used in ikebana without being mentioned. I keep on stumbling upon them and exploring them as I move through my ikebana journey. Here are just a few, which I want to elaborate on in my future posts:

  • The golden ratio – it is fundamental to the ikebana proportions but I have never seen it mentioned in any of the ikebana text books.
  • Minimalism – the principal of arriving to the beauty by removing extra elements as long as there is nothing left in the arrangement that has no purpose. Less is more.
  • Color theory – we teach the basics of it in the Sogetsu curriculum but there is so much more. I for sure want to dig deeper into it.

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Morimono ikebana arrangement in automne colors. Pumpkins, physalis, sunflowers. By Ekaterina Seehaus. Sogetsu school of ikebana.

Morimono – use of fruits and vegetables in Japanese flower arrangements

What do fruits and vegetables have to do with flower arrangements?

Japanese do not discriminate: any plant material can be used in ikebana, not only flowers and branches. There is a special type of arrangement called Morimono, which allows using pretty much any part of the plant in the composition.

If  you think of it, using branches with berries is quite common both in ikebana and in Western flower arrangement. But once we move towards fruits disconnected from branches we are out of the comfort zone. The known ways of fixing materials are no longer helpful and we are not clear how to show beauty of, for example, a tomato in our art creation.

Sogetsu ikebena by Ekaterina Seehaus morimono arrangement with watermelon and wind strawberries
Why couldn’t a watermelon become a container? Morimono arrangement and photography by Ekaterina Seehaus

So what is Morimono? In Japanese it literally means to pile up. It does not sound too artistic or pretty for that matter. Therefore our main goal is to make the pile attractive and artistically expressive. Following the main ikebana principles is crucial here.

If in doubt where to begin, start with selecting an unusual container for your unusual arrangement. This will set the tone and help you push your creativity boundaries. A nice board or a flat stone could give enough space for your artistic pile and will give it a bit of a modern edge.

Another approach could be to start with a choice of a color scheme. Same ikebana principles of working with color apply here. You can decide to go for the same tonal range (see above Automne arrangement) or contrasting colors (see red/green contrast of cabbage and peppers above) or simply emphasize one color – the choice is yours. This decision will help you pick the right grocery list for your next supermarket visit.

Another tip is to look for unusually shaped, odd pieces to avoid artificial look. If you have your own garden it is an added benefit. Home-grown fruits and vegetable are more likely to have unusual shapes. This can give you the key element, around which you could build your arrangement.

The point of this journey is to see familiar objects in a new light, to find out the main characteristics and features of a plant. For example it is nice to split bell peppers in half and show their seed pods or to disassemble cabbage and roll the leafs following their natural lines. Pealing off parts of skin on a darker vegetable such as aubergine could give you just the right accent. From there you could build a contrast based arrangement of dark vs. light colors.

Morimono ikebana arrangement red peppers, green cabbage, color contrasts. By Ekaterina Seehaus. Sogetsu school of ikebana
Arrangement with red peppers showing the inside and outside. Contrast of red and green colors. Ikebana and photography by Ekaterina Seehaus

There is a vast variety of techniques available for fixing vegetables in place. Next to the standard ikebana fixings you could, for example, use tooth picks to link several round objects together to prevent them from rolling or choose a larger vegetable as a base for fixing others on top of it.

And of course, nobody prevents us from using flowers or brunches next to the fruits or vegetables. At the end Morimono is quite flexible and broadens our artistic horizon.

Sogetsu ikebana Morimono with cabbage as a flower by Ekaterina Seehaus
Morimono with cabbage as a flower. Wooden chinese container. Ikebana by Ekaterina Seehaus

Whichever way you decide to go, keep it simple and have fun with it!

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P.S. Want to get more examples and tips on creating original harvest arrangements? Follow ikebanaWEB here and download my Morimono step by step seminar materials for FREE. I have just given this Morimono workshop to the Ikebana International group of Belgium. I hope it will inspire you to make your own arrangements or who knows, may be even to give a workshop!

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Amaryllis Beloeil 2016 report by Ekaterina Seehaus ikebanaweb.com

Amaryllis Competition at Chateau de Beloeil

The 2016 report from the Amaryllis Beloeil annual competition in Belgium.

This year we enjoyed the amaryllis viewings over the Easter weekend. This explains the giant Easter egg which was greeting all the visitors at the entrance.

This competition takes place in a nice historical setting of Chateau de Beloeil and (importantly) participants get a decent supply of sponsored amaryllis. What a great combination for those who want to make a bold artistic statement.

Artists are allowed to work in rooms filled with real antiquities – my compliments to the brave organizers. It gives a surreal feeling of time travel. Fresh flowers in the museum-like interior suddenly make it alive as if the inhabitants of the Chateau are just about to arrive for the dinner.

Dining room at Amaryllis Beloeil 2016 – 2nd place small teams. Photo by Ekaterina Seehaus ikebanaweb.com
Dining room at Amaryllis Beloeil 2016 – 2nd place small teams

One of my ikebana friends pointed out that most of the arrangements are quite Baroque. I suppose it is the way it should be to fit into the setting. Still my favorite arrangement was fairly minimalist. Only one color of flowers, clean lines and still very well integrated into the space. Here it is:

Amaryllis Beloeil 2016 - 2nd Place schools by Tuinbouw School Kortrijk ikebanaweb.com
Amaryllis Beloeil 2016 – 2nd place in the schools category by Tuinbouw School Kortrijk

Another item from my personal selection was in the music room arrangement: upside down amaryllis used as notes. I like the visual parallel. And it also makes amaryllis look lighter.

Music room flower arrangement at the event Amaryllis Beloeil 2016 at ikebanaweb.com

Unfortunately, similar to many other arrangements in the event these flowers were not given water supply. I find it a pity. Filling up steams with water and sealing them off with wax could have been a good option in my view.

Here is the the winner of the 1st prize in the large groups category. I guess the judges liked the fact that the flowers were integrated into the furniture pieces and not just used as separate decoration items. But this is only my speculation.

Floral arrangement 1st prize winner at Amaryllis Beloeil 2016 in the big teams category published on ikebanaweb.com
The 1st prize winner at Amaryllis Beloeil 2016 in the big teams category

In 2012 one of the fellow ikebana students also participated in this event and got a 2nd prize in small teams category. I will see if there is enough interest among the ikebanists to form a team and enter into the Amaryllis 2017 competition. You can express your interest either on Facebook or via e-mail ekaterina@ikebanaweb.com. The idea would be to make a clean and contemporary arrangement without clashing with the historical interior. Quite a challenge but also a great opportunity to introduce more people to the wonderful art of Ikebana.

To get a flavor of the past few events you can check out a Penterest Amaryllis Beloeil board with several short Youtube videos. It gives a pretty good picture of the spaces to fuel your inspiration.

An outside flower arrangement at Amaryllis Beloeil 2016 - withstanding the wind graciously
An outside flower arrangement at Amaryllis Beloeil 2016 – withstanding the wind graciously

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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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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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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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