Tuesday 30 December 2014

Thoughtful Travel

Rocks, pine, moss, sand and metal figure.
Landscape morimono ikebana.

New Year is a time for celebration but also for thoughtfulness. Summing up the year that is over - the good and the bad. And reaching for the unknown with wishes and goals for the year to come. The circle is complete and starts again.

New Year is a celebration with very rich traditions when it comes to ikebana. Traditional materials with deep symbolic meaning are used, again and again every year. Although it could be interesting to look more into those traditions I've chosen a totally different theme for this New Years greeting.

Suiseki is a japanese tradition of collecting rocks and stones with special shapes and character, often resembling dramatic mountains in miniature. These rocks are appreciated as art objects, treasured and exhibited. They are also used in bonsai and bonseki (sand landscapes on black lacquer trays). Suiseki are sometimes also used in a special form of landscape ikebana, combining rocks with plant materials and small figures in this unusual category of morimono arrangement (morimono meaning "arranging things on something").

The little man traveling on his water buffalo, with high mountains hiding the next curve of the path, gives the landscape a quality of quiet thoughtfulness. Moving on he leaves some things behind. Is he thinking of the goal for this days trip or is he just enjoying the moment? New Year is a time for contemplation, a lonesome moment of thoughtful travel in-between the joyful toasts and glamourous celebrations.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Blue Christmas Greetings!

Apple tree branches, Japanese washi paper and Christmas paper,
Poinsettia, Blue spruce.

With Christmas just around the corner I would like to thank you for reading this blog, whether it's your first time or you are a frequent visitor. A special thanks goes to those of you who are commenting on the blog posts or keeping in touch in other ways. This communication means a lot to me. I hope you enjoy this years Christmas greeting from Nordic Lotus - this time in a blue colour scheme. Inspired by gift wrapping and the frosty magic of a Christmas night, I've used Japanese waxed washi paper to create an interesting form around the branches.

Wishing you a Joyous Holiday Season and a New Year filled with Peace and Happiness!


Sunday 21 December 2014

Party Flowers

Red bamboo sticks, gold painted Aspidistra,
Phalaenopsis, Snowberry, Thuja.

I learned earlier this year that Orchids and other exotic flowers are often used in Christmas and New Years ikebana to accentuate the festivity and special quality of the Holidays. From that point of view flowers that are not use every day are appropriate.

Orchids are really expensive and not commonly seen in bouquets in Norway. The exception would be at weddings. So cutting just one stem of Phalaenopsis is already more than most people would do at home. But Christmas comes but once a year - I'll give you the Orchid stem and some gold painted leaves echoing the shape of the vase to cheer you up. The vase is a Danish 1960s glass vase named Carnaby. A true mid-century modern collectible designed by Per Lutken for Holmegaard glassworks. Put on the party music!

Thursday 18 December 2014

Christmas Colours

Thuja and Carnations.
Combined arrangement - basic upright and variation no 3.

Ikebana for the Holiday season is often based on shiny materials with gold or silver and sometimes even Christmas ornaments or candles integrated in the design. More than other times of the year the focus is on decor and festivity.

It doesn't have to be over the top though. In the Nordic countries Christmas is also closely related to the snowy winter landscape and a more rustic esthetics based on natural materials with accents of the Christmas colours green and red.

If this is your preferred Christmas approach - why not choose one or two of the basic ikebana styles making a peaceful naturalistic Christmas ikebana for your home. In my example I have combined two styles into one arrangement to make it a bit more interesting. I've kept it all very simple, but you can of course ad some Babies breath or other white flowers if you want it even more Christmassy. Remember not to over crowd, but keep a lot of open space and a harmonious flow in the materials.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Tea Whisk in a Bowl

Pin cushion flower, Aspedistra.
Wood fired ceramic bowl by Michiko Takahashi Nilsen.

This autumn I've started studying Japanese tea ceremony. So far I've only gotten to a brief understanding of the structure of the Chakai, tea gathering, and practicing the preparations. As with ikebana it is a study that lasts a lifetime. Through my ikebana studies I've learned quite a lot about the traditions and philosophy of the tea ceremony. Tea philosophy has influenced ikebana in the direction of simplified arrangements and a wabi-sabi esthetics.

