I went for a talk on Ikebana today, and it was hugely instructive. The instructor is from the 草月流 (そうげつりゅう; Sougetsu school) of Ikebana, which is a pretty popular school derived from 池坊 (いけのぼう; Ikenobo School). She was arranging flowers as she talked, and I learnt quite a few things that I thought I'd share
History of Ikebana
Ikebana, also known as Kado (花道), has its roots in Buddhism. When Buddhism was introduced to Japan, it brought over the practice of placing flowers on the alter. Which is why Ikenobo, said to be the oldest ikebana school in Japan, was originally practiced by Buddhist monks (which is in the name of the school itself).
The offering of flowers was also called たて花 (dictionary says it's also one of the styles of ikebana).
Oh, and interestingly enough, she mentioned that Ikenobo may not be the oldest school, because in the Heian Era, there was someone who already started arranging flowers. Unfortunately, I didn't catch the name and googling did not help.
Because it started with the monks, ikebana used to be done mainly by guys. Bu during the high growth period in Japan, it became one of the skills girls were expected to learn (although there are still plenty of guys in Ikebana)
Elements of Ikebana
This is going to be the part where I try not to trip over myself while explaining things.
The Sogetsu style of Ikebana basically has three elements:
1. The line
3. 塊 (katamari), which I'm finding hard to translate but it means something like "mass" or "lump"
Apart from that, there are two other things to remember:
4. Ikebana is about using space well
5. Asymmetry > symmetry
Because of the principle asymmetry, there is the principle of creating a scalene triangle:
I think I took it from the wrong angle, but this was supposed to be a triangle within a triangle. This principle makes ikebana a lot more accessible (according to the teacher), because after you create the triangle, you can fill it with flowers.
And the picture without the drawing:
And through what the teacher calls マッスの形 (the shape of mass), you become aware of katamari (塊を意識する).
Ok, this is including a lot more Japanese than I expected.
Oh, and one thing she wanted us to remember was to always cut the stems in water (水切り) because flowers will last longer that way.
This design fits the room perfectly, and the sensei was very insistent that it's simple enough for us to do.
The point of the class isn't to get people to learn the Sogetsu style of Ikebana (which is comparatively more relaxed), but to get people to have flowers in their everyday lives.
Notice that the two sides of this arrangement are not equal - that's because of the asymmetrical principle. And this does spread out the volume to one side, to make things interesting.
And if you take a closer look at the leaf:
You'll notice that it's torn. This is called ハラン (Haran) and it helps to create curves in this piece.
This is a Halloween-style arrangement, as evident by the colours. She recommends putting two colours that are on the opposite on the colour wheel together to give it pop or to put a gradation of the same colours.
The green thing that looks like bamboo has a really cool texture and apparently was dried and used as sandpaper in the past. The other plant doesn't actually need water, so the teacher put it sideways instead of in the vase.
This is the last arrangement and it was huge. Those branches are called 石灰柳 (lime willows).
You can see the sensei's name at the back, and if you google it, you can find her website. She did go to Singapore too, so I'm guessing that this school will have a branch there too.
This class was extremely interesting, and I had a really great time learning more about ikebana. I'd like to learn more, but I think I'll focus on my kimono and driving classes first. No use biting off more than I can chew.
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