Friday 25 December 2009

Happy Holidays

Best wishes for the holidays to all of my ikebana friends around the world!

Christmas ikebana. Mesh, silver sticks, Poinsettia, pine.

Christmas wall ikebana. Branches, Spruce, Rowan, Gypsophila, Christmas ribbons and decorations.

Monday 9 November 2009

Modern Moon Mania

It has been said that the moon has a special influence on human beeings. Despite research showing no association the belief persists that the full moon effects our minds. It's true that the moon is able to move oceans. It's possible because of the large surface. But the moon has no influence on smaller lakes, and even less the water content in a human body.

Still the moonlight fascinates people, and so do ikebana arrangements in moon vases. The arrangements in this post are modern interpretations of traditional moon arrangements. As in all modern ikebana line and mass, space and volume are important aspects. The flowers and berries should ideally be light in colour - I just couldn't resist the nice contrast created by the strong red against the black vases.

Volume and mass: Dried Larch and Calla.

Vertical lines and mass: Calla, Ishu-ike.

Straight lines and mass: Rowan, Ishu-ike.

Horisontal and vertical lines: Pine and Berberis.

That's all from the moon folks! This is the last in a series of posts about moon arrangements.

Tea Flowers and Ikebana

Some say that ikebana and chabana (tea flowers) are two different concepts. The purpose of chabana is to help creating a harmonious atmosphere for the tea ceremony by bringing an element of nature into the setting. The flowers have to be absolutely fresh, helping you to rest in the moment of nowness. When arranging them, the flowers needs to be treated with care and respect, but when the tea ceremony is over the task of the flowers is so aswell. There is no point in preparing them to live longer as one does in ikebana.

On the other hand chabana and ikebana are deeply related. In his book "Kadensho" Sofu Teshighara describes the two main lines of development in the history of ikebana using the terms Rikka and Chabana. I think what he means is that as much as the Rikka arrangements are formal, strict and showy, the Chabana is humble and appearently spontanuos. The carachter of chabana from this point of view is that it is a smaller free style arrangement. A more common way of describing this historical development is to name the two main lines Tatehana, meaning "standing" or "upright" flowers, and Nageirebana, meaning "trown in" flowers.

In my opinon it is correct to say that chabana developed together with the less formal "trown in" style of ikebana. Chabana is indeed a special category of ikebana. It is related to the simplified ikebana styles that are also tought today, but it is the special setting of the tea ceremony and the estetic ideals of the old tea masters that defines the many rules of chabana.

Photo: Chabana by Lisbeth Lerum, photo by Nordic Lotus.

If you want to learn more about chabana, take a look at this online Chado (tea ceremony) Encyclopedia run by a Norwegian tea enthusiast. There is a lot of detailed information in the sections Chabana and Hanaire. I've also listed two interesting tea blogs in my bloglist: Sweet Persimmon and Phillytea blog.

Kadensho: The book of flowers
by Sofu Teshigahara
Sogetsu Shuppan, Tokyo, 1979

Tuesday 3 November 2009

More Moons

A couple of weeks ago I posted some pictures of traditional hanging moon arrangements called Tsuri-Tsuki. Those where waxing moon arrangements catching the moon going from a thin slice to full glory. This week I have some more moons to post. The two first are full moon arrangements. In the Sogetsu School, which actually means "Grass and moon school", full moon arrangements are always in an upright style, Risshin-kei in Japanese. Following the moon faces I'm ending this post with two waining moon arrangements, one in horisontal style, Haishin-kei, and the last one in hanging style, Suishin-kei.

Full moon, Risshin-kei basic, Berberis and Chrysanthemum.

Full moon, Risshin-kei 3, Fern and roses.

drinking saké
without flowers or moon
one is alone

Haiku by Basho

Waining moon, Haishin-kei basic, branches and roses.

Waining moon, Suishin-kei basic, branches and roses.

Thursday 29 October 2009

One Family - Two Schools

The position as head or Iemoto of an ikebana school is often inherited in the family of the founder. In earlier posts I've been blogging about how Sofu Teshigahara started the Sogetsu School of Ikebana in 1927. When Sofu died in 1979 his daughter Kasumi became the second Iemoto of the school. Her career was cut short by her early death in 1980, and her brother Hiroshi Teshigahara became the third Iemoto of the Sogetsu School. The present Iemoto, Akane Teshigahara is the daugther of Hiroshi.

