Saturday 17 December 2011

Last Call - Fiber Futures: Japan's Textile Pioneers

Today we had a stroll in Manhattans midtown East heading for Japan Society and the exhibition "Fiber Futures: Japan's Textile Pioneers". If you're in New York there is still time - tomorrow will be the last day of this absolutely beautiful exhibition showcasing the dynamic field of Japanese fiber art.

"The works on display range from ethereal silk and hemp to paper pulp and synthetic fiber using methods that are sometimes deeply traditional, but sometimes employ the latest weaving and dyeing technology along with an environmentally conscious "green" ethos. Moving far beyond traditional utility, Japan's textile pioneers fuse past and present to create innovative, beautiful and sometimes challenging works of art."


Ichiyo Hana Festa

I love stage performances with large scale ikebana arrangements. It's not often that I get to see any live performances, but watching them online is fun as well. This video is from the stage performance at Ichiyo Hana Festa 2011. Akihiro Kasuya, headmaster of the Ichiyo School creates a magical landscape of ikebana arrangements.

One of my Flickr friends received his instructor certificate from the Ichiyo School earlier this year. If you're interested in seeing more Ichiyo ikebana I recommend his photo stream on Flickr. I especially like his arrangements without kenzan.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Avant-Garde Christmas

Christmas ikebana.
Metal wire, birch bark circles, pine, red tinsel.

It's time to prepare for the Christmas season. Why not go for an avant-garde ikebana this year? I'm posting to versions of this nageire free style emphasizing curved lines. Materials are metal wire, birch bark circles and pine. In the first one red tinsel has been added. In the second version I've used red roses and silver tinsel. Which one do you prefer?

Christmas ikebana.
Metal wire, birch bark circles, pine, red roses and silver tinsel.

Monday 5 December 2011

7500 Visitors

This video presents a slide show with ikebana arrangements that are previously posted on my blog. The last year I've had 7500 unique visitors, and I made this slide show to mark the occasion. I'd like to thank you all for visiting, and especially my regular followers. Enjoy!

Music: Kôjô no Tsuki (Moon over the Ruined Castle), Jean-Pierre Rampal and Lily Laskine, Japanese Melodies for Flute and Harp.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Hong Kong Exhibition

The Hong Kong Branch of the Sogetsu Teachers' Association held their annual ikebana exhibition in November. This years theme was "To create is to love".

This YouTube video was uploaded by a visitor at the exhibition. You'll find a lot of ideas for large size ikebana installations and interesting material combinations. If you need to get inspired and start planning for your own installations, or you just want to enjoy the beauty and variety of the arrangements, you'll love this exhibition.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Teachers Certificate

In June this year I had my first teacher's exam for the Sogetsu School of ikebana. Yesterday I finally got the certificate issued by the present iemoto (headmaster) Akane Teshigahara. What can I say - it was worth waiting for.

As you can see my new teachers name is Senju. I don't really know what it means, so if any of you that know Japanese have thoughts on the interpretation of the name I would appreciate a comment. Thanks!

Sunday 27 November 2011

Mass and Lines

Mass and lines.
Birch Witch's Broom, Gerbera, painted sticks, Bergenia leaves.

Very often the structure in modern ikebana is based on the balance between mass and lines. This way of working with sculptural free style ikebana takes the traditional styles a step further, reinterpreting the traditional use of main branches for the lines and a focus point or a weightier part at the base of the arrangement for the mass.

For these arrangements I've used Birch Witch's Broom as the main material of the mass, combining the messy twigs of the "broom" with soft textured and collorful Gerbera. I've never used Witch's Broom before, so that was an interesting experience. It's a quite fragile material and not that easy to arrange. On the bright side it has a lot of character and eye-catching texture.

Mass and lines.
Birch Witch's Broom, Gerbera, painted sticks, leaves.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Heaven, Earth and Man - A Mongolian Perspective

Heaven, earth and man are the main branches in all major ikebana schools. But it is also a philosophy of balance between the spiritual and the material, and a vision statement for mankind. The "heaven, earth and man" philosophy is a basic component also in Chinese culture and you will find it in Tibetan philosophy as well.

