ikebana and life in japan

a blog about ikebana and life in japan


Golden Fall Ikebana Exhibition

It's that time of year again -- time for the fall ikebana exhibitions. Yes, that's right, exhibition"s".

This year, the two exhibitions were held at the same time. One of them is the local one in my city, but the other exhibition is the prefectural exhibition held in a city about an hours drive north of where I live. The prefectural exhibition is held in two parts over four days. I was lucky enough to take part in the second half, so I didn't have to worry about trying to do two different arrangements in two different cities in one day. Whew!

This year, I wanted to use something gold in my arrangements. I always think of gold as a fall color. I bought some petrified willow, which has great shapes and movement. It's not really petrified, but it is very hard and will not bend, hence the name. I left them out of water for about a week, and then I got out my can of gold spray paint and sprayed away. The golden effect was achieved.

I also wanted to use some type of colored leaves in my arrangement -- it is fall, after all. But most of the leaves that you can use do not last a long time. And the place where the exhibition is held gets quite warm, causing the flowers to wilt or fade faster than usual. I went to the flower shop to see what they had, and they had the perfect material -- colored hypericum leaves. Usually, hypericum has small red or yellow berries, but these didn't have any berries, and the leaves had turned wonderful fall colors. Perfect! I had my two main materials. Now I only had to decide what I wanted to do.

For the exhibition here in my city, I wanted to do a Hanamai arrangement. It is my favorite style, you know (it is the name of the blog, after all!). I thought that I needed some type of large leaf to go with the line of the petrified willow, and I thought a punch of green would made the colored leaves stand out a bit more, too. I ended up using a small banana leaf. Instead of doing a rising form of Hanamai, I did an inclining form of Hanamai that showed off the movement of the petrified willow.

Hanamai (view from the front)   Petrified Willow, Hypericum, Banana Leaf

view from the right

view from the left

I thought that the arrangement turned out well, except for the horrid background of the old, dirty, peg board. Just don't look at that part of it!

For the prefectural exhibition, I wanted to do a basic form, the Inclining Form. Usually at an exhibition, the arrangements are very big, using lots of flowers and different kinds of materials. I wanted to do something simple, and really show the beauty of the line of the petrified willow. I chose a bright yellow chrysanthemum for this arrangement. I wanted a beautiful brown/yellow one, but they didn't have any at that time. The one that I did choose is very big and almost balls out when opened. Many people thought that it was a Dahlia, but no; just a beautiful chrysanthemum.

Inclining Form    Petrified Willow, Chrysanthemum "Anastasia", Hypericum

You can't tell in the picture, but the vase also had a nice texture to it that added a bit of weight to the arrangement.

It was a busy four days, but I think the arrangements turned out well. Both of them were simple, yet had interesting lines and textures to bring out the beauty of the materials.

*Now, this coming weekend, I have another exhibition. It is a little early, but it will be a Christmas themed exhibition. I have some thoughts on what I want to do, but haven't quite made up my mind, yet. I will post pictures later and let you know what I did.


Anonymous said...

Very artistic blog! Good work.


Anonymous said...

Actually, more thoughts. I really like your exhibition pieces. Your "Hanamai" piece is great: it immediately brought to my mind Klimova/Ponomarenko's Free Ice Dance at the 1992 winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Check it out on youtube---very elegant and sensual, and there is a passage in that free dance that reflects your Hanamai. You'll know what I mean when you see it.

I was a bit shocked to read that you're allowed to "spray paint" your branches in Ikebana. If you can be THAT avant garde, can you go a step further and create "hybrid" plant creations? Like, for instance, tying (with a string?) a small red dahlia stem or a single cymbidium orchid onto that golden branch?

I suggest this because I think it would be nice if you had some more color---like a dab of scarlet somewhere in the middle of the Hanamai composition for effect. I know I'm thinking in terms of a two-dimensional painting, whereas you're probably conceiving of your work as a three-dimensional sculpture.

But I imagine, with these great Fall Exhibitions, you're competing with rows and rows of ikebana entries, and "subtlety" is hard to contemplate for spectators who have a lot of "viewing" to do in a limited time. And, if that's the case, there's nothing like a small dab of primary color in the composition for tired eyes (to bring it back to attention again) regarding what you're trying to express.

Again, great work! I admire your taking up an art form that takes many years of study, thinking and training. Good luck with your other exhibits!


Hideki said...

i want to see it at good screen place:)

Stephen Coler said...


thanks for the comment! two, in fact!

hanamai is for showing off the relationships between two or, at the most, 3 different materials. hanamai translated into english is something like "dancing flowers". so, spray painting is acceptable because you still have the natural line of the material. you try to show off the lines of the different materials, as if they are dancing.

i think if you were to add something to the branch, something that does not occur naturally, it would be ok, but then you couldn't call it hanamai. it would become a free-style work, which is something i like to do, too.

i hope to see your comments again in the future!

thanks, again!

Stephen Coler said...


i forgot to ask, how did you stumble upon my blog?

Hisako said...

The colors and lines are beautifull^^

Anonymous said...


I came upon your blog by serendipity--while googling terms like Ikebana, life in japan, blogs, and "various schools of ikebana."

Thanks for your response to my comments. Live and learn, I guess---I didn't know that you were restricted to just two or three natural/botanical elements in your composition. But, come to think of it, I kind of like that, and it makes sense if hanamai is a conceptual dance--as it sort of evokes the "pas de deux" and "pas de trois" in classical ballet. It really hammers in the wisdom that, sometimes, richness of sensations and ideas are best conveyed through simplicity and a severe limitation of sources/materials.

Keep up your good work! Do you think that one day you might publish a memoir??-based on your unique experiences of delving into a different culture, your life in contemporary Japan, your observations of its people--and framing it all in the unique experience of mastering a centuries-old art tradition? You might also branch into discussing the history and philosophy of ikebana and how they appeal personally to you; and the raison d'etre of ikebana as you've come to understand it. Many possibilities...

One final thought: I hear that "Ohara School" is sometimes called Ohararyu in Japan. Do you think you might use the latter term, since "Ohara School" sort of sounds Irish to me? :D

All best,