Today Sogetsu is one of the largest ikebana schools worldwide. But it is not the only school inherited in the Teshigahara family. The father of Sofu, Wafu Teshigahara, was also an ikebana artist and had started a school of his own long before Sofu, the eldest son, left to form a new style of ikebana.

The Wafu School was founded in 1896 by Wafu Teshigahara. He had originally been trained in the Misho School in the town west of Osaka where the family lived at that time, before moving to Tokyo about 1906. When Wafu died in 1930, his next eldest son took over leadership of the school, adopting the name Wafu. Wafu II is the man on the lovely photo to the left, showing off an ikebana arrangement with fruit bearing branches. Today, his grandson, Wafu III, heads the school and is grooming his only child, a daughter, to lead the school in the future.

Compared to the Sogetsu School the Wafu School is a much smaller School. With it's Headquarter in Tokyo, the school has chapters throughout Japan and in other countries, including the U.S. where there is a large and active chapter in California. Wafu ikebana emphasizes the natural beauty of plant materials. It's a modern approach to ikebana with the motto "Arrange the flowers that you like - suitably - in a container that you like."

Information on Wafu School of Ikebana provided by Nancy Locke, Instructor and Publicity Chairperson, San Francisco.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Moon Flowers - In Bed With a Goddess

moonflowers dimly white
in fading light
how pure: the moon rises

poem by Shimagi Akahiko (1876-1926)

From my bedroom window I have a good view of the moon at night. Moon-viewing, Otsukimi, has a special place in Japanese tradition. The brilliant glow of the full autumn moon is concidered to be the best. These traditional gatherings with writing and reading of special poems and listening to music while enjoying the mystical wonder evoked by the moon, are of cource much more organised than my moon-veiwing from bed.

For a Japanese moon-viewing you need a flower arrangement, always with light coloured flowers, preferably in a special moon vase. The flowers are said to be landmarks for the moon goddess descending from the heavens. The arrangements I'm posting today are waxing moon arrangements in round moon vases that are traditionally hanging from the ceiling. The materials are bamboo, Japanese maple, some unidentified branches and white Chrysanthemum, an autumn flower that in these arrangements can symbolize the moon goddess descending into the vase she has mistaken for the moon.

Research for this post: Japan National Tourism Organization.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Birthday Ikebana Greetings

This post is to congratulate one of the best Norwegian painters of today on her birthday. Inger Sitter has been exhibiting her paintings since she was 14 years old. This very day she turns 80, and is still working. Inger Sitter was born in Trondheim in 1929. Early in her career she was influenced by American artists such as de Kooning and Rauschenberg, but it is the French post-war art that has been her greatest source of inspiration. Today she is a highly respected painter with her own characteristic expression of lyrical, expressive abstractions.

This ikebana arrangement was created with a direct inspiration from the artwork by Inger Sitter shown in the photo. The arrangement is from last year and the materials are red painted drift wood and Hanging Birch.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Autumn Colours and Frosty Leaves

This week I've been met by frost on the grass in the mornings. Winter is getting closer. I've tryed to grasp the freshness of those early morning hours before the sun warms the air in an ikebana arrangemnet with several vases. The bright red of the Japanese Maple is enhenced by the blue ceramic vases. White veils of Gypsophila adds a frosty feeling. The idea is to use the space inbetween the vases to create a sculptural arrangement.

In the other arrangement the vases are connected by bamboo sticks. Orange Gerbera and Montbretia (Crocosmia) adds autumn colour. But it's the tention between the vases and the spaces created by the sticks that defines this arrangement.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Visiting The Studio of Sofu

When Sofu Teshigahara founded the Sogetsu School in 1926, it all started up in a small scale. After causing some turbulence in Japan in the 1930s for its non traditional style, nothing much happened until after World War II. Ikebana was a popular activity among the wives of US army soldiers stationed in Japan after the war, and they helped spread the practice of ikebana around the world.

The interest in Sogetsu ikebana seems to have exploded in those years. Sofu's book "Ikebana: Japanese Flower Arrangements", published in the early 1950s reports that the followers of his school exceeds 400000.