In this video Professor Bira, an 85 year old student of George Roerich, speaks about "heaven, earth and man" in Mongolian thinking, since ancient times depicted as three circles. He gives a modern interpretation naming the principals cosmos, planet and humankind, and explains how this came to be an international symbol of peace and the inspiration for "The Roerich Peace Banner".

Thursday 24 November 2011

The Poetry of Leaves

Working with large leaves last week, I revisited one of my favorite ikebana books: The Poetry of Leaves: Creative Ideas for Japanese Flower Arrangement by Norman J. Sparnon. I bought this 1970s book on eBay a couple of years ago and I love it. It contains 107 arrangements focusing on leaves in different ways, from very modern sculptural works to classical Narcissus and Aspidistra ikebana arrangements. Most of the pictures are black and white. On the second hand marked this is a quite expensive book. Mine is an ex-library copy, not as fun as a nice book from a private collection, but surely cheaper.

Norman Sparnon from Australia lived in Japan for 12 years where he studied both classical and modern ikebana. One of his teachers, Sofu Teshigahara of the Sogetsu School of ikebana, talked very highly of Mr Sparnon who for many years was considered the best-qualified master of Ikebana in the western world.

In the introduction Sparnon writhes:
"Harbingers of both spring and autumn, with their vivid colors and delicate patterns, leaves are one of the miracles of nature and are considered by the Japanese to be one of the major elements of flower arranging."

by Norman J. Sparnon
Walker/Weatherhill; 1st edition (1970)
ASIN: B0006C07HS

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Large Leaves

Leaves only.
Aralia and Aspidistra in a turquoise raku vase.

These leaves have been standing in a vase in my kitchen for a while. I almost thought they were spoiled when I finally got time to work with them today. Using a curved rake vase by my friend Brigitte Schneider to go with the wavy lines of the leaves. The Aralia leaves are actually collored, which I don't really like but it gives a nice contrast.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Believing in the Power of Flowers

Akane Teshigahara is celebrating her 10 years as iemoto of the Sogetsu School this year.  The 93rd Sogetsu Annual Exhibition "Believing in the Power of Flowers" closing earlier this week, was part of the 10 year celebration program. The photos from the exhibition are now published on the official Sogetsu website. Have a look and get inspired!

Sunday 6 November 2011

More Birch Bark

"After the storm"
Vertical arrangement. Mass and lines.
Sibirian Dogwood, Birch bark, Chrysanthemum.

Wild boars and all
are blown along with it --
storm-wind of fall!

(Haiku by Matsuo Basho, 1644-1694)

Monday 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween

Thursday 27 October 2011

Tanjou - A Sculpture of Rebirth

Tetsunori Kawana is back with a new sculpture at The New York Botanical Garden:

Sunday 23 October 2011

Guests in the Old Forest

I love using lichens in ikebana. Lichens shows the patience of time and represents the long perspectives and the slow living. I found an old branch covered with lichens on the ground in the forest the other day when I was looking for materials for a wall ikebana arrangement. What I had in mind was something more sturdy, but I felt that this branch had something special about it. I also found some nice Birch Bark that had been curled.

Wall ikebana.
Pine branch with lichen, Birch bark,
flowers from a Protea bouquet.

I ended up with a construction emphasizing curved lines, and thought of what additional materials I would need. My first thought was sticking to local flowers, but in this case I ended up using something totally opposite. Flowers from a Protea bouquet from the grocery store on the corner added the colour needed without being too flashy. I actually think they have something of the same magic as the the materials from the old forest.

Saturday 13 August 2011

The Flower of Pain

Not everyone will agree that art must be born out of pain. It has to be heartfelt though. And the creative process may require that you give your utmost.

"The Flower of Pain".
Chrysanthemum, Steel grass,

In this ikebana arrangement I have used dying branches with black bark, cut into small pieces and put together with nails to create a rather compact Hana dome, a flower fixture that becomes an integrated part of the arrangement. Dark red Chrysanthemum and two more vivid red Gladiolus gives the colour.