Inspired by the shape of a Protea, Pin cushion flower, I made this simplified ikebana at home. The flower represents a chasen tea whisk placed on a folded linnen cloth, chakin, in the tea bowl. It's not placed in exactly the way a whisk would be, it merely represents the way the utensils are prepared before being carried in an presented to the guests.

This is not a chabana, a tea flower intended for the tea room, but rather a contemporary ikebana celebrating the care and hospitality inherited in the detailed preparations for a tea ceremony.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Come Dance With Me!

Japanese Fantail Willow, Amaryllis, Aspedistra.

Working with ikebana makes you see branches and flowers in ways you have never seen them before. Some branches are really straight, but most of them have more or less bends and curves. Thats why they change so much when you turn them around and look at them from different angles.

Hanamai, or dancing flowers, is a relatively new style of ikebana that has gained great popularity since it was created in 1985 by Natsuki Ohara, the forth master of the Ohara school of ikebana. Although it is one of the characteristic styles of the Ohara school, hanamai ikebana is loved and practiced by ikebanists from many different schools today.

Amaryllis, Aspedistra, Sibirian Dogwood.

The idea is to use the movement of the lines of the materials and create a dynamic energy in-between them. Most often coming up from two or three vases branches, leaves and flowers lean together, almost touching as if they are saying "Come dance with me!".

Sunday 30 November 2014

Japan Spirit and Form - The Rimpa School

What a good timing! This documentary on the Rimpa school that I recently came across, makes a nice follow up to my previous post abut Rimpa inspired ikebana. The video gives an introduction to the style and show the most iconic Rimpa paintings. It also discusses how the Rimpa style, with its stylized and simplified forms of nature, fascinated people in the West after Japan was opened up to the rest of the world. It's interesting to see how this Japanese school of art had a great influence on the new Art Nouveau style, coming up in Paris around the turn of the century.

“The Rimpa School Crosses the Ocean” is the fifth episode of the 1989 NHK series, “Japan: Spirit and Form”. If you have the time there is a lot to learn by watching the whole series:
#1 “Form at the Beginning” - Ceramics from the Jomon period
#2 “The Meeting of the Gods and Buddha” - The relationship between Shintoism and Buddhism
#3 Discovery of the “Pure Land” - The Kamakura Period of Japanese history
#4 Japanese Ink Painting: Landscapes of the Mind

Monday 24 November 2014

Rimpa Inspiration

Rimpa inspired ikebana, Autumn Landscape.
Iris, Ornamental cabbage, yellow and purple Chrysanthemum, Ornithogalum.
Five materials, multiple containers.

Rimpa style ikebana is one of the trade marks of the Ohara school of ikebana. It is based on the highly decorative landscape paintings of the Rimpa School, a style that originated in 17th century Kyoto and flourished during the Edo Period. The Rimpa ikebana was created in 1964 by the late iemoto Houn Ohara.

Since Rimpa ikebana is a style that interprets traditional Japanese paintings, it is an interesting exercise no matter what school you are studying with. It gives a deeper understanding of fundamental principles of Japanese esthetics and arts. The Sogetsu school does not teach Rimpa ikebana, but encourages more advanced students to make Rimpa arrangements inspired by the Ohara style.

Spring Landscape, unknown Rimpa school painter,
18th century, six-screen ink and gold on paper. (Wikipedia)

Friday 21 November 2014

Haiku Interpretations

Bulrush, Aspedistra, Stock.
Straight and curved lines, focusing on water.

Over the suspended bridge
in mad confusion
cold lines of rain

This haiku is supposedly by Yosa Buson (1716-1784), but I haven't been able to confirm this information. It's been translated from Norwegian to English for the purpose of sharing it in this blog post. If you recognize the haiku and have information about it, or if you know of an English translation, it would be of great help if you posted a comment or contacted me.

Chrysanthemum, Larch tree, Pine, Mulberry bark.
Curved lines, two containers.

