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.

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