Friday 31 December 2010

A Ship of Good Fortune

Dried straws, Lisianthus and an Aspidistra leaf.

In classical ikebana the boat arrangements form a category of their own. There are ships lying in the port, ships coming in, ships going out, and ships in storm. A treasure ship coming in is a symbolic wish for all the good things in life. In addition to being related to the potential dangers of being out in a boat, ships are also metaphors of the voyage of life.

Pine and Freesia.

I'm posting two boat arrangement as a New Years greeting. The first is a modern interpretation of a ship resting on calm water in the port after a long trip. The other has more of a classical Seika form and represents a ship going home, bringing treasures from far away. Since this is a winter arrangement I've used very little materials.

Ikebana arrangements for New Years are usually not boat arrangements. As all seasonal ikebana they have their own flowers with symbolic meaning. Still - what can be more appropriate for New Years than an arrangement that carries all our wishes for a good year to come.

Friday 24 December 2010

Red and White for Christmas

The Spirit of Christmas.

It's been a snowy December, so I decided to go for a white and red themed Christmas ikebana this year. Silver painted Matsumata branches, pine, red Carnations and Baby's breath.

I'd like to thank all of my readers and contacts through 2010, and wish you all a happy holiday.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Web Greetings

Through working with ikebana and writing this blog I have made new friends from around the world. We have never met, but we communicate and we exchange pictures and ideas.

This last year, Facebook has become a great meeting place for ikebana enthusiasts. Yesterday Hitoshi Inoue, one of my ikebana friends, sent me a greeting telling me that he had created three Christmas ikebana arrangements that he wanted me to see. Since the greeting was also to all of my friends, I'm reposting Hitoshi's artwork for you all.

If you are on Facebook you should visit the group simply named Ikebana, which I believe is the largest ikebana group on Facebook. There is also a Sogetsu Ikebana group, and several others.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

More Christmas

Branches with lichens, Poinsettia, Gypsophila and pine,
in a black wooden container.

Black and red, with a little dash of green makes a stylish colour scheme for Christmas. Add a silver or gold coloured ornament for a more festive look, and give the luxurious large roses a coating of glittery red metal threads. Pine is a symbol of long life, and driftwood and branches with lichens brings the good feelings of old traditions.

Black painted driftwood, roses, pine,
and Christmas ornament in a tall black vase.

This last arrangement I am not too fond of myself. It reminds me too much of the 1970's plastic decorations of my childhood. It would probably be a lot better with nicer candles though. Anyhow, it's an idea that you can work on if you like. All the materials are fixed on a large kenzan in the shallow bowl with water.

Dried salix, candles, pine, red carnations

and Christmas ornaments on a red glass bowl.

Monday 13 December 2010

White Christmas

Driftwood, Poinsettia, cypress and glass icicle,
with a white porcelain vase.

Christmas is getting closer. It's fun to plan and make preparations. I haven't decided yet what this years ikebana arrangement will be, but I found an old photo of a white Christmas ikebana from my archives to put us all in the mood.

I will be posting more Christmas arrangements tomorrow - please com back for more inspiration.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Purple for Advent

Purple is the colour of advent. In churches it's the liturgical colour of penitence and fasting as well as the colour of royalty to welcome the advent of the baby Jesus as king. Here in Norway a lot of purple candles and paper napkins are sold in the interior design shops. In the flower shops purple flowers are competing with the red or with Christmas flowers.

Advent arrangement in a white porcelain vase.
Norwegian spruce, purple tulips, pine
and thin handmade Japanese paper.

Seasonal ikebana arrangements is a big thing in Japanese culture. Every seasonal feast has its own flowers with a symbolic meaning. Today ikebana is spread around the world. Why not make a special ikebana arrangement for the advent season? I made this arrangement a couple of years ago. It has a seasonal feeling to it - like walking in a snowy forest on a crispy cold winter's day. If you want you can use red instead of purple and make it a Christmas ikebana.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Collage Lotus

I was pleasantly surprised today as I took a tour visiting blogs I'm following to check out what's new. I started following Kathryn at Collage Diva a while ago because she was posting ikebana arrangements from her ikebana class. Reading her blog have also opened my eyes to her beautiful original collage artwork that is displayed on the blog.