The temple bell dies away
the scent of flowers in the evening
is still tolling the bell

Matsuo Basho 1644 – 1694 (translated by RH Blyth)

Saturday 15 November 2014

Renka - Playful and Rhythmical

What would you do if someone gave you five minutes to create an ikebana arrangement?  I have been surprised many times when I have looked at the watch after spending more than an hour on an arrangement. Still, ikebana is also about spontaneity and about catching what's in the moment.

The late iemoto of the Sogetsu school, Hiroshi Teshigahara, introduced the Renka style ikebana as a new form of working together on ikebana, and as an avant-garde approach to the classical world of Japanese arts. The poetry style of Renga is going back at least 900 years. It is a playful form of poetry were the first poet starts the poem with a vers setting a theme. The second poet continues with another verse, and so on until the poem is finished.

Renka Ikebana arrangement by Inger Lise Arnesen and Lennart Persson.

Hiroshi Teshigahara explained "Renka is interesting because the range of expression can be expanded by the clashing or the concurrence of two individual styles. The unexpected, unpredictable result from such cooperative work transcends the individual and makes it really interesting. The beginning work is expanded into all kinds of possibilities, so if it is not up to par, the whole work will fail."

Renka Ikebana arrangement, detail.
Bulrush, Stocks, Sansevieria trifasciata, Male fern, Carnation.

A fellow student and I were put to work on a renka arrangement as part of learning about ikebana and Japanese arts. We were taking turns creating the "verses" of the poetry, and since we hadn't got more than five minutes to finish each contribution it had to be intuitive and spontaneous. The clue is to repeat or comment on a theme, form or colour in the previous arrangements so that the result becomes one rhythmical and harmonious work. As in Renga poetry the completed form is not known before the last ikebana arrangement is finished.

Renka Ikebana arrangement, detail.
Sansevieria trifasciata, Carnation, Chrysanthemum, Kiwi vine, Japanese Knotweed, 

I didn't have time to stay the whole class so my team mate finished off by connecting the different parts with bulrush straws, which was one of the materials we used.

Renka Ikebana arrangement, finished work. 

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Yuji Ueno Live at Connecticut College

We leave digital footprints wherever we go these days, not every step we take ends up on YouTube though. This video reports from ikebana artist Yuji Ueno's visit to Connecticut College. Using rocks and branches from the Arboretum to reflect the natural landscape, he builds a tall ikebana sculpture infront of an enthusiastic audience. He does a good job working with the natural balance of the materials and finally finds a way to get the rocks and branches to collaborate.

The video is produced by students at Connecticut College.

I recently posted a review of Ueno's book Japanese ikebana for every seasons. Click the link to read more.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Woodland Soft Mass

Wood Horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) Cala lilies and Carnation.

The contrast and balance between lines and masses is one of the most characteristic features of contemporary ikebana. Sometimes the arrangements draws on the textures of masses alone, without added lines.

These two arrangements are based  on the airy qualities of two woodland plants. Branches of Wood horsetail and Bilberry sprigs form a fluffy vail, almost covering the colorful flower focal points.

Soft masses are a variation of the more commonly used compact or strong mass arrangement. The arrangements needs to have a defined form without being heavy. The see-through quality of the materials gives the soft mass arrangements an attractive dreamlike appearance.

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and Carnations.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Utsurawa-ba in Oiso

It's been a while since I posted a video with the guys in Utsurawa-ba. Imai So-Sen (Ikebana) and Koyu (electric bass) are back in a larger format than the usual bar setting. This time with a performance at the Tokoin Temple in Oiso, a town with sandy beaches on the Sagami bay, Southeast of Tokyo. In this performance they are aslo joined by special guest Kengo Oshima (ikebana). Enjoy!

Wednesday 29 October 2014

The Most Wabi-Sabi Month of The Year

Autumn in ikebana is characterized by a sentiment of melancholy. Autumn is the time of the year when the wabi-sabi quality in things surrounding us is at its strongest. It has been said that October is the most wabi-sabi month of the year.

While we still have a couple of days left of October I'd like to share with you two resent arrangements, one abstract and one naturalistic, that draws on this aesthetics. Both are making use of containers that are marked by age and recalls the beauty of everyday life.