This is my interpretation of the rather dramatic woodcut "The Flower of Pain" (1898) by Edvard Munch. The artist is kneeling on the ground with his upper body twisted in pain, blood pouring out of his heart. Out of the soil that is soaked in his blood grows a lily. The flower nourished by the blood symbolizes art forcing it's way as a necessity of life.

This is the last ikebana arrangement from the series inspired by Munch's art that I made earlier this summer for an exhibition at Oslo Rose Days. I hope you have enjoyed them. The exhibition takes place every summer in the Freia Hall, an integrated part of the Freia chocolate factory in Oslo. The walls of the hall are covered with large paintings by Munch. This hidden gem of art is now to be sold, so this might be our last year.

Thursday 11 August 2011

The Dance of Life

Passion, longing and despair are central motives in the art of Edvard Munch. The painting "The Dance of Life" (1899) pictures a midsommer night with dancing couples in the sunlit night.

This painting has been interpreted as a reflection of his own turbulent relationship with love. Munch himself is dancing with a woman in red, the passion of his life who betrayed him. When he again is struck by love Munch is not able to respond and he becomes the one who betrays, leaving the lover in grief.
"I am dancing with my true love - a memory of her.
A smiling, blond-haired woman enters
who wishes to take the flower of love
- but it won't allow itself to be taken.
And on the other side one can see her
dressed in black troubled by the couple dancing
- rejected - as I was rejected from her"
(from Munch's diary)

"The Dance of Life".
Wild rose, white and red bush roses,

I'm using three vases by a friend of mine, and winding or dancing branches of wild roses to capture the energy between the three main characters in the painting. White and red bush roses and dark purple black Monkshood are used to reflect the different roles in the dance of life. White being the colour of expectation and hope, red the colour of passion and life, and black beeing the colour of greif and death.

Monday 1 August 2011

Four Girls

Four Girls in Åsgårdstand, from 1902, is one of Edvard Munch's more harmonious motives. It exists in several versions dating from the same periode. Twenty years later Munch painted the four girls once more. This time as one of 12 paintings for the Freia Hall where the yearly Rose Days ikebana exhibition takes place. Munch reused his motives, this time in a more optimistic colour scheme.

"Four Girls", miniature ikebana.
Thistle and Astilbe, Rosebud and Verbena,
Echinacea and Freesia, Cosmos and Maple.

I've tried to catch the spirit of the four girls posing for the artist in this set of miniature ikebana, by putting together parts from different flowers in new ways. Miniature ikebana was introduced as a new style in the 1950s by Sofu Teshigahara, founder of the Sogetsu School of ikebana. Later Sofu's daughter Kasumi Teshigahara developed the miniature style and made it one of her trademarks. Originally minitaure ikebana were made in very small containers such as lipstick caps. I'm using small sized Norwegian and Danish midcentury pottery for this set, which makes the arrangements a bit larger than the original style.

Munch painted many of his well known paintings in the small town Åsgårdstrand where he had a house. He said walking around in Åsgårdstrand was like walking around in his paintings.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Under The Chestnut Tree

Earlier this summer I was invited to help out with the ikebana exhibition at Oslo Rose Days. Since the exhibition took place in the Freia Hall, a room with large paintings by Edvard Munch around the walls, I decided to create a series of ikebana arrangements inspired by Munch's art.

"Under the chestnut tree".
Maple, White Singapore Orchids,
Gypsophila and Delphinium.

Along with his more existentialist motives and his self portraits, Munch also painted portraits of models trough all of his career. This portrait called "Under the Chestnut Tree" was painted rather late in Munch's life. It is one of the highlights from his 1930s production and is a portrait of the model Hanna Brieschke.

In the ikebana arrangement I wanted to catch the refreshing feeling of sitting under a large tree. The white Orchids echoes the large flowers of the Chestnut tree, and the cooling blue colour from the painting is seen in the flowers under the branches and in the water.