The surprise this time was that she had created an original artwork for some of the bloggers that have left comments on her blog. Each piece is a combination of her own illustrations and hand-painted papers - all in her very own Collage Diva style. I love it, thanks Kathryn!

I'm posting "my" collage for you all. Please visit Collage Diva for more original artwork.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Scrapbook Traditions

Taking ikebana lessons usually also means taking photos of the arrangements, and sometimes drawing the finished results. This will help you see the development in your work over time. When you are drawing the arrangements you also learn to pay the attention to details, which is really important in ikebana.

There is a long tradition of collecting pictures and drawings of ikebana arrangements into books. In the Sogetsu school every student is expected to document his or her work in workbooks that are handed in when it's time for a new exam, a bit like a scrapbook or an ikebana diary.

I'm currently updating my workbooks with new ikebana arrangements. Some of the photos can be found on this blog. This process reminded me that I had planned to post a link to an interesting collection of ikebana drawings that is available on the internet. The library at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington DC holds a collection of old ikebana books that were collected by Ellen Gordon Allen, founder of the organisation Ikebana International. On the website of the library you can download the book "Rikka shodoshu", published already in 1684 in Japan. The book title means "The right principles of rikka". It's a three-volume set of color woodblock illustrations. Each volume represents one of three styles of rikka arrangements known as shin, gyo, and so. They are also categorized by season. Volume one contains an introductory text in Japanese and English - so go ahead and explore the long traditions of documenting ikebana arrangements.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Anticipation and Originality

Anticipation or being enthusiastic, is an emotion involving pleasure (and sometimes anxiety) in considering some expected or longed-for good event. (Wikipedia)

I found this video for you on YouTube today. A guy and his scissors in an autumnal landscape.

You never know what awaits you when you are out looking for materials to use in an ikebana arrangement. Branches and plants look different when you take the time to notice their character. In anticipation and with a smile on your face you walk home with your newfound treasures.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Facing the Winter Naked

Goat Willow and Japanese Beauty Berries in a ceramic container.
Abstract freestyle.

The days have turned cold - much colder than usual in November. Plants are withering. Flowers are gone. Still winter can be a good season for ikebana. The trees are bare and the branches have to face winter naked. On the bright side, all the straight and curved lines of the tree branches are clearly visible against the sky when there are no leaves to cover them. At last we can see them as they are, and in all their variety.

The founder of the Sogetsu school, Sofu Teshigahara has said this about branches and lines:

"Branches consist mainly of lines, both necessary and superfluous.
In order to emphasize the necessary lines,
you have to discard all the superfluous and conflicting ones."

"One should study how to contrast the sense of stillness with movement
using a combination of curved and straight lines."

Honeysuckle and Trumpet Lily in a lacquered wooden vase.

In the winter, when branches aren't that easy to bend, one will have to cooperate with the material and chose carefully what parts to use. The two arrangements in this post are variations on the theme "intertwining". In the first I have used Goat Willow branches, straight and slightly curved lines. The thin branches are fixed by sticking them through splits in the thicker ones (the intertwining). The second arrangement has a more naturalistic form and uses strongly curved lines. Vines of Honeysuckle are intertwined into a swirling three dimensional shape. The wooden vase has straight lines that contrast the curved ones.

Quotations from:

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

Monday 29 November 2010

More Water

Many people have liked my clear water ikebana with four glass cube vases and an Amaryllis, that I posted earlier this month. So I thought it only fair to post the arrangement that was the inspiration behind it.

This Japanese maple arrangement is by the ikebana artist Naoki Sasaki. It's pictured in his latest book "Japanese Contemporary Floral Art" that can be bought from Amazon. It's a great book with many stunning designs, and the price has been reduced. This would make a wonderful Christmas gift for someone interested in flowers.

Friday 26 November 2010

Ikebana + Bass Performance

Have a look at this video - improvised bass music and ikebana creations in Japanese ceramics. Now that's an innovative and original concept! I love the way the clipping sound from the ikebana scissors becomes part of the music.

The live performance concept "Utsurawa-ba", consisting of ikebana artist So-sen Imai and bass player Koyu, has become a monthly happening in trendy Tokyo bars. The vessels by contemporary Japanese artists are selected by Kenshin Sato of the Utsuwa Kenshin gallery - a new artist is featured in each performance.