Bulrush and Carnation.
Old rusty berry picker.

While wabi refers to rustic simplicity, quietness and an understated elegance, sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age. The wabi-sabi aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Wabi and sabi both suggest sentiments of desolation and solitude, and can bring a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

This way of thinking turns many things in our culture upside-down and reminds us of the true beauty in life.

Japanese Knotweed, Japanese spirea and Carnations.
Old worn willow basket.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Ichiyo Ikebana Live 2014

I've been posting quite a bit about Ichiyo ikebana this autumn. This video is from this year's Ichiyo ikebana live, taking place in Tokyo in July. It's a stage performance with the iemto Akihiro Kasuya and his son Iemoto Designate, Naohira Kasuya, working together on a magic landscape. As always with Ichiyo, there is a lot of bamboo and also balancing materials by their natural weights.

The show starts a couple of minutes into the video, so you can skip the first part if you don't understand Japanese.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Autumn Miniatures

Male fern, Calla lily, Chrysanthemum, Flax, Snowberry, autumn leaf, Physalis,
Gladiolus, Common polypody (fern), red berries.
Miniature porcelain vases.

Miniature ikebana is a style developed by Kasumi Teshigahara, the second iemoto of the Sogetsu school, in the 1960s and 70s. They are often presented in groups, as in this ensemble of five small porcelain vases. The fun thing with miniatures is that you can present details of flowers and leaves, and make them stand out in unexpected ways. They open our eyes to the small joys in life.

Friday 17 October 2014

Bento Box Leftover Ikebana - The Rhythm of The Way of Flowers

One of my former ikebana students told me that although he really liked the ikebana classes, there was one thing that had been a disappointment to him. Knowing that ikebana is a deeply spiritual art form, he had expected that watching the flowers wither, going through all the stages of life, would also be part of the ikebana concept. Why are the flowers removed when they don't look fresh anymore? I've gotten this question from several other people too. Maybe it's a Scandinavian thing having to do with living close to nature and being part of a culture that appreciates an honest and sometimes rough approach to the facts of life.

Leftover flowers: Sticks of Japanese Knotweed, Chrysanthemum,
Hylotelephium telephium, Carnations, Physalis, Rowan berries.
Mosaic arrangement in a wooden beehive box.

In ikebana time that is passing is an important concept. There should always be something in the arrangement representing time that have passed, the past, but the most important thing is to have an element that points to the future. That's why buds are preferred to fully opened flowers. While buds represents the future, flowers that are half open, in the process of opening, depicts the moment of here and now. Fully opened flowers are already passed that act of opening and symbolizes the past.

One might say that removing the flowers when they are withering are part of respecting them. They can no longer fulfill their purpose, and we shouldn't expect to much of the flowers. When the flowers start withering they can be recut and arranged in new ways that expects less from them. Cutting them short and rearranging them as floating flowers or in a mass, like in this mosaic arrangement inspired by a bento box lunch, is one way of prolonging the life of the flowers. This particular arrangement is made in an old beehive box found in the forest.

When flowers used in ikebana are finally withered they will traditionally be carried respectfully out of the house to moulder in the garden from where they came. That is the rhythm of the way of flowers.

Monday 13 October 2014

Monk Sips His Morning Tea

silence - monk
sips his morning tea.

Matsuo Basho

Chrysanthemum, Japenese maple and pine.
Old tea box.
Naturalistic freestyle.

Haiku from:
On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho
Trans. from Japanese with introduction by Lucien Styrk
Penguin Classics, 1985

Sunday 12 October 2014

Japanese Ikebana for Every Season

I recently got the book Japanese Ikebana for Every Season as a gift from a friend in Japan. It's an inspiring book written by Yuji Ueno and Rie Imai, and photographed by Noboru Murata.

Ueno is an independent ikebana artist, coming from a Sogetsu ikebana background, now moving in other directions and finding his own path.

In many ways Ueno's ikebana is related to the works by other well known contemporary ikebana artists working with a simple yet strong expression, such as for example  Chisen Furukawa and Kawase Toshiro. This is a long tradition in ikebana, that draws inspiration from the simplicity of tea-ceremony culture and Zen aesthetics. With his new approach to ikebana Ueno inspires others to join him on a creative journey.

