Friday 24 July 2020

Hanakubari Versus Sogetsu Ikebana

Dooryard dock (Rumex longifolius), Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica) and Geranium (Pelargonium). 
Porcelain vase by Brigitte Schneider, Atelier Tokibana.

Any material can be used in contemporary ikebana. In this blog post I have used plant materials found by the roadside. Presenting everyday materials in unexpected ways, showing their inherent beauty, is central to the philosophy of ikebana. It gives you a refreshing experience of seeing the well known as though you see it for the first time.

Dooryard dock

The back side of a leave often has a rich texture. Looking closer at the Dooryard dock I also found that the  leaf edges has a beautiful curly finishing. This tiresome weed looks great when arranged to show it's best qualities. Showing the water surface in the arrangement has a cooling effect on hot summer days, and the green colour adds extra freshness.

Dooryard dock (Rumex longifolius), Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica) and Geranium (Pelargonium). 
Porcelain vase by Brigitte Schneider, Atelier Tokibana.

The technique I have used in this arrangement is similar to hanakubari techniques, using plant materials as visible fixture as well as main materials in the arrangement. "Hanakubari" consists of two Japanese words meaning a flower holder. It's a popular category of contemporary Japanese flower arrangement, promoted by the Mami flower design school. In traditional ikebana the kubari is a twig used as fixture for the plant materials. The kubari fixture is not visible but keeps branches and flowers in their positions in the vase. In hanakubari flower arranging the fixture is an integrated and visible part of the design. The hanakubari kan be a twig, a leaf, or even a stone.

In Sogetsu ikebana the visible supporting materials would be considered a structure, that is not a fixture but rather a main feature of the arrangement. Although I'm not an expert in hanakubari technique I've made a hanakubari version of the same arrangement to explain the difference. In the hanakubari version the leaves are used as a fixture for the flowers (the materials). In the Sogetsu ikebana version the leaves are the main feature, kept in place by the knotweed stem. The red flowers works as an accent in a contrasting colour, hiding in-between the soft texture of the leaves. The flowers are used to accentuate the characteristics of the leaves.

Do you prefer the Sogetsu ikebana version or the hanakubari version? 

Hanakubari, Dooryard dock (Rumex longifolius), Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), Garden Parsnip (Pastinaca Sativa ssp. hortensis) and Creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides).

Monday 15 June 2020

Fragrant Colour Study

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) and double tulip. 
Early summer brings an abundance of flowering plants to enjoy. The joy and enthusiasm results in more luscious ikebana arrangements than in other seasons. One of my favorite early summer flower is the Lilac. With it's characteristic fragrance it is a classic garden tree. The Lilac grows wild in parts of Europe. As a garden tree it survives the winter even in the mountain areas of Sweden where I grew up.

In the Lilac arrangements in this blog post I have worked with colour compositions, combining different shades of pale purple Lilac with deeper purple in the glass containers. In the first arrangement I have also added a very flamboyant double tulip, bringing more nuances of red into the composition. Using a broader section of the colour wheel gives a more complex arrangement. The red also contrasts well with the green Lilac leaves since red and green are complentary colours (on opposite sides of the colour wheel). The use of complementary colours enhances the red even more and gives the arrangement a vibrant energy.

In this second arrangement I have used some left over branches for a more simplified and calming arrangement, using a more reduced section of the colour wheel and leaving out the contrast of complimentary colours.  This arrangement instead makes use of water surface to deepen the sense of colour and add freshness.

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) 
Swedish glass bowl

The season for Lilac is short when the warm weather is exploding. It's already over for this time. Flowering trees truly is a joy of the moment, helping us stop up and enjoy life.

Sunday 24 May 2020

Mother and Child

Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea arguta)
Vintage ikebana vase

The vase or container is always an important and integrated part of an ikebana arrangement. Almost anything can be used as a container, but some vases are especially designed for ikebana use. In the 1950s and 1960s the modern ikebana schools started designing freestyle containers with striking shapes. Today these containers are appreciated again as they go very well with midcentury modern designs.

Sofu Teshigahara, founder of the Sogetsu school of ikebana was inspired by the new contemporary art movement in Europe after WWII. This biomorph vase designed by Sofu was named "Komochi" (子持) meaning Mother with Child. A soft egg shaped form is repeated in a smaller offshoot with identical shape, forming an organic vessel with two openings. The glaze is a pale grayish blue. I've also seen this vase with a black glaze, and also with two twin offshoots from the larger egg shape making it a vase with three openings.

"Kosodate Kannon", Kanon and child.
Image credit The Walters Art Museum.
Mother and child is an iconic motive with strong connotations to religious art. Kannon, the Japanese bodhisattva of love and compassion, is sometimes depicted with a baby boy either in her arms or beside her. She also appeares as a goddess delivering babies to women praying for a child. The Madonna with child is very prevalent in Christian iconography, divided into many traditional subtypes. A medieval sculpture in a church from my home region in Sweden made a strong impact on me as a child. The sculpture depicts St. Anna with her daughter Virgin Mary on her lap, holding the child Jesus. The mother and child motive has relevance to us all on a personal level. We are never done with the love and tension between generations.

"Anna själv tredje", Mattmar church, Sweden.
Image credit: Lennart Karlsson/Historiska Museet. 

In my ikebana arrangement mother and child are covered in a cloud of white Spirea flowers, reflecting the floating moment when the foliage starts to beak in spring. I made this ikebana for Mothers day but haven't had time to post it until now.

Saturday 18 April 2020

Peaceful Joy - Hanami series 2

Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus), bamboo vase
Naturalistic freestyle

Traditional ikebana often combines one "tree material" and one "grass material". Tree materials are mostly branches, while grass materials are flowers and other plants growing from the ground. Combining the two kinds of plant material brings out their character since they are contrasting each other. As an exception to this rule blossoming branches are often arranged on their own as a single material arrangement, ishu-ike in Japanese.

This sour cherry has small white single flowers reflecting the light. Seeing blossoming trees always fills me with peaceful joy. The flowers are delicate and full of energy at the same time. Naked branches with gentle slanting movements.

To stay with the character of these branches I decided to arrange them in a naturalistic freestyle based on the basic slanting style. This is a style that invites us to experience that heaven is not only over us, but also all around us.

When you feel a peaceful joy, that's when you are near truth.


Saturday 11 April 2020

The Energy of Spring - Hanami series 1

European beech (Fagus sylvatica), Flowering cherry (Prunus ’Accolade’)
Bamboo shaped porcelain vase
Freestyle Nageire Sakura theme

Each season has its own energy. When buds on trees and flowers open a vigorous force is released. It is a time for inspired action. This is beautifully expressed in a quote by the Irish poet John O'Donohue: When one flower blooms, spring awakens everywhere. In contemporary ikebana the energy of spring is often expressed by the use of curved lines.

In this ikebana arrangement in a tall nageire vase, spring winds are allowed free expression in a composition of beech branches with buds. These curved lines are combined with a branch of Accolade flowering cherry, representing the calm epicenter of circular winds. What I wanted to catch in this design is the overwhelming experience of being in the here and now of a unique moment, expressed in the Japanese saying "Ichigo-Ichie" - an encounter that happens only once in a lifetime.

What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.

Kobayashi Issa

There are many kinds of cherry trees. The one used in this ikebana is Accolade cherry, a dreamy hybrid cherry with semi-double pink flowers that open from darker buds. It's one of the first cherries in bloom in the springtime.

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