The focus on vessels as starting point of the arrangements is typical of traditional ikebana philosophy. There must always be a sense of harmony between vase, flower materials and surrounding. So-sen Imai is an ikebana master of the Ryusei-ha school, who have made collaborative live ikebana performances with DJs, dancers and musicians his trademark. You can follow him on his blog or at Myspace, and he also has a website in English.

Monday 15 November 2010

Stylized Gestures

One thing that fascinates me about traditional Japanese culture is the thoroughness - the focus on the details. I've been writing in earlier posts about practicing ikebana as a flower ceremony with a set of rules for how to move. It's similar to tea ceremony in the movements and is still practiced by some traditional ikebana schools.

I found this video on YouTube and decided to post it on the blog because of the gestures of the kadoka, the ikebana artist, as she creates a traditional Seika arrangement in what looks like a bamboo vase. The school is Saga Goryu, an ikebana school that goes back to the Emperor Saga in the 9th century and the style of flower arrangement that is said to have been created by him.

The motto of Saga Goryu is "to unite flowers and religion". The students practices a ceremony of floral tribute to Buddah. Notice the stylized gestures and movements of the ikebana artist in the video as she takes out her fan from the kimono belt, bows, and dries off the vase. Since this is a demonstration in front of a public the branches are prepaired, cut and bended in advance. Fortunately you can see some of the bending in the video as well. At the end the assistant also bows, takes her fan out, and carries the ikebana vase to the tokonoma alcove.

Monday 1 November 2010

Water: Reflecting Heaven

Clear water arrangement with Amaryllis.
Abstract freestyle.

Water is refreshing and calming. The surface reflects the sky in all its changes.

Clear water arrangements are cooling an full of life. The dark bottom arrangement creates a mystic darkness - the eyes are drawn towards the bottom of a deep pond. The arrangement with bridge is a special style that invites you to leave your safe surroundings and walk across the water into a mysterious world.

Dark bottom water arrangement. Bergenia leaf, yellow rose and black sand.
Naturalistic freestyle.

Arrangement with bridge. Abstract freestyle.
Iris leaves and Amaryllis.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Flowing Energy

Climbing Hydrangea and Ornamental Cabbage in a hand made ceramic vase.

The flowing lines of vines are like raked circles in the gravel of a Japanese rock garden. The drifting circles in the sand surrounds a solid rock. In the centre there is nothing but calmness - flowers coming to life.

Sand and stone garden, Portland Japanese Garden.

Hop vines and Ornamental Cabbage in an oval-shaped ceramic suiban.

Friday 15 October 2010

Day 7 - Simple Living

Simple is often best. Our days are full of impressions - all the time we have to process a lot of information. I guess that's why nothing is more refreshing than a single flower.

Chabana. Red Rose, Hosta leaf with holes and thin Iris leaves.
1950s ceramics by Gunnar Nylund, Rörstrand Studio.

Gautama Buddha once said “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” It's been questioned if this is an authentic quotation. To me the important thing is the meaning of the words: In the single flower you can grasp the miracle of life, including your own life. Because we as humans are also part of nature our life conditions are basically the same.

The puristic esthetics of Japanese simplicity is the key to arrangements such as Chabana, the flowers used in tea ceremonies. To me that's the essence of following the way of flowers - flowers teach us to let go and to live a simple life.

This is the last of my flower practice week postings. I hope you have enjoyed them.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Day 6 - A Closer Look

Things look different when you take a closer look. There are many other truths than the ones you are used too. That goes for people and it's also true when it comes to flowers. Today I've been looking out for surprising details and life's little pleasures in my search for ikebana materials.

Miniature ikebana. Tree seeds, Cosmos, grass, berries of Cotoneaster, Red clover, unknown purple flower, Rose hips, autumn leaf and Larch.
Scandinavian mid century miniature ceramics.

This is my first experiment with ikebana miniatures. In this set I've been working mainly with colours and balance, trying to give a playful and amusing presentation. Katsumi Teshigahara, the second Iemoto of the Sogetsu School of ikebana, introduced miniature ikebana as one of her trade marks in the 1960s. I've also seen groups of miniature ikebana by her father Sofu Teshigahara in old books. They often used very small glass vases, lipstick caps and other shiny cups as containers, giving the arrangements a kind of fairytale ambience. I've chosen to stick with ceramics to stay in the autumn season.