The book is presented as a new direction in ikebana. I would say that there are several parallel trends in ikebana today, one being the simplistic style that Ueno advocates. Another being the more lush styles that can be seen in recent works from the major modern ikebana schools, such as Sogetsu,  Ichiyo, Ohara and others. Yet another trend being the somewhat updated Neo-classic ikebana, like modern tatehana, also represented by Kawase. The flirt with classic ikebana is also noticeable in Ueno's approach. His refusal of the use of kenzan as a fixture, describes this tool as an ugly and cruel invention unsuitable for creating true ikebana.

With the book the authors wants to reach out to a larger crowd than the ordinary ikebana practitioners and widen the interest in 'Japanese style flower arrangement'. The natural and simplistic ikebana trend is presented as a style that is more accessible for an audience without previous knowledge of ikebana. But is this true? Yes and no, I would say. Ueno's ikebana has a pleasant expression that goes well with modern interiors and lifestyles, and it encourages the readers to try out this communication with nature and create arrangements at home. On the other hand the success of a simple yet strong expression relies on the details and on the experienced hand, that in ikebana is said to come from a lifetime of discipline and practice. It may look more simple than it is.

Fortunately this book has a good amount of comments on how to approach the principles behind ikebana, and how to foster a sensibility for nature and develop an intuition for bringing out the inherent beauty of plants. The book also shows a good sense for coordinating ikebana and interiors.  The somewhat narrowing title of the book doesn't do justice to it's much richer content. The same goes for the front cover design, that in my opinion looks a bit outdated. Luckily it doesn't at all match the much nicer presented photos that awaits inside the book.

You can preview the book by clicking "Look inside the book" at Amazon.

You are also welcome to have a look at my earlier blog posts about Yuji Ueno:

Sunday 5 October 2014

Farewell to Summer - Traditional and Contemporary

Hedge Cotoneaster and Rose.
Moribana slanting style variation no 1.

It's definitely time to say farewell to summer. Although this summer has been unusually warm and long it's now already Mid-Autumn. Autumn, with melancholy, crisp air and warm colors, is great for ikebana. Some time ago I made these two arrangements as a farewell to summer. The first is a basic Sogestu style, focusing on the colors of the leaves turning red. The flowers are strictly speaking to white for this season, but it makes a nice contrast. The second is an abstract freestyle interpretation of the same theme, the main material being a red-orange plastic berry picker. This arrangement is based on the use of untraditional materials, two containers and mass and line. Making the form of the mass and the lines as stringent as possible is the key to a balanced result in this type of arrangement.

Berry picker, Bilberry, Hylotelephium telephium, Crocosmia.
Abstract freestyle.

Friday 3 October 2014

Workshop Exercises - Seeing Through Another's Eyes

As mentioned in a previous blog post I attended ikebana workshops in Stockholm a few weeks ago. The workshops were with sensei Kathleen Adair from the Ichiyo School in Tokyo. Both the Ichiyo School and the Sogetsu School (my school) are modern ikebana schools, Sogetsu being founded in 1927 and Ichiyo ten years later in 1937. This means they are both reinterpreting the old traditions of ikebana and aim for a contemporary expression.

Light and darkness.
Leaves, Chrysanthemum, bleached fern, green berries. Ceramic container.

Although there are many similarities between the different modern schools, there are also differences in the philosophies and aesthetics. That's what made it so interesting to get an opportunity to experience Ichiyo ikebana. It's like seeing ones own tradition through another's eyes.

Firethorn (Pyracantha) and Monstera leaves. Ceramic container.

What I first noticed from the demonstration was that while Sogetsu traditionally have grouped the different plant materials rather separately to emphasize the character of each material, at least in this Ichiyo demonstration the emphasis was on spreading the materials throughout the arrangement to create a flow and balance. There where also more different kinds of materials and colours blended together, while Sogetsu has favored the use of a restricted amount, often just two materials, to get a strong and characteristic result.

