生け花 – Flower Arrangement

Ikebana is the traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement.  I live right next to the local community center where this takes place once or twice a month, so there have been a couple occasions where I’ve walked on down and given it a whirl.  I am generally not good in any artistic endeavor, but from a cultural perspective this was worth trying out.  Under the guidance of Mrs. Doi I can adhere to the basics and come up with something passable.  Every week she would show up with a different assortment of flowers, varying in type and color.

Unlike a bouquet, this Japanese style flower arrangement is formed with a front-facing perspective in mind and also emphasizes the use of space rather than simply clumping a number of pretty flowers together.  It is an old art that stretches back several hundred years and originates in the practices of Buddhist monks.  The arrangement and a hanging scroll with a message or character written on it are generally used as the sole decoration of a traditional Japanese style room, and especially during tea ceremony.

With my large dish and spiked steel weight all set to go, I start by adding the height to the arrangement.  The keys to balance are to have the blooms or buds at varying heights and also facing different directions.  Some of the long leaves of these irises are also added to fill out the feature and make it look more like a natural plant.

DSCN0202The next stage of the process is to add the main feature, the part that makes up the body of the arrangement.  Again, the goal here is to have the flowers going off into different directions and to also be at different heights.  As a general rule of thumb, the tallest secondary flower should be about the height of the tallest rear flower.  Notice that not only the blooms, but also the leaves and in other cases branches are have to be considered for this portion.  Also, a few more of the irises were added to the front to help bring it all together.

DSCN0203The final touches are added with a third flower that is used as an accent.  Once again, being mindful of space and balance is a must when adding these bits, but when added correctly they really bring everything together.

DSCN0206There is no single correct shape within the world of Japanese flower arrangement, but they usually fall withing one of a couple different styles.  Just like with any other art, a keen eye and steady hand are musts for producing quality works.  Naturally this isn’t my forte, but it is at least a lot of fun and therapeutic to take part in.

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