Enjoy your day - take a fresh look at life!

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Day 5 - Outdoor Meditation in Action

A friend of mine has an allotment not far from my house. I went there today to help planting bulbs for next year's flowering season. This kind of monotonous work is quite meditative - a good preparation for the outdoor ikebana work that I had planned to do with plants growing on the allotment.

Outdoor ikebana. Sunflower, Curly kale and a Marigold in a glass drop.

As we were pulling weeds and withered plants I found a Sunflower that had made a loop in the ground when it started growing out of the seed. With the roots still on it had quite an interesting shape. I fixed the stem upside down between some granite blocks that will be made into a patio, and added a leaf of purple Curly kale. Then I hanged a glass drop filled with water from the Sunflower loop and placed a single Marigold in it. The arrangement still needed weight at the base, so I took the top of the Sunflower and placed it under the Marigold so that the glass drop "falls down" into the seeds like a dew drop.

It feels different to work with ikebana in the outdoors. It involves your whole body as you are assembling, cutting and fixing materials and transforming the space. Like weed pulling and bulb planting it becomes a meditation in action.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Day 4 - The Beauty of the Imperfect

Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect - that's the beauty of life. The Japanese words wabi-sabi stand for an aesthetics of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Wabi refers to the loneliness of living in nature, rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and understated elegance.

Intertwined leaves of Siberian Iris with Potentilla flowers.
Stoneware bowl by Gunnar Nylund, 1950s Rörstrand Studio.

In todays ikebana arrangement I've used yellowing leaves of Iris, intertwined in shape of a drifting movement. I also found some Potentilla flowers that are still in bloom, reinforcing the yellow colour. One of them is actually just a bud - nature never gives up.

October is considered the most wabi month of the year. According to my friend Margie of the SweetPersimmon blog, in tea ceremony this is the time to find again the cracked and broken utensils that have been lovingly repaired. In the world of flowers autumn is a time for reflection and seeing things as they are, honoring the flawed beauty of withering plants.

Monday 11 October 2010

Day 3 - Three Vases and What's Left on the Trees

For the arrangement today I've started with the task of using more than one vase. I bought these three vases this summer. They are made by my friend Brigitte Schneider of Atelier Tokibana in the South of France. The white and the blue vases are porcelain, while the black one is made of faience clay. The plant materials are autumn leaves with dark berries, Yarrow and Hydrangea.

As you can see it is still naturalistic freestyle, but more obvious than yesterday this arrangement uses lines and masses, and matching and contrasting colours to create a harmonious balance. The spaces between the vases and branches are also very important.

Using more than one vase. Naturalistic freestyle, Autumn leaves with dark berries, Yarrow and Hydrangea. Vases by Brigitte Schneider, Atelier Tokibana.

Today I've also been browsing the net for inspiration. I came across an interview in French with Marcia Shibata, who is a leading Kado teacher in Shambhala Buddhism and co-founder of Shambhala Kado Europe. Even though I have only met her once I still consider her a friend of mine.

In this interview she explains the meaning of the words Kado and Ikebana. Kado comes from an ancient Chinese term that is derived from two words. Ka is flower and do is path or way, dao in Chinese. It means "the path or the way of flowers", and indicates a journey; you start somewhere, you walk and you arrive somewhere. The term Ikebana, Ike-bana, exists only in Japanese. Ikeru means "to breathe" and as a consequence "being alive". Bana is a transformation of hana "flower". The Japanese like to combine things in a harmonious way, while ike-hana would sound too hard, ike-bana is more rounded at the same time hard and soft. It's like the ultimate desire for balance in life, as you try to have enough sharpness and enough softness or enough weight and enough lightness. So, Kado involves more the concept of a (spiritual) path to follow with flowers, while Ikebana puts more emphasis on the respect for the living nature and to give life or "breath" to the flowers. Both aspects are always present in flower practice, but to different degrees.