Variegated grass, Clematis and Freesia.
Bamboo basket and ceramic bowl.

Bearing these differences in mind I instructed myself to think out of the box and try the Ichiyo way. This turned out to be more difficult than expected. It soon got really messy and unbalanced. The theme of the first workshop was light and darkness and contrasts. The second day the task was looking at the material you choose thoroughly and see how you best can arrange it and create a relation to the container. The funny thing was that when the sensei was suggesting changes to improve the arrangements she asked me to to put things closer to create more distinct lines, and to group the flowers together to get a stronger focus point. She aslo gave some useful advice to illustrate the idea of creating a flow through the arrangements.

Palm leaves, Solidago and round-headed leek.
Ichiyo ceramic container with wholes.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Light and Darkness - Ichyio Demonstration

One of the ikebana practitioners that I have come in contact with by writing this blog is Kathleen Adair, Junior Executive Master of the Ichiyo School in Tokyo. Through our exchange of e-mails Kathleen has also become a dear friend and I've been looking for an opportunity to meet her 'in real life'. A couple of weeks ago it finally happened. Sensei Kathleen Adair has been on a tour in Europe and visited Stockholm, Sweden, for a program with demonstrations and workshops hosted by Judit Katkits of First leaf ikebana, Ichiyo ikebana in Stockholm.

The program lasted from Saturday to Sunday and there was a demonstration and a workshop each day, the first one held at The Museum of Ethnography and the second at The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. In this blog post I want to give you a glimpse of the first demonstration, with the theme Light and darkness.

The demonstration started off with a cooling arrangement in a tall glass vase. Kathleen reminded us that when using a see-through vase for ikebana, one is always arranging the water just as much as one is arranging the flowers. To make an appealing and interesting arrangement there must always be a relation between the plant materials and the container.

While the first arrangement was 'the last summer arrangement for the season', the second was a traditional autumn arrangement: A moon viewing arrangement with Chrysanthemum, using a loosely woven basket as a flower holder in the shallow container. A specially made Japanese round fan, uchiwa, representing the moon, is attached to a bamboo vase in this arrangement consisting of two parts.

The next arrangement was about making something modern with a very traditional old container, in this case a large bamboo vase made for formal traditional ikebana. By using light and fresh materials and using a plastic covered metal vaier instead of vines, the arrangement got a new and modern feeling to it.

Creating structures of branches to hold the other materials is one of the specialities of the Ichyo school. In this arrangement Mitsumata branches are used stacked on top of each other, as a fixture for the flowers. The arrangement is also lifted up on a plexiglass holder to ad space around the arrangement and create a less heavy impression.

For the last arrangement leftover flowers were used in an arrangement meant to lighten up the dark autumn and winter nights of Sweden. LED lights were placed in a base and glass bowls placed on top of them, so that the plant materials where lit up from beneath.

Judith Katkits, representing the Ichiyo school in Sweden, introduced sensei Kathleen Adair and her assistant.

Friday 19 September 2014

Morning Glory

Morning glory / Large bindweed (Calystegia sepium).
Naturalistic freestyle.

The flower of the Morning glory opens early in the morning and lasts for one day only. Not a very  long-lasting friend in other words, but for this very reason it is a favored flower by tea masters. The ideal flowers for a tea ceremony are the ones that you pick very fresh the same morning, and that lasts a few hours until the ceremony is over. It's a quality that goes well with the experience of catching the moment and being here and now.

Morning glory was first known in China as a medicine plant. It was introduced to Japan in the 9th century. The Japanese where the first to cultivate it as an ornamental flower, and have been leading in developing varieties.

I picked these flowers a couple of weeks ago, really late in the season. In Japanese horticulture and art the Morning glory has come to symbolize summer. My flowers are a wild species named Large bindweed, Calystegia sepium. They grow wild in parts of Norway and are not to be panted in gardens as they are very invasive. Next time I will make sure to also pick an end part of these long creepers, so that I can add an open line going out of the circular movement. That would give an even more poetic result, I think.