Although it looks a bit simple to the modern eye, this must have been an impressive book in it's time. I may be wrong, but to me it looks like some of the color photos are actually hand-coloured black and white photos. Hand-colouring of photographs was a popular techinique in Japan from the 1860s, and stayed popular long after it was concidered old fashioned in the West. You'll find many of the classic Sofu ikebana arrangements with comments in the book: Quite a few of Sofu's large scale sculptural ikebana with dried wood and stone, and a series of miniatyr ikebana "Pygmé flowers" in small vases and lipstick conatiner tops. There are also really nice interior pictures from the studio of Sofu and work in progress pictures showing Sofu in action. A whole series of photos shows a team of helpers constructing the large scale work "The Locomotive". It even has the sketches by Sofu's hands.

The wide range of ikebana arrangements and the photos from Sofu's studio is what makes this a true reference book. There is also a rich biographic presentation of Sofu's life and background written by art historian and art critic Sumio Mizusawa, telling the seldom told story about the father of Sofu who founded "Japan Floral Institute" and chocked the ikebana establishment by introducing a teaching technique with dial plates and fixed numbers of degrees for the positions of the flowers. Although Sofu emphasized the free expression and introduced the modern free style and avantgarde ikebana, he stuck to his fathers teaching methods for the basic styles. These methods are still in use by all the major ikebana schools.

It's difficult to find this book today. I've seen it listed with publication year varying from 1947 to 1954. It sometimes has a modernistic drawing and sometimes a photo of an ikebana arrangement on the dust jacket. In my opinion it's worth buying even in a less than perfect condition.

Ikebana: Japanese Flower Arrangements
by Sofu Teshigahara
With "Sofu Teshigahara - His Life And Art" by Sumio Mizusawa
Photo by Ken Domon
Studio Publications Inc, New York, undated, ca 1950-1952
Hardcover, 84 pages, colour and black and white photos.

Sunday 11 October 2009

Sogetsu Surrealism

Today I finally found pictures of the surrealistic ikebana arrangements by Sofu Teshigahara that I promised to post. You'll find my last blog post on the subject through this link.

In the 1930s Sofu Teshigahara, founder of the Sogetsu school, started creating works that had references to contemporary western art. The first one I've come across is one of his most famous arrangements, named "The Locomotive". I'm posting it together with a Man Ray portrait of Marcel Duchamp, surrounded by some of his scrap metal sculptures in his New York studio in 1915. Sofu adds plant materials and brings the Duchamp reference into the ikebana tradition in an unexpected way.

The second work by Sofu that I would like to point towards is named "The Kyozo", which if I am correct refers to a storehouse for sutras. It's a mass arrangement made of drift wood and dried materials, devided into two separate parts. Sofu himself said about this arrangement: "I have intended to bring about a feeling of tension, or traction, between the two groups...".

This is one of my favorites. It invokes in me the dream landscape by Max Ernst in the painting "The Eye of Silence", 1943-44, which is a painting made in decalcomania technique. It has the same colour range and texture feeling as the avantgarde piece by Sofu. It even has a column of space through which you can see the sky.

"The Kyozo" also brings to live an old traditional style of ikebana that is rarely seen. The double shin Rikka has all the features of a classic Rikka arrangement, but like "The Kyozo" it has a split all the way through it. All the material used has to be neatly trimmed to give room for the column of space between the two parts created by the split.

I've found these works by Sofu in a book from the 1950s. I'm not sure when they where first conceived or what meenings they had to the artist. When looking at them I make my own interpretations.

Quotation from Sofu Teshigahara "Ikebana: Japanese Flower Arrangements" (undated, published in the 1950s).

Tuesday 6 October 2009

The Smell of Fall

Can you feel it - the earthy smell of wet leaves that fills the air when you walk through a park or enters the forest? Using autumn materials from the outdoors really gets me in a special mood. These are two eksamples of Kabu-Wake, arrangements with two groups, with focus on the space between the groups and on the water.
Free style Kabu-Wake: Fern and Asters.
Free style Kabu-Wake: Bamboo and Asters.

Monday 5 October 2009

Stealing Apples and Picking Berries

I've always been fascinated by apple trees. Maybe because it was to cold to grow apples were I was born - no apple stealing in my childhood. Still the thought of stealing apples takes me back to another time, another place. It must be something in our collective memory. I did pick a lot of berries though. Blueberries, raspberries and cloudberries. In a good year me and my sister and brother could pick enough to sell and earn some money. Those were the days. I still love the autumn, even though I don't pick my own berries anymore.