Sunday 24 July 2011

Refreshing Summer Flowers

Fan palm and Sand lily.
Intertwining plant materials.

In the summertime water is an even more important component in an ikebana arrangement. Water is essential for all life. It's refreshing and calming, especially on a hot day. A container of glass with a large opening adds to the cooling qualities of water.

I'm working in South of Spain this summer, which gives me the opportunity to try out local plant materials. I found this Fan Palm leaf close to the beach and decided that it would make a nice structure to highlight the beautiful Sand Lilies. The smell of the lilies is similar to Narcissus and they are growing directly out of the sand many places.

Friday 8 July 2011

Spiral Garden

Akane Teshigahara, the present iemoto of the Sogetsu School, held her 10 year solo exhibition in May this year. The exhibition was called "Heartlines" and was held at Spiral Garden in Tokyo.

Browsing for pictures from the exhibition I was lucky enough to find I new ikebana blog. Sogetsu teacher Christopher James from Australia has been blogging every week while he was studying at the Sogetsu headquarters this spring. The result is a fascinating weblog giving an interesting behind the scene peek.

He has also published pictures from exhibitions on his other blog recent ikebana exhibitions. Have a look at the many pictures from the "Heartlines" exhibition. It is truly amazing (The picture posted in this post is used with permission).

Chistopher is now back home in Torquay and has started a new blog where he will publish ikebana works from Australia. It's already in my blog list!

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Flowers Are Like a Mirror

Flowers only.
White Amazon lilly and red Calla lilly.

Flowers are like a mirror.
I survey the flower.
The flower surveys me.
I - changed to a flower -
am looking at me.

(Old Japanese poem)

Thursday 30 June 2011

Ikebana at Oslo Rose Days

If you are in Oslo this weekend, make sure not to miss the 2011 Rose Days arranged by the Norwegian Rose Society. It takes place in the Freia park, a secluded garden at the Freia chocolate factory.

There will be an ikebana exhibition in the Freia Hall. My ikebana teacher Lisbeth Lerum and I will be there to meet you. I'm doing a series of ikebana arrangements inspired by paintings by Edvard Munch.

The exhibition is open this Saturday and Sunday only, from noon to 5 pm. Welcome!

Photo update
The Edvard Munch ikebana series:
Under The Chestnut Tree
Four Girls
The Dance of Life
The Flower of Pain

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Alexandra Shenpen: Ikebana

Alexandra MacKay Shenpen begins her practice of ikebana by observing what stops her during a walk in nature - what catches her attention.

Watch this video from Odyssey Network and get some inspiration. Alexandra Shenpen is a Sogestu ikebana teacher based in Boulder, Colorado. She is also practicing and teaching Kalapa ikebana, a flower practice based on Shambhala Buddhism.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Modern Curved Lines

My last post was about slanting and hanging arrangements and the philosophy behind these fixed styles. Slanting and hanging arrangements are more sweeping than the upright style that is stretching upwards. In modern ikebana this translates to the difference between curved lines and straight lines or between vertical and horizontal lines.

Untraditional materials.
Coke and beer cans, Horsetail and Cow Parsley.

Today I'm following up with two resent works using curved lines in modern free style ikebana. If you compare them with the pictures in the last posting I think you can see the resemblance, but also that modern free style ikebana has more emphasis on a sculptural expression.

Whether you prefer the traditional naturalistic or the modern sculptural expressions in your life, I wish you a day with a lot of good energy. Curved lines has a lot of potential in them of holding back or letting go - it's up to you to find the balance.

Ishu-ike, leaves only, intertwining.
Cattail in red wooden container.

Monday 20 June 2011

Back to Basics

I've been working mainly with freestyle ikebana lately, so it's been a while since I practiced the more traditional styles with fixed rules. When I do, it's almost always like the arrangement wants to show me a new side of the philosophy behind the rules. Going back to basics is always refreshing.

Variation nr.2 slanting moribana.

