Friday 15 June 2012

Renka Sogetsu Ikebana The Mission

Twelve ladies make an ikebana Sogetsu renka in the woods of the Belgian Ardennes. Follow Azalea study group on their mission on this slideshow photographed by Ben Huybrechts.

Renka is a Japanese collaborative genre of poetry where a minimum of three or four writers contributes to the finished poem. Hiroshi Teshigahara, the 2nd iemoto of the Sogetsu School, introduced renka as a form of ikebana group work. Each participating ikebana artist maks a new arrangement using materials of the previous composition.

More photos of the Azalea study group renka arrangement on this slide show.
More on renka on The Nordic Lotus Ikebana Blog.
Please also visit the blog of Ilse Beunen, one of the ikebana artists in the slide show.

Monday 11 June 2012

Norwegian Wood

Wooden boards,
Aspidistra and Carnations.

Arranging ikebana is bringing the materials to life in a new situation. A kind of second life that is short and shifting, and filled with symbolical meaning. A bunch of leftover wooden boards are arranged together with living plant materials. The result is something between a sculpture of building materials and an ikebana arrangement recognizing again the living trees in the processed wooden boards. 

Tuesday 5 June 2012

More Construction Work

Sibirian Dogwood and Hydrangea.
Direct fixing and metal wire.

Sometimes when I look at photos of my ikebana arrangements I get really surprised by how different the arrangement looks. It's not always easy to catch the three-dimensionality and the shape of the construction that you have put a lot of work into creating.

Working with sculptural structures, such as this arrangement with straight branches, is a good practice for starting thinking larger scale ikebana. This one is 50 cm x 70 cm in size. Can you imagine it being 2,5 x 3,5 meters instead? It would of course need a lot more filling materials, but the main structure could probably work.

When taking the arrangement down I felt like playing a bit with the construction and placed it upside down directly on the table. With a glass bowl filled with water as a focus point it got a totally different look.

Sibirian Dogwood with floating tulip.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Kamekura Sogetsu Nostalgia

Yusaku Kamekura, 1915-1997, has been called the father of Japanese graphic design, or in Japan's design world simply "The Boss". His work is distinguished by its dynamic composition, technical expertise and visual inventiveness, making full use of photography, colour and geometric elements. Two years after his first one-man show, he organized the famed Graphic '55 exhibition at the Takashimaya department store, introducing design into the vocabulary of the populace. (ref.

One of his best early poster designs is a 1954 color print advertisement intended to promote an upcoming flower arrangement exhibition by Sofu Teshigahara. Right now a very small size print of the exhibition poster is for sale on eBay at a quite high price.

Sofu Teshigahara, 1954

Sofu Teshigahara was himself a leading personality in the postwar arts movement in Japan. The present Iemoto of the Sogetsu School, Akane Teshigahara, remembers the close and longlasting relationship between her grandfather Sofu, Kamekura and also the photographer Ken Domon:
"I headed to Sakata to visit the “Three Artists, Three Minds” exhibition that is currently being held at Ken Domon Museum of Photography. Photographer Ken Domon, graphic designer Yusaku Kamekura, and my grandfather Sofu Teshigahara enjoyed a tight-knit relationship, often being referred to as “three brothers.” The sculpture produced by Sofu blended beautifully into the setting as though it had been commissioned specially for the space. It was a strangely fascinating sight." (ref. Akane Teshigahara's "A bunch of thoughts" Vol. 14, 2009/07/10)
The friendship also resulted in the 1977 book Sannin Sanyou with  essays by Teshigahara, Kamekura and Domon. This book is still available in Japanese and can be bought from the Sogetsu web shop.

Outside Japan Yusaka Kamekura is best-known for his 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games posters and for Expo ’70 in Osaka. Here are a couple of my favorite Kamekura designs:

 Nicon, Mikron Binoculars, 1955

Tokyo Olympic Games, 1964

More about Kamekura: 

Saturday 2 June 2012

Painted Sticks

Painted sticks, Aspidistra leaves.

The Sogetsu School is known for its sculptural approach to ikebana and for its use of unconventional materials. When Sofu Teshigahara launched the idea that you can use any kind of material in ikebana, it was a revolutionizing thought and it generated a great deal of opposition.

Nowadays many ikebana schools teaches both more traditional styles and modern freestyles. Plastic wire, dried and painted materials etc have become mainstream in ikebana. Still, I feel that unconventional materials are often treated as additional extras to attract attention rather than as materials in there own rights and with there own character. We still have a lot to learn from the grand old master Sofu.

In these two arrangements I have tried using painted sticks, creating an interesting shape without it getting too messy. It's actually quite difficult to get the sticks to stay in position - try for yourself!

Painted sticks, Aspidistra leaves and Gerbera.

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