Autumn is special in ikebana too. The changes in nature are reflected in the choice of materials. It's a bit like bringing the outdoors indoors and living in the moment.

Stripped branches of Apple and Berberis.

Rowan and branches with black berries in a blue vase.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Monkey Business The Ikebana Way

I've heard of ikebana classes for children, but never before have I seen a chimpanzee ikebana artist. The result is very Sogetsu School with modern lines and materials cut in untraditional ways. The best part is the end where the chimp corrects the work of the ikebana teacher.

Five Elements: Water

I found a new video with ikebana artist Tetsunoru Kawana on YouTube. Remeber the guy that made the bamboo installation in The New York Botanical Garden last winter? This is from an installation work by Kawana earlier this year in Melbourne, Australia. Again - it's all bamboo and created with the help of local volontaires. This one is named "Five elements: Water".

Sunday 27 September 2009

Hanging Flowers

Rowan and Allium.

Japanese Maple, Bergenia and Mustard flowers.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Like a Prayer

To me, the name Issey Miyake means perfume and exclusive black clothes. To others he is more of a guarantee of good taste and style. In the foreword to the book "Inspired Flower Arrangemnets" by Toshiro Kawase, Issey Miyake confesses that he cannot recall ever once having been deeply moved by a flower exhibition, and that he prefers flowers growing wild in nature. Still his conception of art was transformed in the encounter with the tatehana (standing flowers) of Toshiro Kawase.

This is a beautiful book with large photos of flowers arranged in japanese antique containers from temples, museums and private collections. At the end of the book there are comments to
each photo. Here are two of my favorites:

"All flower arrangement is a form of prayer. As I (...) stand the flowers, and give them water, I continually pray to something in nature. Through prayer, the starting point for all flower arrangement, the true heart of all plant life is revealed."

"The pleasure of arranging flowers lies in discovering the beauty of form, which gradually becomes apparent through the process of simplifying the materials used. By cutting a flower, you are able to penetrate the reality of it's form - a reality hidden while it is blooming in it's natural state. This is the unique fascination of ikebana; if not for that it would be a sin to cut the flowers."

The book also has a very interesting review of the history of ikebana, giving more attention than other reviews that I have read to the Shinto roots of Ikebana. It also focuses on the balanse between the tatehana style of ikebana, growing ever larger and more elaborate, showy but also sacred and formal, and the nageire style that came to symbolize the aesthetics of simple restraint and the momentariness of life.

by Toshiro Kawase
Foreword by Issey Miyake
Kodansha International, Tokyo and New York, 1990
120 pages. 74 large colour photos.

Friday 18 September 2009

Tall Green Leaves

Sogetsu Master Instructor Mr.Toshiyuki Ohki visited Norway last week and gave a demonstration at the Historical Museum. I wasn't able to be there, but I was told he made a fantastic arrangement with Cat's tail. I guess that is why my ikebana teacher gave me a bunch of Cat's tail leaves and told me to create an extra tall arrangement with them. I combined the leaves with some really beautiful Gentian flowers that I found in a shop. Nice and strong blue and green coulors. The leftovers where used for a Basic Upright arrangement, also with extra heigth.
Focus on straight lines, vertical arrangemnet, freestyle Kabuwake. Cat's tail leaves and Gentian.
Basic Upright arrangement. Strelitzia leaves, Gentian and Gerbera.

Saturday 5 September 2009

Lunching with Roses

Can you imagine having your daily lunch in a cantine with enormous Munch paintings on the walls? That's what life is like for the workers at the Freia chocolate factory in Oslo. And they even get to eat as much chocolate as they like. The cantine is facing a secluded garden. This is where Oslo Rose Festival takes place every summer.

I've been helping out with the ikebana exhibition at Oslo Rose Festival for four years now. It's only up for two days so we're keeping it a smaller exhibition. I made these five arrangements refering to flower themes in poetry and literature.

No wind; grass, dark pink rose and wild flowers in a raku vase.

"The most beautiful rose has been found"
(Hans Adolf Brorson 1694-1764)

Re-circling (for Sofu); scrap metal, lily and pine.

Nageire, Variation number 4; Spinosa branches with pink roses in a naked raku vase.

Summer Night; maple, yellow roses and pine.