Fern and roses with Cow Parsley


The idea behind the triangular form with three main branches representing heaven, man and earth, is that mankind stands between and has the ability to balance the energies of heaven and earth. I like to think of this as the possibility of being visionary and grounded at the same time, and therefor in balance.

In Sogetsu ikebana there is a series of variations on the basic styles, that each reflects an aspect of mankind and nature. Working with ikebana is an invitation to connect with what is growing and what surounds us.

Variation nr.4 hanging nageire.
Redcurrant and roses.

The slanting and the hanging style reminds us that the spiritual world is not only about reaching up to the heavens. Heaven is also in the wind that surounds us blowing softly between the low sweeping branches.

In variation nr.2, shown in the first picture, the "man"-branch is positioned lower than both heaven and earth. The arrangement represents the humble and surprised human being, contemplating creation and the universe.

Variation nr.4, in the last picture, has only two of the three main branches. The "man"-branch has been left out. This is a peaceful assurance that

it's not all about me; n

ature, heaven and earth, will still be there when I am no longer.

Monday 13 June 2011

Lunch by the Poppy Bed

Naturalistic Free style, using curved lines.
Poppy stems, Lupines and Astilbe.

The weather has finally changed and yesterday the sun came through for the first time in many days. We were spontaneously invited for lunch in the garden of a couple of friends that have moved outside the city centre. Amongst many things we were talking about ikebana and the different plants in the garden, and when we were leaving our host asked me to help myself to some flowers if I could see any that I would like. We agreed that the Poppies next to where we sat would make an interesting arrangement. So I picked some, already planning to go for a naturalistic style emphasizing the curving stems of the Poppies.

Poppies can have many meanings. A poppy field brings hope, colour and reassurance. In Chinese art Poppies represent rest, beauty and success. They are also associated with the loyalty and faith between lovers. In ikebana to, Poppies represents rest. The orange Poppy also symbolizes vanity and combined with Lupines that represents avarice the message isn't that nice. Let's stick to hope, colour and reassurance - a Poppy can really make your day!

Thursday 9 June 2011

Ikebana 1956

Hiroshi Teshigahara, headmaster of the Sogetsu School 1980-2001, was a well known film director with an international career. His surrealistic films from the 1960s based on stories by novelist and screenwriter Kobo Abe, have acquired the status of cult movies.

His short films are less well known. The 2o minutes long "Ikebana" from 1956 is one of his first productions. It portraits his father Sofu Teshigara's work with ikebana.

I've recently watched this charming short movie that retells the history of ikebana up to the modern postwar styles of the Sogetsu School. What makes this film a must see for everyone interested in Sogetsu is that the camera of Hiroshi Teshigahara takes us to the studio of his father Sofu where he is working on new creations. You can also see him teaching an ikebana class at the Sogetsu headquarters. The film offers a rare opportunity to get a deeper understanding of this great master who totally changed the world of ikebana.

"Ikebana" is published as extra material to the DVD box set "Three films by Hiroshi Teshigahara" by The Criterion Collection.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Rebuild Mashiko

The resent earthquakes in Japan caused significant damage to the pottery community in the town of Mashiko, known for its long traditions of pottery. Many kilns are ruined and ceramic works are destroyed. To raise money for the restoration the artists have started the organization "Rebuild Mashiko" and the exhibition project "Traveling Pieces".

This months Utsurawa-ba session at the Bar Brim in Tokyo was in collaboration with "Traveling Pieces". Ikebana artist So-sen Imai arranges flowers in potsherds from Mashiko and small vessels by Chietsu Mizugaki.

Monday 30 May 2011

Practice to Become Fluent

"Once a flower is cut, it must be set by someone who understands the language of the flower. Just as musicians express themselves through the language of music, ikebana artists must use the language of the flowers. Creating good ikebana meens becoming fluent in this language. ... This is what ikebana means - always facing flowers with candor and listening to what they say."

Sofu Teshigahara, founder of the Sogetsu School of ikebana,
from "Kadensho; The Book of Flowers"

Rowan and purple wild flowers.

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