Wednesday 27 April 2011

Congrats LA!

Members of the Sogetsu Los Angeles branch celebrates their 25th anniversary this year. Earlier this month I had the pleasure of joining the festivities at their anniversary luncheon at Omni Hotel. It was great to be part of such a large gathering of ikebana enthusiasts. And I was so happy to finally get to see an ikebana live demo with their special guest Tetsunori Kawana. Especially since I have been a few days too early or too late to attend his demonstrations in New York at earlier occasions.

Kawana Sensei made at least ten large arrangements in vases with different kinds of branches and flowers before the finally; a Flo'Work arrangement with Cherry blossoms taking up most of the stage. I'm posting two photos of the Flo'Work arrangement so that you can get an idea of the working process. The first photo is of the structure of branches working as a skeleton for the different kinds of branches and flowers that were added to form the finished arrangement, shown in the second photo. Some of the branches were fixed to the structure with an electric drill, others were just sticked into the arrangement. Pretty impressive. I actually like the look of the bare structure even more than the finished work.

Saturday 23 April 2011

Easter Greetings

Reshaping plant materials.
Easter ikebana, pine branch and Daffodils.

The spring storms blowing the winter away caused a large pine branch to fall to the ground outside the ikebana studio. Pine symbolizes longevity or eternal life. Daffodils in Christian tradition symbolize resurrection. Beeing a bulb flower returning each spring, it reminds us that life and beauty is capable of following the harshest winter or tribulations.

Happy Easter!

Friday 22 April 2011

Scandinavian Ceramics

Scandinavian and Japanese design have much in common. The clean lines and the idea that the simplistic and harmonious is what is beautiful. The emphasis on thoughtful design and workmanship in everyday objects. I like to use Scandianvian midcentury ceramics as containers for ikebana arrangements. It enables me to add something from my own culture and still keep a classical and elegant look. It's true that you can use any container from any culture, but the result must always be harmonious.

Swedish midcentury ceramics, Rörstrand Studio,
Gunnar Nylund and Carl Harry Stålhane.

In the early 1900s European ceramicists started experimenting with stoneware using Japanese techniques. Uneven surfaces and running glazes were new and exotic. Japanese ceramics such as 16th century raku tea wares, wood fired pots from Shigaraki and Bizen and Jomon figures, could be studied up close at the world exhibitions in Paris.

Danish midcentury ceramics,
Saxbo and Palshus.

In Scandinavia ceramicists started working individually and in smaller workshops in the 1940's. The Japanese traditions and the new French 'art de feu' ceramics had a great impact on Danish and Swedish ceramics. The Swedish pioneer Gunnar Nylund learned the new techniques in Denmark before introducing stoneware at the Swedish Rörstrand porcelain factory. In Sweden elegant stoneware was created by now famous ceramicists like Wilhelm Kåge, Carl Harry Stålhane and Stig Lindberg. Today as Danish and Swedish ceramics and porcelain from the Scandinavian design era is becoming increasingly popular in Japan, the circle is closed and influences are going in both directions.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Stones and Sand

Morimono is usually ikebana arrangements with fruits and vegetables together with plant materials. The literally meaning is "things piled up", like moribana means "flowers piled up". A morimono arrangement can also be made with other natural materials, such as in these arrangements with stones. They can be made with nothing but stones and sand or with additional moss and branches, whichever one prefers.

The sand is raked with a fork in patterns, resembling the raked gravel in a Zen buddhist rock garden. That reference is quite obvious, and the goal is that the arrangement should have a floating feeling and a calming effect on the viewer.

When using stones instead of plant materials it is the stones you need to examine, pretty much the same way as you do with the flowers when you're using them as the main material. What is the character of the stone? What movements and energies can you find in it? What happens if you turn it up side down? The most important thing is that the stones are similar in colour, shape and texture, and that they are placed so that there is a communication between them. As you can see in these two arrangements, the size of the stones corresponds with the main branches in a basic ikebana arrangement so that there is one Shin stone, one Soe stone and finally one Hikae stone.

Thursday 14 April 2011

An Afternoon in Little Tokyo

Did you know that Los Angeles has a large Japanese community? Downtown LA you'll find Little Tokyo, one of only three official Japan towns in the US. I had a look around one afternoon on my LA trip last week, hunting for ikebana related items.
It was a charming experience strolling the historic district, but I must say the shops were somewhat disappointing. I probably didn't find the right places until I stumbled across Rafu Bussan, a store filled with Japanese china and giftware.
So I finally got what I was looking for. I came out of the store with a white winter ikebana container, a nice bamboo dai and a large kenzan especially made for fixing larger branches. I even got a Japanese lucky cat gift from the nice people in the store.
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