The Art of Ikebana: Celebrating the Present Through Floral Arrangements
Known as the Japanese art of flower arranging, ikebana is an expressive art form that dates as far back as 1400 A.D. In contrast to Western flower arrangements, ikebana embraces the impermanence of the display, offering an opportunity to value the present. The practice of ikebana is rooted in the Buddhist philosophies of minimalism and symbolism, with arrangements often representative of harmony in nature, balance, and the changing of seasons. Keep reading as we delve into this incredible artform, and learn how you can practice ikebana in your own home.
Why We Love Ikebana
Many of our customers visit Pistils not just to shop, but to experience a place that embodies serenity through nature, a place of discovery, wonder, and creativity. We take pride in the aesthetic of our stores, and often draw inspiration from Japanese design principles. Ikebana is a traditional Japanese artform that aligns with our appreciation for imperfections and finding beauty in underappreciated elements. It ties in with the philosophy of wabi-sabi, which embraces all that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete in life. At its core, ikebana design communicates tranquility and peace through plants. These arrangements seek harmony, balance, and movement in an attempt to connect with the natural world - a principle our business hopes to pass along to our customers.
Western Arrangements vs Ikebana
Western floral arrangements commonly place emphasis on flowers, hiding the stems below the surface of the vase or vessel. In contrast, ikebana floral arrangements are meant to emphasize design and experimentation, while highlighting stems and leaves alongside flowers. Some other differences lie in the space and symmetry of the arrangements. Western arrangements are often packed tightly together, with all sides of the display being relatively symmetrical. Ikebana arrangements are typically asymmetrical, with various stems wandering off in their own direction.
While the flowers are the stars of most western arrangements, they are rarely the main event in ikebana arrangements. The goal of the artform is not purely the end result, but everything leading up to it. When gathering materials for your ikebana arrangements, take time to find serenity in both the process and your surroundings. Feel free to get creative with what you use! Non-floral elements such as branches, dried plants, bamboo, and grasses all make lovely additions to your arrangements. Combine seasonal items, dead and alive, and embrace the temporary nature of your arrangements.
How To Make An Ikebana Arrangement
Just like any other artform, ikebana can be practiced in a variety of styles ranging from traditional to modern. There are currently over 3,000 different schools of ikebana, the three most popular being Ikebono, Sogetsu, and Ohara. Ikebono places a focus on the more traditional approaches of ikebana and is the eldest of the three schools. Contrarily, Sogetsu offers a modern take that is rooted in the expressive nature of the art. Ohara falls somewhere in the middle, focusing on the seasonal aspects of nature and arranging materials in a naturalistic fashion.
Ohara is also famous for introducing the style of moribana, which is a take on ikebana that displays arrangements in a shallow dish; this is the style you will most often see displayed at our stores! If you’re looking to create your own ikebana arrangement, finding inspiration through various styles and artists is a great place to start.
IKEBANA STARTER KIT
- Japanese Floral Frog: Flower frogs are a wonderful tool for ikebana, as the small points at the base of each frog are used to keep the stems of all flowers and plant material in place. Find them at our flagship and Slabtown locations!
- Okubo Shears: This traditional bonsai shear is perfect for cutting stems and small woody branches, harvesting, and pruning.
- Bowl/Dish: A bowl or dish is where you will place your flower frog along with a small amount of water. Feel free to get creative with color, shape and size to compliment the look of your arrangement!
- The Essentials of Ikebana: This lovely book provides an overview of ikebana, guiding newcomers with recommendations and best practices.
- Flowers/plant material: The idea of ikebana revolves around getting outside and exploring nature, appreciating the present and your surroundings. When you are out foraging for your favorite specimens, don’t put pressure on finding something perfect! Shift your focus on the process itself, and enjoy your time outside. Mix and match different colors and textures of plants, whether they be living or dried.
- Sphagnum Moss: If you don't want the points of your flower frog to be visible, sphagnum moss is a great medium to cover the bottom of your arrangement and keep thinner or more fragile stems in place.
- Wabi-Sabi Welcome: This book is a deep dive into the Japanese ideology of wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi is all about embracing the imperfections of the home, and de-cluttering both physically and mentally in order to find more peace in our surroundings. If you enjoy both the philosophical and decorative properties of ikebana, this book is a great read for you. Not only does it feature a variety of design inspiration photos and tips, but also tips on creating a more hospitable and relaxing lifestyle for both you and your guests.
As we pay homage to an artform we value and appreciate, please consider learning more from the Portland Japanese Garden’s ikebana artists and experts in the resources listed below: