Saturday 26 April 2014

"Ikebana" by Matthew Donaldson

Beautifully done and just two minutes long - take a look at this video with Sogetsu ikebana artist Eikou Sumura:

"“Ikebana expresses not only the beauty of flowers,” says the Sogetsu School's Eikou Sumura, who here demonstrates the revered Japanese art of flower arranging. “It also brings out the essential brilliance and vitality contained in every plant.” Tokyo's Sogetsu School is renowned for its contemporary outlook to ikebana, making strikingly balanced displays using branches, blossom, leaves and synthetic materials. To celebrate the inaugural issue of new magazine Modern Design Review, which launches this week during Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, director Matthew Donaldson traveled to the renowned institution to capture ikebana in action."

Read the full feature on NOWNESS.
You may also want to take a look at the website of Eikou Sumura.

Thursday 24 April 2014

Seattle Performance - A Blossom Cut by a Stone's Shadow

These are photos from my performance A Blossom Cut by a Stone's Shadow presented by INCA Seattle. The location was the covered courtyard outside the Cornish Playhouse, in the Seattle Center, a landmark of modern architecture built for the World’s Fair of 1962. The performance was co-positioned by Aeron Bergman & Alejandra Salinas.

The sound from the courtyard fountain reinforced the rain that was pouring down this day - creating a fitting backdrop for the performance using plant materials from the surrounding area, water from the fountain, and vessels and utensils from a local charity shop.

 Photo: Aeron Bergman

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Trying out Ikebana with Shippo

Seika shape using Shippo fixing.

While I was in Portland I also contacted my FaceBook friend David Komeiji. He is the head of the Saga Goryu School of ikebana in Portland. The Saga Goryu School has it's headquarters in the Daikakuji Temple in Kyoto and is closely related to Shingon Buddhism.

After a very pleasant pot luck meal with mostly Japanese dishes we started working. While the group prepared for an upcoming demonstration I got the opportunity to try out working with a Shippo, a traditional tool used instead of a Kenzan. I have never tried this before so that was a real treat. The Shippo invites to a more slanting placement and you have to work more in accordance with the balance of the materials. Small pieces of the stem are used to fix the stem in the wright position. I tried a simple Seika form arranged with three Aspidistra leaves. David also demonstrated how to make an Inoribana (prayer flowers) which is a newer style developed by the Saga Goryu School.

The container is a wood fired ceramic bowl that I bought from the Portland based ceramicist Chris Baskin who came to deliver a selection of containers for the demonstration. He had made some really stunning big pieces that I was considering buying. I realized in time though that it would have been too unpractical to carry them around all the way back to Norway.

David then asked me to make a freestyle arrangement, still with a Shippo, but in the Sogetsu style. This was also quite challenging, but I like the result and the process of working with it. It's a bit like working with Nageire, you get more in contact with the branches than when you're using a Kenzan.

David's response from a Saga perspective was that it was good that the arrangement fits into a square shape and that the branches goes in all direction. With my Sogetsu approach my attempt was more in the direction of creating open spaces and clear lines, using curved lines in a triangular shape.

Freestyle spring arrangement, using a Shippo fixture.
Kiwi vine, Spirea and Moncs cress.

If you read Japanese you'll find more information on the official website of the Saga Goryu School.

Spring Gardens

After a long period of gray and rainy weather in Portland the sun eventually came through. What a stroke of luck for us visitors! The spring gardens performed at their very best.

Shuho Ikebana
Both Crystal Springs Rhodoendron garden and Lan Su Chinese garden were fantastic. My absolute favorite, however, is Portland Japanese garden. This garden covers a big area on a hill and is composed of five distinct garden styles. It has a flat garden, a strolling pond garden, a tea garden, a natural garden and a sand and stone garden. Portland Japanese garden is often said to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan.

The Garden often hosts ikebana exhibitions by the schools represented in the Portland chapter of Ikebana International. Earlier this month the Garden presented a special Presentation of ikebana by Shuho, the master of Ikebana at Ginkakuji (Jisho-ji) Temple. She is the founder of Ginkaku-ji’s  (The Silver Temple in Kyoto) Center for Ikebana Studies. She is also in charge of organizing international cultural exchange through the Ginkaku Jisho-ji Temple Kenshu Dojo Study Center. Unfortunately we weren't able to see her presentation.

These pictures are from Portland Japanese Garden and the tea house located in the tea garden.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Visiting Portland

Nageire, naturalistic freestyle.

While in Portland I was able to take an ikebana class with a very experienced Sogetsu teacher. Keiko Kodachi has been teaching ikebana in Portland since 1962 and was the founder of the Portland Sogetsu Branch. She holds the teaching rank of Riji, which is the highest in the Sogetsu school.

The class was in her ikebana studio where I met an inspired group of students. Everyone was very welcoming and it was a great experience. Today's task was working with Camellia branches. Since we do not have Camellias in Norway I decided to make an Ishu-ike (one material only) arrangement and work with bending techniques to explore the possibilities of the branches.

Thursday 17 April 2014

A Beloved Japanese Garden

During our stay in Los Angeles we also made a trip to The Huntington botanical gardens in Pasadena. This institution founded by Henry E. Huntington opened to the public already in 1928. More than 14,000 different varieties of plants can be found in the different garden areas. The Japanese garden is one of the most beloved. We learned that this garden was a gift from Henry to his wife Arabella, to make it more attractive to stay in this (at that time) hopelessly unexciting place on earth.

The Japanese house in the garden is considered one of the best examples of early twentieth-century Japanese architecture in the United States. Built in Japan, the house has paneled doors to the outside that can be left open or closed to allow inhabitants to enjoy the gardens around them. I was especially happy to find fresh ikebana arrangements in the rooms with tokonoma.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Back in LA

I always try to find something ikebana related to do when I'm out traveling. There is so much to learn from meeting others and ikebana people are a largely welcoming species. This time in LA I hooked up with Ravi GuneWardena a Sogetsu practitioner and architect with whom I've been communicating by e-mail a year ago. Ravi very gracefully offered to take us to see some interesting examples of midcentury modern Californian houses. When the sun went down we ended up at a nice restaurant in LA's Little Tokyo district, discussing Sogetsu iemoto Akane Teshigahara's visit to LA at the North American Sogetsu Seminar 2013.

Ravi and Frank Escher of Escher GuneWardena Architecture were hired to design the exhibition Living Flowers Ikebana and Contemporary Art at Japanese American National Museum 2008. With simple materials, fabric and paper, they adapted Japanese architectural elements such as shoji screens and tokonoma as a framework for the exhibition, showing works of contemporary artists alongside ikebana created by masters of the Ikenobo, Ohara, and Sogetsu schools of ikebana.

Photo: Japanese American National Museum

They also curated the exhibition Flowers for Pauline at MAK center/Schindler House in 2012.

This video was produced by JANM for the 2008 exhibition, featuring interviews with teachers from the three participating schools:

Thursday 3 April 2014

One Cherry Blossom Opens

Freestyle, Sakura season.
Dried branches with leaves, Ranunculus, pine.

The Sakura (cherry blossom season) has reached it's peak in Kyoto. At least according to the online Cherry Blossom Forecast.

Although it's fare to early here in Norway for Cherry blossoms, this weeks lesson at ikebana class was making arrangements inspired by the Sakura season. The students were doing variation no. 3 (fan style) and tried out making a naturalistic freestyle arrangement after that. The result was very satisfying and we aeed on that the progress in the group was obvious.

I made this upright freestyle arrangement as an example, using a saying as inspiration: "One cherry blossom opens - and everywhere is spring." My ikebana teacher once gave me a deeper interpretation of this saying interpreted as "Open the blossom of enlightenment in your heart and eternal peace dwells in you".

Students work - Sakura inspired fan style arrangements.

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