"The whole philosophy is that you don't try to be artistic, but you just approach objects as they are and the message comes through automatically. It is like Japanese flower arranging. You don't try to be artistic... it just seems to happen by itself." (Chögyam Trungpa, founder of Shambhala Buddhism and Sogetsu master)

Sunday 10 October 2010

Day 2 - Mother and Child in Autumn Dew

This is the second day of my flower practice week. I went out hunting for flowers today but found that there isn't much left - autumn is definitely here. What I did find was a tree with really nice round yellow leaves and some Yarrow. To add a bit of colour a picked a few branches of Heather from the balcony. Studying the branches I saw that the yellow leaves had red stems that corresponded nicely with the grayish purple of the Heather. I was even more surprised to find what looked like small bean pods under the leaves - so I decided to strip parts of the branch to show off their bright green colour.

Naturalistic freestyle. Autumn leaves, Heather and Yarrow in a Sogetsu vase designed by Sofu Teshigahara.

For this arrangement I've used a vase that I bought on eBay a few years ago. It's a modern vase that could take an abstract ikebana, but I often find that autumn leaves look best in a naturalistic arrangement. The branches are so beautiful in their natural shape. Also the round shape of the leaves brings out the natural softness in the shape of the vase. Earlier this week I got some information about this vase from a Facebook discussion. The vase is named "Komochi" meaning Mother and Child, and it was designed by Sofu Teshigahara, founder of the Sogetsu School of ikebana. According to the person who gave me this information it can still be bought at the Sogetsu shop in Tokyo.

To get a feeling of "here and now" i sprayed the arrangement with a light water mist. This is often done in Chabana arrangements (tea-flowers) to add freshness. “The moment is the moment, and you can never recapture it.” My friend Margie Yap of the SweetPersimmon blog has taught me that one should also let the spray be seen on the walls of the tokonoma to show that the mud or walls of the tokonoma are accepting of the flower.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Day 1 - Flower Practice Week

I had planed to go on a vacation starting today, but since I don't feel too well I had to postpone the trip. To compensate I decided to treat myself to a week of flower practice - using a little time each day to meditate and create an ikebana arrangement with plant materials that can be found around my home.

Ikebana or Kado, meaning The Way of Flowers, is a contemplative practice. Working with plant materials is a grounding experience and teaches us to see what is before us.

Focusing on the shape of the container. Iris leaves and red berries.
Wood fired ceramic by Michiko Takahashi Nilsen.

I'm starting off with an arrangement using a new container by the Japanese-Norwegian ceramicist Michiko Takahashi Nilsen. At first site it looks like a round bowl. Studying the shape of it I found that the bowl is actually a bit like a boat. It has two quite distinct lines adding irregularity to the shape. I've used bended leaves of Siberian Iris to echo these lines, combining them with some red berries on vines that goes with the roundness and the warm brown colour. The container also has a wonderful pale bluish-gray inside that you can't see in the picture.

Saturday 2 October 2010

Warhol Watercolour Variations

The pop art of Andy Warhol typically comes in simple lines and strong colours. This series is a bit different. The sketchy lines are the same but the colour variations are unusual and sublime. The Flowers (Hand-Coloured) portfolio from 1974 is a coloured version of the silk screen printed Flowers (Black and White) from the same year. Every print has a unique watercolour hand-colouring that was made by a studio assistant. The edition was 250 and there are 10 motives so I guess Warhol needed the assistance. Warhol very rarely used this technique - the only other time was in the 1950s. I've put together three of the same print to get a feeling of the variation in colour.

Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, exhibited their Flowers prints earlier this year. According to this exhibition Warhol's inspiration for the Flowers came from wallpaper samples and from the book Interpretive Floral Designs by Mrs. Raymond Russ Stoltz (South Brunswick: A.S. Barnes, 1972) which he interpreted using an opaque projector.

The book Interpretive Floral Designs also featured Japanese flower arrangements, and in my opinion Warhol's fascination with ikebana is the obvious driving force behind the Flowers 1974 series. The same year as the Flowers were printed Warhol met Sofu Teshigahara, headmaster of the Sogetsu school of ikebana, in Tokyo to take Polaroid pictures for a portrait that he wanted to make. I have not read Raymond Russ Stoltz's book, but to me several of the prints in the Flowers series seams to be freestyle Sogetsu school ikebana arrangements. It would be great if someone who has the book could check this up and let me know.

