Ikebana Is Awesome

This weekend I pulled out some of my old ikebana magazines to show to a friend, and I fell in love with it all over again.


From The Ikenobo (No. 403)

If you’re not familiar, ikebana is the traditional art of Japanese flower arrangement.

Like many of the traditional arts in Japan (calligraphy, tea ceremony, kimono putting-on), ikebana is compelling in its beauty and profound simplicity and its design that is surprisingly modern-looking to Western-trained eyes.


From ikenobo ikebana (Senei Ikenobo, 1982)

An arrangement is meant to capture the essence of a particular flower, and, ultimately, of nature itself. At the same time, as a work of art, an arrangement is acknowledged as an artifice. In order to capture the essence of a flower in ikebana, sometimes you have to bend or break stalks, insert wires, or even add obviously “unnatural” elements like plastic.


From The Ikenobo (No. 403)

There are many different schools of ikebana, and different styles within those schools. The last time I was in Japan, I studied the Ikenobo school of ikebana. My sensei was very nice, but very disciplined – for some arrangements, she would show me a diagram of exactly how each leaf should be placed, and at what angle. (These were the “shoka” arrangements, for which there are crazy-strict rules for each different type of flower.)


From ikenobo ikebana (Senei Ikenobo, 1982)

Then there was “freestyle” arrangement. For this, my sensei would give me a bunch of flowers and tell me to do whatever I liked with them. Then, when I finished arranging them, she would pull them all out and show me how I should have arranged them. It was my own weekly Karate Kid experience, which I loved.

Here is one arrangement I did that I particularly liked (I believe it was shoka) – the flowers bloomed over the course of a week or so after I took it home:


Looking again at all this gorgeousness, I feel that it’s time to finally pursue some lessons in New York. I’ll have new photos to share if so. In the meantime, you can see more ikebana here.

2 thoughts on “Ikebana Is Awesome

  1. Beautiful. The japanese are very inventive and most of their art, as you have mentioned, is an expression of restrictive creativty. One of my dad’s friends is growing bonsai trees and gave me one…sadly I killed it :(. They take an amazing amount of caring!

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