ikebana and life in japan

a blog about ikebana and life in japan


Spring Natural Landscape Ikebana

I thought I would try to do this post a little different this time, showing you the steps I take to make an arrangement.

I did this landscape a couple of weeks ago when it was still cold and snowy here -- this winter is dragging on forever! This little mountain landscape helped to bring a little brightness and springy feel into my apartment.

Here's what I did:

First, I got a round "suiban", or container, and placed two kenzan in the lft hand side. The kenzan will be the place where I create the "ground" in the arrangement.

Next, I placed three branches of Spike Winter Hazel to form the basis of the arrangement. One long branch, the main branch, spreading out and up to the left in the back of the suiban; one branch tilting off to the right; and one branch low and to the front of the suiban. These three points form a scalene triangle. Because the branch in the back is long, the branch in the front is short -- opposites create balance.

After that, I added the Mountain Fern. With the fern added, you get the feeling of some "ground" being in the arrangement, thus a landscape arrangement. The branches and the fern are intermingled, giving the arrangement a natural feel.

The mountain fern is a beautiful material, but it does not take in water well. The tallest branch of the fern, seen in the front, actually only lasted about 3 days, and then it started to dry up and wilt. It is sad to see the materials die so quickly, but it makes you appreciate their beauty even more.

Can you see the difference? I added another tall branch to the middle of the fern. It acts to connect the space from the front to the back, making the arrangement feel more cohesive.

A bit of red can be seen in the back of the arrangement. The Azalea is placed low and in a clump, the way it would naturally grow this time of year. Having it just peek through the fern and branches instead of being in the forefront helps to keep the Spike Winter Hazel the main material of the landscape. Plus, when something is hidden in the arrangement, it pulls the viewer into the landscape -- a little ikebana magic.

Another branch of the azalea was placed a little higher in the arrangement, tilting forward, also helping to bring the viewer into the landscape.

Finally, one more branch of the Spike Winter Hazel was added to the front of the landscape, down low and in the fern. Having something in fours is not good. In Japanese, one way to pronounce four is the same as the word death, so having something with four is a little taboo. Some buildings don't even have a fourth floor. It's like the number 13 in western cultures. So, the branch is added to get rid of the "death" in the arrangement.

 A view from the side so you can see the azalea in the landscape. The fern has also been placed low in the arrangement to cover up the kenzan.

A wide shot from the side to show how much area the landscape takes up. Having the branches extend beyond the confines of the container makes them fell larger than they are, and also gives a sense that the landscape continues, but we just can't see it. You can also see the tall filler branch in the middle that helps to connect the main branch on the left and the short branch on the right. Without this branch, the branches would fell disconnected and out of balance.

The finished landscape tweaked a bit for balance. This shot was also taken from a little above, showing more of the azalea.

Only three materials were used -- five branches of Spike Winter Hazel, six stems of Mountain Fern, and two stems of azalea. A minimum of materials that produces a maximum of beauty -- again, the magic of ikebana!


Hideki said...

it's easy for me to know how to make that! interesting!

Nora Kay said...

I too feel like I could do this after your step by step naration. This makes it even more beautiful. Thanks for the great lesson.

Stephen Coler said...

thanks, hideki! i'm glad you thought it was easy!

Stephen Coler said...

thanks, mom! i think the explanation of something helps the viewer to enjoy it more, too.

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful arrangement! I loved your explanation, but wow, the technical aspect of ikebana is really complex----truthfully, I became a bit dizzy and overwhelmed following the steps. But it just proves that you're a true master in this art form, as you accomplish it with graceful aplomb.


Stephen Coler said...

Thanks for the comment. It can become a bit technical at times trying to acheive a natural ballance with all of the materials, but the end result is worth it. I am still figuring out the "natural landscape" form. I understand the basics of it, but trying to make a beautiful arrangement is a different story. To become 1st degree master takes up to 25 years. I am at the 2nd degree masters level, so I guess I only have about 10 more years left!