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

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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 using exactly this process. I hope it will inspire you to make your own arrangements or who knows, may be even to give a workshop! My ultimate goal is to introduce people to the wonderful art of ikebana and help them explore their creativity.

Interview Akane Teshigahara by Ekaterina Seehaus Floralien Ghent Gent 2016

Interview with Akane Teshigahara

The leader of the Sogetsu school of ikebana have kindly answers questions of teachers and students collected with the help of Facebook

Anticipation was building up over the last couple of months. When earlier this year Ms. Teshigahara was visiting Belgium we wanted to interview her. We collected the questions of ikebana teachers and students from all over the world. It was a nice example of the “good globalization” and how the on-line community of social networks can be leveraged.

During the visit we were not able to fit the interview into the headmaster’s agenda. (Disclaimer: I use the word headmaster instead of headmistresses just because I … like it better. Nothing to do with gender discrimination. In any case the word in Japanese is “iemoto” for both genders.)

Instead of the live interview we were kindly offered by the Sogetsu school headquarters to get written responses to the questions in due course. Today I received the long anticipated communication and I am sharing it with you.

We submitted 7 questions to Ms. Teshigahara, which are ranked by the votes on Facebook. As Akane Teshigahara teaches junior ikebana classes already since 1989 and is regarded as one of the most prominent child educators in the field of ikebana, the question, which got the most votes in the poll is about this topic:

Question 1: What are your top 3 tips for teaching children ikebana?

  1. Do not assume children as a whole from their age and gender, but work with each of them individually. It is important to use your ingenuity so as to talk and teach them differently depending on their type.
  2. Take time. Don’t rush them. Watch patiently what the kid wants to do.
  3. Whatever the work is, recognize it while searching a good point and say something nice first. Do not deny first. Try to make them feel that ikebana is fun.

Question 2: What source of ikebana inspiration do you use when nothing else works?

Enjoy various things other than ikebana, such as paintings, sculptures, movies, theaters… Put yourself in a completely different environment and reset your feeling once.

Question 3: What is the most effective Sogetsu school strategy in popularizing ikebana in the world?

Needless to say, continuing steady activities are important, but it is more important to actively spread information to the outside, not being inward-looking. In order to do so, we will search collaborations with other categories (e.g. art forms other than ikebana, stage performance) and attractive places and put more emphasis on creating works incorporating the “power of the place”. The new Textbook 5 contains the curriculum needed to learn these things. Please look forward to learning it.

Question 4: What is the suggested program for teaching teachers after the book 5 is completed?

Completing Textbook 5 means that the student stands at the start line as an artist who can express personal feelings and ideas. Hereafter, each student will pursue the path that she or he chooses. The instructor should respect such desire, provide various opportunities to learn, and give proper advice to guide the student.

Question 5: How to behave properly towards ikebana?

Ikebana works have energy and power and resonate with people who see them because living flowers are used. Ikebana is to arrange flowers and plants while putting your own feelings and thoughts to them. But you should not forcefully arrange them for your own satisfaction or treat them to diminish their unique attractiveness. Please faithfully face the plants. Do not forget a feeling of thankfulness and respect them so as to see an end when they will return to nature.

Question 6: How would you define good and bad ikebana teachers?

The good instructor can face each one of the students individually, and respect and develop their personality. Even for the students who surpass the instructor, the good instructor has a broad mind so as not to discourage the learning of the students but strongly support them. On the other hand, the bad teacher does not respect individuality but imposes his or her own way onto the students and forces the students to do what the instructor wants to do.

Question 7: What are the most important principles of integrating ikebana into modern interior?

Look at the people who live in the present times. When arranging flowers, if you think of people who will be in that space and try to understand them, I believe ikebana will naturally harmonize with modern spaces.

This concludes the interview with Akane Teshigahara, the 4th iemoto of the Sogetsu school of ikebana. Big thanks to Ms. Teshigahara for finding time in her busy agenda to answer our questions. And of course thanks to all the ikebanists, who contributed to the Facebook poll and voted for the questions.

P.S. I continue my search for the best advise on how to teach ikebana to children. I got some pretty good materials and will share them soon. Stay tuned. Sincerely, Ekaterina


Follow ikebanaWEB.com and receive free educational reports: “How to Keep Flowers Fresh, Longer” and/or “Essential Japanese Vocabulary for Ikebana Students“.

Akane Teshigahara and Ekaterina Seehaus after the ikebana performance at Ghent Floralien, April 2016
Akane Teshigahara and Ekaterina Seehaus after the iemoto’s ikebana performance at Ghent Floralien, April 2016

What Ikebana means to me

By way of introduction let me share with you an essay I wrote to answer a question “What does Ikebana mean to you”? It was one of the assignments towards the end of the teachers’ training program at the Sogetsu school of Ikebana. Here is what I said:

“For me Ikebana is first of all the “flower way” – the way of personal and spiritual development. By practicing Ikebana I am challenging myself, testing my limits and learning more about who I am. Ikebana is essentially a meditative experience. It allows me to separate from my daily worries, to get connected to nature and eventually to my deeper self – a great way to slow down in our crazy modern life. Ikebana resonated with me from the start and I knew that I wanted to go as far as the flower way would want to take me.

Photography by Ben Huybrechts

Working with plant material provides a great opportunity of contact with nature in our predominantly urban lifestyle. You start by learning to see unique characteristics of different materials. Then you learn to notice how each individual branch and flower was facing the light and in which direction they were growing. Then you start to see a special line of a branch “hidden” by foliage, an unusual texture of leaves, patterns and color aspects of flower petals… After a while you develop the ability to distill the essence of a particular material and to express it in an arrangement. You learn how by removing non-essential parts of the material, using contrasting or complementary colors and textures you can bring out the key points. And if you did it right the magic happens and the spectator will see what you have see, what you wanted to show and to share. And maybe, just may be, somebody will feel a few moments of peace or a spark of surprise by seeing familiar objects in a new, fresh way.

Finding those special aspects in the ordinary materials is only possible by deeply connecting with the object itself. In the Ikebana teachings there is a notion of becoming one with the heart of the flower. For me it is the ultimate goal of my practice of Ikebana. I feel that it can help making my human experience more complete. And by becoming an Ikebana teacher I want to help others to find this peaceful experience and hopefully contribute to the overall harmony in my small way.”

Were you also asked to answer similar questions in your Ikebana schools? It would be great if you share what Ikebana means to you in the comments section.

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