ikebana and life in japan

a blog about ikebana and life in japan


Space and Ikebana

It's another cold and snowy day here in Hanamaki. Watching the snow fall quietly to the earth is very peaceful and relaxing. It covers everything up in a blanket of white softness that always looks magical to me. This winter has been a long one -- very cold with lots of snow. And I love it. Anyway, back to the ikebana. . .

One of the most important materials in ikebana is "space." Using space wisely creates a larger arrangement that has a feeling of movement and helps to bring out the beauty of the materials.

For this arrangement, I used three branches of yuki-yanagi, or spiraea thunbergii, and three stems of snapdragon. A single branch is placed high in the arrangement, filling up the vertical space. Another branch is placed low in the arrangement, stretching out to the front, giving the yuki-yanagi and snapdragons a chance to interact. The tall branch was pruned back quite a bit to give the arrangement some space. The open space helps to show the beautiful and interesting curve of the branch and also creates a place for the snapdragons to be showcased.

And did you notice how all of the points of the snapdragons are pointing up? In Ohara-ryu ikebana, it is important to do this. It makes the flowers or branches that you arrange feel as if they are growing up towards the warmth of the sun. Their energy is going up. They feel "genki", or lively. If the tips of the snapdragons were facing down or off to the side, they would not look happy, but sad. These little things also add to the understated beauty of the arrangement.
The Japanese name of the branch is Yuki-yanagi. Yuki is the Japanese word
for snow. When these branches are in full bloom, they are covered
in small white flowers, making the branches look as if they are
covered in snow.

This view from the side shows how far forward the arrangement reaches out towards the viewer. Reaching out forward helps to bring the viewer closer to the flowers and makes for a friendly arrangement. But when it is viewed from the front, you don't notice the angle of the flowers. You can also see one small branch in the rear of the arrangement. It is placed in the back to counterbalance the weight in the front of the arrangement. 

Doing arrangements in a vase can be a little tricky, because there is no frog or kenzan that the flowers and branches are pushed into. When doing an arrangement in a vase, you use special cutting techniques and also add some extra "stoppers" to the branches to keep them in place. I'll have to do another post on that another time. These techniques are what set Ohara-ryu apart from other schools of ikebana.

Space. Another important material for Ohara-ryu ikebana.

Having a little "nothing" gives the arrangement "something".

(I hope to be off of my crutches by next week. I have been working on building the muscle back up in my left leg and walking with a little weight on it. My knee feels better each day and it has a greater range of motion with each passing day. I will be running before you know it! Well, probably not, especially since I never ran before. But, it is a good thought, nonetheless!)


Winter Landscape Ikebana by the Waters Edge

Well, it's been a while since my last post. Why? I had to have knee surgery to repair the meniscus in my left knee. I'll spare you all the details. Let's just say the surgery went well, and I am on my way to recovery. I only have two to three more weeks of using crutches. So, maybe, by the beginning of March, I will be walking normal, using my own two legs, not one leg and crutches.

Anyway, before I had to go in the for the operation, I did get to have my ikebana lessons a couple of times.

The first week, I did a landscape arrangement portraying a scene at the waters edge. It is a late winter arrangement, so there is no snow or no materials conveying the image of snow. The arrangement just depicts the beauty of a cold, winter day, with the first flowers starting to bloom.

The Japanese narcissus have started to bloom along the edge of a river in the forest. And the camellia have also stated to bloom. The air over the water's edge is warmer, so the first blossoms of the camellia open ever so slightly.

With this view, from slightly above, you can see that the blooming camellia is still hiding under the leaf, protecting itself from the cold of the winter, and the snow that could still fall quietly to the earth.

The branch of the tree bends out over the water's edge, having been blown and broken by the harsh winds of winter. And a single leaf of the narcissus has also been bent by the winds, also stretching out over the water's edge.

To me it still feels a little cold with the vast amount of water showing in the container, but the hope of the colorful and warm spring to come can also be felt with the narcissus and camellia blossoms.

I think that the Japanese narcissus is one of my favorite flowers. The sweet smell is intoxicating, and the small, delicate flowers are so beautiful against the green of the leaves. Trying to show the beauty of the narcissus leaves is a little difficult, trying to make them look as natural as possible, all the while deconstructing and then reconstrucing the grouped leaves.

It has been very cold here in Hanamaki. Most of the past month has been below freezing, even during the day, with lots of snow falling quietly to the ground. This arrangement just reminds me that after a cold, harsh winter, there is the beauty of spring to look forward to . . . along with me walking again!

I hope you are all having a warm winter, wherever you are.