"Turning strong men into dreamers"
(Nils Collett Vogt 1864-1937)

Further into the forest (Little Red Riding Hood); Larch and red roses.

"And whenever she had picked one,
she fancied that she saw a still prettier one farther on,
and ran after it."

You'll find more about this ikebana exhibition on my Norwegian website, including photos of some really nice arrangements by my teacher Lisbeth Lerum.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Exam Works

I passed the 4th level Sogetsu student exam this summer. It requires that you create a number of arrangements in different styles. These are two of the ikebanas I made.

Simplified arrangement with Day lily and branches with small red flowers.

Disassembling and rearranging the materials -without kenzan. Rowan and purple flowers.

Monday 24 August 2009

Samurai Arts of War and Peace

This summer I visited the Asian Art Museum in San Fransisco and their exhibition "Lords of the Samurai". It will run through September 20, so there is still time if you happen to be around.

On display is armors, weaponry, paintings, lacquer ware, ceramics and costumes from the private collections of the Hosokawa clan, pre-eminent on Japan's southern island of Kyushu, that dates back 700 years. Lots of good stuff, rare and beautiful. Much of it have never been shown outside of Japan before.

I really don't agree with the idea of war lords combining culture (bun) and arms (bu), balancing domination and authority with mastering artistic and spiritual pursuits. Still it's interesting to get to explore the ethics and core precepts of their culture.

There doesn't seem to have been any notable ikebana masters in the Hosokawa family, but some of them were heavely into tea ceremony. Hosokawa Sansai (1563-1646) was one of the family's most important tea practitioners. He was one of seven disciples of Sen Rikyu (1522-1591), the tea master who perfected the Way of Tea. Among the chado utensils exhibited is a tea bowl attributed to Raku Chojiro (died 1589) the first generation of Japan’s most famous family of ceramic artists, the Raku potters.

Another lord of the clan, Hosokawa Shigekata, was a visionary social reformer. He founded a garden for the propagation and study of medicinal plants. In one of the exhibition rooms there is a collection of detailed paintings of different varieties of peonies.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Waste Recycling

Modern Ikebana uses a lot of odd materials. I sometimes feel that it is difficult to loose the old situation or function of things that are re-used in an arrangement, and that can be disturbing. Usually one will have to work a bit with the material for it to come trough as pure form and colour. If one succeeds the result can be a great sculptural effect to the arrangement.

It's fun to play with waste materials, and it's really "ikebana" too - taking things a part and giving them new life.

Scrap metal and Calla

Black wooden containers, electrical wire and Calla

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Materials from the Sea

Earlier this year I met Truus Marrée, an ikebana artist from The Netherlands. Her work was featured at an ikebana exhibition in Oslo City Hall Gallery, where she was the guest artist. I published one of her arrangements in an earlier post.

I found this web-TV presentation on Truus Marrée when I was surfing the net. I think it is from 2007. Have a look! It's in Norwegian but still interesting to just look at how she uses materials found on the Norwegian coast, where she has her summer house, and combines them with flowers from her garden.

It takes a while to load the video, so please give it a few minutes.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Ikebana at Japan Week 2009

These are my contributions to the exhibition "Japan Week 2009 - Beauty and Magic" in the Oslo City Hall Gallery. I'm very proud to be asked to contribute to an exhibition that holds such high quality. It has also been fun to work in a beautiful and well designed setting that compliments the arrangements.

"Pale blue poetry". Painted branches of Mitsumata, Limonium and Aspedistra leaf.

"Ties of friendship". Climbing Hydrangea, Strelitzia and pine in a vase from Nicaragua.

"Between past and future". Wood, Cymbidium orchids and Eucalyptus.

"Inner beauty". Freestyle, Morimono form. Cassava, Cucumber, Kohlrabi and chili pepper

Monday 20 April 2009

Exhibition Interiors

I'm posting a few photos from the exhibiton "Japan Week 2009 - Beauty and Magic". The exhibition is running until this Thursday in the Oslo City Hall Gallery.

Ikebana arrangement by guest artist Truus Marreé from The Netherlands.

The exhibition features ikebana, Japanese woodblock prints and kimonos.

The "Tea house" where demonstrations are held.

This is one of the largest ikebana exhibitions that has been held in Oslo. 13 teachers and students are exhibiting arrangements in a broad variety of styles, from traditional ikebana to avant-garde and surrealistic arrangements.

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