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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