Friday 1 October 2010

Moon Viewing

Autumn is the best time of the year for moon-viewing, a very popular activity in Japanese culture. To an ignorant person the moon can be full, half or simply gone. To a true moon enthusiast every night has its own unique moon. The thin waxing crescent moons, "Second-day moon" and "Third-day moon", have a special quality. And so has the Jûsanyazuki, the "Thirteenth-day moon", which is two nights before full moon - and of which the one of the ninth month (mid-October) is thought especially beautiful. I could go on for ever, but the most popular moon is definitely the harvest moon, Mangetsu or Jûgoyazuki, the full moon on the 15th night of the eighth lunar month (late September).

Last autumn I posted a series about moon flowers on this blog. I'm reposting the photo that was rated the most viewed, to give you all a renewed feeling of the magical autumn moon.

Waxing moon ikebana (slanting variation no.4): Japanese maple and white Chrysanthemum in a moon vase.

The harvest moon seems to be bigger, brighter and more colourful than other full moons. And since there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise at this time of the year, the farmers could continue working to bring in their crops, hence the name.

If you are in Japan and not busy with the harvest you can visit the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto, which is known as a moon-viewing palace. The villa, that was built by Prince Toshihito in the 1600s, is famous for its minimal and orthogonal design, and has been an inspiration to modern architects such as Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. This villa is constructed to offer especially enjoyable viewings of the moon. The drawing rooms with their sliding screen doors are aligned exactly to provide the best view of the harvest moon, and the Gepparo (Moon-wave Pavilion) sits perfectly positioned for viewing the reflection of the moon on the water. It all sounds amazing.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Plastic is Fantastic

One of the new features in ikebana introduced by Sofu Teshigahara, founder of the Sogetsu school, was abstract freestyle arrangements using nonorganic materials. Sofu, who was fascinated by modern western avant-garde movements such as Cubism and Surrealism, started experimenting with what he called avant-garde ikebana, or Zenei-bana, at the end of the 1920s, using scrap metal and other unconventional materials.

Although Sogetsu ikebana is again turning to more naturalistic arrangements, the avant-garde ikebana is still an important style. I was handed a plastic chopping board by my teacher to be used as the main material for a series of ikebana arrangements. As many variations as possible using one Aspidistra leaf, two Carnations and three straws of Bear grass in a green on green composition.

The Story of a Tea House

Not far from the city centre of Stockholm, Sweden - in the park outside The Museum of Ethnography, you can enjoy a genuine tea ceremony in the Japanese tea house named Zui-Ki-Tei, The Cottage of Auspicious Light. This tea house was built in 1990 as a replacement for an earlier tea house that unfortunately burned to the ground in 1969. This early tea house has an interesting and fascinating history.

In 1888 a young Swedish woman named Ida Trotzig moved to Japan to live with her newly wedded husband who was a Swedish businessman in Kobe. She stayed for more than 30 years, studied Japanese culture and wrote a book on tea ceremony that was published in Sweden in 1911. She studied for many years with the Omotesenke School of tea.

After publishing her book on tea ceremony she decided to take up ikebana studies and was accepted, probably as the first European, by the Misho school in Kyoto. When she died in 1943, a manusrcipt for a book on ikeabana dating from the 1920s was discovered. She was especially interested in the symbolism and culture of arranging flowers, and the book that was finally published in Swedish in 1990 gives a good insight into ikebana theaching in the early 1900s.

Through the eyes of a westerner, Trotzig experiences the magic of an ikebana exhibition held in the spring of 1915, at Saga Gosho in the old temple Daikaku-ji. At first, she writes, the many traditional flower arrangments that were being prepared in front of her eyes looked the same. Only when she looked closer, the many details made each of the arrangemnets uniqe and special.

Trotzig studied thoroughly and got the highest degree of the Misho school that was open to women at this time. Only men could reach the highest levels and the tradition was treated as secret teachings thought trough the different steps.

To Ida Trotzig there was an obvious and close relation between the arranging of flowers and the practice of tea ceremony. After moving back to Sweden she became a driving force behind the building of a the first teahouse in Europe. This was the first Zui-Ki-Tei in the garden of The Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm, inaugurated in 1935.

Ida Trotzig: Japansk blomsterkonst, bokförlaget Signum 1990, ISBN 91-87896-04-4
Gaby Stenberg: Ida Trotzig, min mormor, Japanpionjären, Ellerströms förlag 2009, ISBN 9172472162

Saturday 18 September 2010

Leftover Sunbeams

It's kind of chilly outside. Still, if you are lucky enough to get in the way of a sunbeam you'll feel the warmth. It's almost like leftovers from the hot summer days.