One of the most famous stories about the tea master Rikyu involves Morning glories. Lord Hideyoshi had heard about the beauty of Rikyu’s blooming Morning glories and announced that he would come and see them. When he arrived, however, not a single Morning glory was to be seen in the garden, but only the stubble of their stalks left in the garden. The lord was terrifically displeased. When he entered the tearoom, however, he found one splendid morning glory, fresh and radiant, arranged in a vase in the alcove. The lord and his attendants felt suddenly refreshed, as if they had just awakened (as told on the website zencha.org).

Monday 15 September 2014

Bamboo and Chrysanthemum

I found this gorgeous photo of two Maiko (Apprentice Geisha) seated next to a bamboo vase with a Chrysanthemum Ikebana arrangement, and wanted to share it with you. Note the placement of the "window" opening in the vase, that is different from what we usually see nowadays.

This 1880's photo was uploaded to Flickr by the user Blue Ruin 1, who is commenting: "Although this image is not numbered, it looks like it might be an early photograph from the Kusakabe Kimbei studio, as the senior Maiko on the left appears in another of his photographs with the same chequered matting and low skirting boards in the background."

Please also visit Blue Ruin 1's photo stream on Flickr for lots of vintage Japanese photos.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Tea House Revisited

This morning I went to The Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm for an ikebana demonstration and workshop. I will write more about the activities later. In this posting I just wanted to show you some photos of the tea house Zui-Ki-Tei, The Cottage of Auspicious Light, situated in the garden outside the museum. The current Tea House is a copy of the original built in 1935, probably the first tea house in Europe.

I've studied this tea house on the internett and wrote a blog post about it's fascinating history a few years ago.  So although this was my first visit, it was in a way also a joyful revisit.

There was a tea ceremony in preparation this morning, which meant that luckily the house was opened up. On the other hand there were people coming to make everything ready for the guests, and I didn't really think I should walk in their way. The last picture, with the chabana (Tea flowers), is not very sharp. I had to do a runner and didn't have time to get the camera to focus properly.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Kiku and Double Nine

Today, the ninth day of the ninth month, is the day of the the Chrysanthemum Festival, Kiku Matsuri. It's the fifth and final of a series of seasonal festivals, the Go-Sekku. The Chrysanthemum, Kiku in Japanese, is the most celebrated of all Japanese fall-flowering plants.

Chrysanthemum, Japanese Knotweed and pine.
Abstract freestyle, straight lines, kabu-wake.

In old Chinese traditions the day is also called 'Double Yang Festival'. According to Chinese tradition, nine is a yang number. The ninth day of the ninth lunar month gives a 'double ninth', and makes this a day that has too much yang energy. Because of that is said to be a potentially dangerous date. Translated to the Gregorian calendar this places the festival somewhere late October to mid November. In 2014 the date is October 2. Another explanation says that odd numbers are lucky numbers, and as nine is the highest of them a double nine gives a very auspicious day. This festival has come to be associated with chrysanthemum flowers as they are believed to protect against danger. Chrysanthemum petals are placed in sake cups. The chrysanthemum can also be used as tea, wine or even as a vegetable. Chrysanthemum are considered to have cleansing qualities and give long life.

In Japan, the festival is known as 'Choyo' and is most commonly celebrated on September 9. Japan's Royal family holds a 'viewing Chrysanthemum banquet'. However, most of the celebrations of Kiku seems to still follow the lunar calendar. Big exhibitions, Kikka-ten, of the most impressive Chrysanthemum are held in many places in October and November. The Chrysanthemum was introduced to Japan from China and the Japanese have since developed a special talent for growing and refining this flower.

The Chrysanthemum also have long traditions in the history of ikebana. It's been told that The Emperor Saga (810-823) brought the art of ikebana to perfection when he arranged yellow and white Chrysanthemums from an island in the pond at the palace Daikakuji. He put them in a flower vase, without adjusting any stems or leaves, and was so pleased with the result that he said "Hereafter, if you want to put flowers in a vase, follow this example of mine."

Big Chrysanthemum flowers are often arranged together with pine. I've made two arrangements, one traditional fan style and one contemporary abstract, that are meant to show the strength and elegance of the Kiku.

Chrysanthemum and pine.
Fan style, variation no. 3.

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