Ikebana is the Japanese art of floral arranging. It could be a single stem standing upright or a more elaborate piece with branches and blossoms neatly placed in an irregular shape.
It is recognised as one of the Japanese arts of refinement, along with the art of tea ceremonies. The western interpretation of flower arranging relies on nestling flowers in a vase, relying on the container to hold the flowers in place. In contrast, ikebana is more sculptural and is not relegated to a traditional vase. Instead, often using a wide bowl or tray to create a narrative or emotions through shapes and natural materials.
There are many schools, theories and practices within the realm of practicing ikebana. Teachings have been passed down since the 6th century and evolved over time. They share in common an appreciation for the seasons, using materials available at the given time of year. Those who practice ikebana almost always employ a sense of minimalism, displaying a few key elements rather than crowding the viewer. This traditional art form dates back to when floral offerings were made at altars; now, ikebana is displayed in homes, on exhibition and in quiet places of reflection.
When it comes to ikebana, there are four principles to take note of, embrace a fresh approach, consider movement, find balance and create harmony. There are always three elements which must also be considered line, color and mass. Sōfū Teshigahara, the founder of the Sōgetsu-ryūschool of ikebana flower arranging, also shared wisdoms of practicing including:
● Beautiful flowers do not always make beautiful ikebana
● Communicate with the flowers as you work with them.
● Be genuine, serene, and attentive at the practice.
● Remember there are always new, surprising themes and approaches to arranging ikebana.
Ikebana was first introduced in Japan in the 6th century by a Chinese Buddhist missionary who had formalised this ritual of flower arranging by offering it to Buddha. A century later, the first school of flower arranging in Japan, Ikenobō, was created by Ono no Imoko, a former Japanese envoy to China, turned Buddhist priest.His school focused on creating harmony within a simple linear construction, a way to better appreciate the subtle beauty of flowers.
Over the years, ikebana flourished with many major schools opening across Japan, some of which still exist to this day. Each of them approaches flower arranging in their own ways, particularly with how they approach composition and techniques. The major schools include Ikenobō, Ohara, Ko and Sogetsū.
Whilst Ikebana can be decorative in nature, it is more of a spiritual technique that fosters a close relationship with nature. It bridges the divide between indoors and outdoors. The practice of ikebana is akin to meditation, bringing a calm focus to the mind.
Depending on your vase or receptacle, adding some water is a great way to keep your flower arrangement fresh for longer. Where possible, submerge the base of your flower steps in freshwater, and change daily.
There are many reputable ikebana masters and schools in London, including Hanako Motoya, the Ohara EnglandChapter and the Sogestu London School. Visit their websites for more details on ikebana events and classes near you in London. To learn some basic tips right away, read our guide Ikebana: 5 Things To Know When Flower Arranging.
There exists a style of ikebana for all people, finding one that best suits your personality will make the craft more enjoyable and enlightening. For those meticulous and rigid or those who are freer spirited. All ikebana embraces creativity. However, some are more disciplined and involved than others. Over the centuries, many patterns and styles have been cultivated. While there is no way to know exactly how many, it is estimated that there are over 2000 different styles taught. Here are some of the most intriguing and popular styles to help you start your forays into ikebana.
Rikka came about during the Azuchi-Momoyama era that is defined by the building of sizable and luxurious castles. Rikka-style ikebana is a three-dimensional arrangement composed of seven or nine plants, allowing it to be appreciated from every angle. Each element and flower is specially chosen to mimic the changing of seasons.
This style of ikebana is ideal for those who prefer not to follow the rules. Unbound by traditions or formality, jiyuka-style ikebana encourages creativity and freeform flower arranging.
Shoka-style ikebana favours simplified forms and emphasizes 3 lines. Oftentimes, 3 different plants are used in this floral arrangement. Balance is key, taking into account where the sunlight may be within the arrangement.
This style of ikebana uses familiar bottle-shaped vases. This style of ikebana is unique in that adjustments are totally forgone.Flowers and branches are tossed into the vase, and wherever they settle, the arrangement will sit as is without modifications. This ties into the teachings of wabi-sabi, which encourages us to accept the transient and imperfect.
During a time where Japan opened its doors to the west, an influx of foreign plants and flora began appearing all over Japan. Naturally, it made its way into people's home, and thus moribana-style ikebana came to be. This style incorporated flowers of all origins into its arrangement.