I had some Sunflowers that I used in the ikebana class, and decided to let them light up my dinner table to remind me to make the most out of the sunny moments.

Floating ishu-ike (one material only) arrangement with Sunflowers in a triangular container.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Earthy Colours

Summer is over and I'm taking up my ikebana studies again. Early autumn with clear air, a lot of moist, and if you are lucky - bright autumn sun. In ikebana autumn arrangements are meant to bring out the thoughtfulness and the beauty of sadness.

The trees have only just started getting their red and yellow colours so it's a bit early for poetry about falling leaves. Even so, and so that I don't forget, I'm posting an autumn poem by the great Chinese poet Li Bai. Enjoy it now or save it for later:

The autumn air is clear,
The autumn moon is bright.
Fallen leaves gather and scatter,
the jackdaw perches and starts anew.
We think of each other- when will we meet?
This hour, this night, my feelings are hard.

Sunflower, Daylily leaves and dried Tansy in a yellow vase.

Autumn is also about the energy of colours. Yellow brings joy and optimism. Brown brings safety and grounding. In these two arrangements the starting point is the colour of the container, reinforced by the plant materials. The container is always as important as the flowers in ikebana. Focusing on the colour of the container is one of the lessons taught by the Sogetsu school to help creating a harmonious arrangement.

Sunflower, dried Tansy and Daylily leaves in a brownish ceramic container.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

A Moment - Michiko Takahashi Nilsen

If you are in Oslo this September you should definitely take time to visit Kunsthåndverkerne i Kongens gate, an artist-run gallery for exhibition and sale of arts and crafts in the center of Oslo. This months exhibition features ceramics by the Japanese born artist Michiko Takahashi Nilsen.

Takahashi Nilsen lives and works in the north of Norway. "My wish is that the contrasts should meet in an interaction, and that the result of flame and ash in the shape, colour and texture will be reminiscent of the organic nature", she says. I love her wood fired ceramic bowls with interesting shapes and sometimes strong yet earthy colours - a perfect challenge for ikebana arrangements.

The exhibition is called "A moment" and lasts from September 7th to October 3rd.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Ikebana Gift Basket Surprise

Iemoto Akane Teshigahara visited Sydney, Australia for the celebration "50 Golden Years of Sogetsu in Australia and New Zealand" in May this year. She held a spectacular demonstration which can now be seen on YouTube, one video for each arrangement and one for the grand finale - a full scale installation with dramatic lighting.

One of the arrangements, using a bamboo basket made by the Iemoto herself, was surprisingly given away to a member of the audience. What a nice gesture. I hope the winner had strong arms since the arrangement is quite large and looks heavy.

I've also chosen a video for my blog where Akane is using the same intertwining technique as in one of my resent postings. The Weeping willow that she is using is a much lighter material than the Birch in my arrangement. Still I can't help thinking it would be fun to try making it into a large arrangement, maybe I will. Now enjoy the demonstration by the Iemoto.

Thank you Venkatesh Lyer of the "Ikebana and us" blog for information about the videos.

Drifting Away

Here comes another horizontal arrangement - this time going only in one direction. I think this vase is from Mexico. It has a wonderful pattern of swirling leaves in the black surface that goes very well with the drifting lines of the branches. Unfortunately one can not see the pattern in the photo.

Dried salix, red roses and bergenia leaves in a black clay vase.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Again and Again

Repeating forms is a great way of making an impression. It's also helps you to go a little bit further than you would usually do.

"Again and again again again again again
Never stop
Again and again again again again again
Never stop oh" (Lady Gaga)

Actually you got to be able to stop when there is balance. It's just that when the form is clean it can sometimes take much more than you think.

Horse tail triangles and a contrasting Allium ball in triangular containers.

Long green leaves tied into circles and Allium in a circular green container.

Dried bamboo and Calla Lily in a triangular container.

Sunday 27 June 2010

Stretching Out

There is never an ikebana arrangement without a clear focus on lines. In these two arrangements the idea is to demonstrate the strength of stretching out in horizontal lines.

Tree branches with lichens, Calla lily and Aspidistra leaf.

Ephedra and red roses. Horizontal arrangement in a contrasting circular vase.
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