You’ve likely heard of the term ‘ikebana’ in reference to floral arrangements before, and if you’ve ever seen it, you know it is vastly different from the elaborate bouquets of the West. Ikebana is the very intentional art of Japanese flower arranging, a symbol of refinement that is professionally taught in 1,000 different schools within Japan and around the globe. It is a practice that pays tribute to nature, creates a sense of stillness, allows you to appreciate art and exudes harmony all at once.
Flower arranging has been around for many years. It symbolises a many great deal of things like love, a heartfelt thank you or deep condolences. There’s a truly global appreciation for the ability to arrange flowers just so. In recent years, Ikebana has gained more widespread popularity from the rise of Japandi style, the fusion between Japanese and Scandinavian design styles which are ideal for minimalist interiors.
Japanese craftsmanship has been known for its precision and grand devotion of its artisans over a lifetime or in most cases, over generations. It seems to trickle through much of Japanese culture, like with sushi or pottery. Japanese floral art is no exception. To the untrained eye, Ikebana may seem like placing a few flowers within a bowl. However, this art form draws its roots from Buddhism and Wabi-Sabi, the appreciation of imperfection and impermanence. All intended to bring peace to one’s mind.
While it can take years to perfect the art of Ikebana, this should not deter you from trying as it is elaborate as it is unpretentious. What follows are some rudimentary words of advice to help bring Ikebana into your home.
Balance often evokes imagery of a seesaw, perfectly level across the board. However, balance in this case actually embraces forms of asymmetry. This confusing oxymoron is more prevalent in art than you think. Asymmetrical designs usually evoke feelings of movement whilst still achieving the aesthetically pleasing effect of a well-composed design.
In Ikebana, it’s common to see tall branches balanced carefully, using a 30/70 ratio rather than a 50/50 ratio. Not only does it add another layer of sophistication to your piece, but it also brings out the Wabi-sabi nature of design, a core tenet of Japanese aesthetics.
When attempting Ikebana for the first time, we would recommend the Ohara Hana-isho style. In Ikebana this is known as the freehand kind of style which can be achieved easily by beginners. It is apt for smaller rooms without much space to work with. With Hana-isho, you can display your individuality freely because the principal and auxiliary stems can be placed freely according to the characteristics of your materials. Compositions remain simple and focus on the colours of the chosen florals.
There are a variety of sophisticated styles within Ikebana, however, it is good to note that the basic structure is of a scalene triangle, delineated by three main points which represent heaven, earth and humanity. You can adopt a very minimalist style, eclectic design or adopt a more modern aesthetic, the vase is your canvas.
One of the most defining elements of Ikebana is its use of diverse materials, usually delightful blooming flowers, moss, stems and branches. All arranged in a visually appealing manner. Ikebana may have rules, but when it comes to particular kinds of flowers, it does not discriminate. Of course, it is more practical to opt for sturdy, robust branches like bamboo, and embrace seasonal flowers that are readily available.
Ikebana is the minimalist answer to the loud and proud world of traditional floral arrangements, so naturally, we encourage you to display your piece in a clean-looking environment. Simple directional lines, negative space and a spot that feels mindful allows ikebana arrangements to fulfil their full potential. In fact, thanks to their overall striking appearance, they are the perfect stand-alone décor piece for a minimalist space. Because Ikebana is rooted in Buddhism, it invites you to place it somewhere serene for you to focus on, instantly injecting a Japanese interior design feel. Pause and take in its beauty.
Designer 12H craft all pieces showcased – “What does 12h stand for? Our brand name is very meaningful in China. Known as Shiershiman, it pays homage to the ancient concept of a ‘12-hour day’; to live each day to the fullest and to embrace creativity. These traditional values influence everything we do in the design studio. My work is a good example of the relationship between the traditional and the modern. The Yin and Yang. And a harmonious coexistence of strength and elegance.”
The real mastery of Ikebana is not how you put something together, but what you don’t add to the mix. It’s far easier to add an element than it is to take one back. Everything should feel purposeful, and not choke the foundations it sits within or atop. Less is always more in Ikebana.
Intimidating at first, Ikebana is not as complicated as it appears. It is both a treat for the eyes and mind, perfectly illustrating a fascinating crux of Japanese culture, demonstrating respect, precision and zen. It also brings a whole new perspective to flower arrangements, inviting us to connect to nature on a much deeper level. Once you have these basics down, it’s about honing that focus and exploring a variety of materials to challenge your innate understanding of composition.