Sunday 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas

Moribana, Variation no. 2, slanting,
Taxus, Roses Gypsophila, tinsel.

With this peaceful and traditional ikebana I'd like to wish all of my ikebana friends around the world

a Joyful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

• ~

Monday 17 December 2012

Golden Lining

Dried bamboo, roses, fabric with gold threads, pine, Christmas balls.

Christmas is getting nearer. As every year my teacher prepared a Christmas themed workshop in her studio to round of the year. This is one of the ikebana arrangements from there. The idea was to use tall Anthurium, but I just couldn't get any. You don't get the same movement with roses but it works in a way. Anyhow I hope it brings some inspiration for your own Christmas ikebana. What is it going to be this year?

Friday 7 December 2012

Fresh Snow for Christmas

Mass arrangement. Gypsophila, red roses, red tinsel, Taxus.

It's a bit early for Christmas ikebana, but I know that many people have started their Christmas preparations and are looking for ideas. Why not try a simple mass arrangement with a lot of snowy feeling to it? If you like you can add a line as a contrast to the mass. In this case I think the room between the vases is enough to create the needed contrast. I also don't want too many materials since that often makes the arrangement less peaceful.

Red, white and green are the Christmas colours also in ikebana. Add a little glitter for a more festive feeling - and there you are! Interestingly enough, Japanese ikebana artists tend to use more sparkle and bling in their Christmas arrangements than Westerners do. Maybe it comes from being more minimalist the rest of the year and needing to let loose for Christmas? Who knows?

Thursday 6 December 2012

After the Typhoon - Hong Kong Sogetsu Exhibition

I regularly browse YouTube for interesting ikebana related videos. Recently I came across this video documentation of the latest exhibition with the Hong Kong Branch of Sogetsu Teachers' Association. The exhibition was held in November and was titled "After The Typhoon". 

It's a quite long amateur video, but it gives you a nice opportunity to explore this great exhibition. I especially like the avant-garde arrangement with tree trunks and branches flying in the storm and the large bamboo construction work. There are several other really nice arrangements too. Which one is your favorite?

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Informal - Old Roof Tile

Chabana, Snowberry, Wax flower and leaf. Old roof tile.

Imperfection is more beautiful than flawlessness. I guess this informal chabana is quite unusual. There is no proper vase, just some simple flowers growing out of an old roof tile.

Chabana brings the season into the tea room. Being closely related to the tea ceremony, chabana is also a reflection of the four principles of the tea ceremony:

Wa - Harmony between people and in relation to nature.
Kei - Respect and gratefulness for all things that are.
Sei - Purity and simplicity, to get rid of what is not needed.

Observing wa, kei and see gives you jaku - a situation of tranquility and spiritual rest.

Studying chabana is studying zen. And practicing chabana is an exercise in awareness for body and soul finding inner peace.

Follow this link for a series of photos showing the different grades of formality in chabana.

Monday 3 December 2012

Semiformal - In the moment

When choosing materials for chabana use flowers that "speak to you" in the moment. Put everything aside and be prepared to meet beauty in unexpected places. Then use the opportunity to create something from what you discover.

Chabana, Lythrum salicaria/Purple loosestrife?, Red clover, Marigold.

The glazed pottery vase makes this an semiformal chabana. As you can see I have chosen to use two old wooden planks for dai, instead of the prescribed lacquered board. In many situations such expressions of creativity are appreciated, as long as the change is adding to a harmonious whole.

In chabana no props are used to keep the flowers in place. You can use a stick in the opening of the vase if it's necessary, but absolutely no kenzan. Ideally you visualize the chabana as you pick your flowers in the garden. That way you don't cut any material that you won't need. Then you very quickly trim and arrange them directly in your hand to get a simple and natural look. The flowers are ready to be placed in the vase, and that's it. After they have been placed in the vase they are not to be altered in any way. It sounds simple, but to get a good result you have to practice a lot. It's all in the details and in being in the moment. As in all Japanese art forms the many years of working and practicing is what pays off.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Flowers for Formal Tea

Chabana, or tea flowers, is an integrated element of the Japanese tea ceremony. Chabana is a spontaneous type of flower arrangement, naturalistic and extremely simplistic. It's not even called an arrangement - the ideal is a natural "undesigned" look. On the one hand there are no rules for how to place the flowers. They are presented the way they grow in the nature and in a way that highlights their natural characteristics. On the other hand the chabana must always be in harmony with the tea ceremony as a whole and must therefore follow the season and the occasion of the ceremony.

Maple leaves is a beloved symbol of autumn in Japan. In this chabana I have chosen a single, rather tall branch and displayed it in a traditional metal vase. The idea is to show the natural beauty of the slanting maple branch and its fiery red leaves. Chabana with branches are most often smaller in size, so this is one is somewhat uncommon. Also, when arranging maple leaves the most popular way of showing off the leaves is to group them in a mass to get a strong colour effect. 

Chabana, ishu-ike, Japanese Maple.

Basically there are three levels of formality in tea ceremony; formal, semiformal, and informal or shin, gyo and so. A tea master has many sets of utensils and equipments, so that there is always a set that suits the level of formality and the season. There are also variations in the way the ceremony is performed. The chado blog SweetPersimmon has a short and informative article about this that you can read on this link.

According to the book "The Art of Chabana: Flowers for the Tea Ceremony" by Henry Mittwer, the vases and boards (dai) that the vases are placed on can be classified by grade of formality in the following way:

Shin: Bronze vases and Chinese or other porcelainware. Lacquered black board with the edges routed in a V-shape.
Gyo: Glazed pottery. Lacquered baord wtih the edges tapered to a point.
So: Unglazed or semiglazed pottery and basketware. Unfinished cedar or paulownia wood (wet with water to make it appear fresh), or a round board with tapered edge.

All vases should be without decoration. Containers made from bamboo stalk are considered either gyo or so.

"The Art of Chabana: Flowers for the Tea Ceremony"
by Henry Mittwer
Tuttle; 1st edition 1974
ISBN: 0804811113

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