ikebana and life in japan

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Radial Form Ikebana Explained

Recently, in one of my classes, I have been teaching some of my students how to create a Radial Form ikebana arrangement.

The Radial Form is part of Advanced Hana-isho. It is a kind of ikebana that brings out the unique characteristics of the materials in a highly decorative work. They are created for the spaces where people live and work. Some of the forms can be viewed from the front only, and others can be created to be viewed from all sides.

The forms of Advanced Hana-isho have some special characteristics:
1. They can be created to decorate any kind of space, and the container used can be anything, including articles used in daily life, like cups, bowls, or plates.
2. The beauty of color is central to creating Hana-isho; however, combinations of materials that express the beauty of the season or their formal, sculptural beauty are also possible.
3. The length of the main stems and auxiliary stems, their angles, and the positions at which they are inserted are free.
4. There are three main stems, the Subject, the Secondary, and the Object.
5. The Radial Form can be arranged either in a shallow container or in a tall vase.

With all that said, I know it may sound complicated, but it is easy if you follow the guidelines and look at the materials carefully!

Radial Form (front view only)
Anthurium, prairie gentian, Dracaena godseffiana "gold dust"

In the Radial Form, the materials spread out from a central axis along the midway line of the container. I like to think of it as the spokes of a bicycle wheel.

From the central axis, all of the spokes of the wheel radiate out, creating lines of symmetry.

Here, anthurium is used as the Subject and the Secondary of the arrangement. Prairie gentian is used as the Object. And the "gold dust" is used as the green of the arrangement, which helps to meld all of the materials together.

When viewed from above, the lines of symmetry can be seen. The Subject can be on the left or right side, depending on the characteristics of the materials. Here, the Subject is on the right and the Secondary is on the left.

Here is the view from above with the lines of symmetry outlined. The Subject is the longest stem in the arrangement. The length is free, but it should have balance with the container. It is placed on the midway line of the container and extends out, giving full play the horizontal beauty of the anthurium. The Secondary is placed on the opposite side -- here on the left -- also along the midway line of the container. The length of the Secondary can be from 1/2 to the same length of the Subject. My personal taste is to make it a little shorter than the Subject, but that's just me! Next, the object, which can be from 1/3 to 1/2 the length of the subject, is placed at the center of the axis of symmetry (the green dot in the middle), with a variation also extending forward on the axis of symmetry. These are the three principal stems of the arrangement.

The Subject side should be the stronger side, so I have used two additional stems of anthurium. They are variations of the Subject and should be arranged within 30 degrees on either side of the Subject. The Secondary side uses one additional anthurium. It can be placed on either side of the Secondary, but must also be within 30 degrees of the Secondary stem. Here, I have placed it in the front.

Additional stems of prairie gentian are arranged with interesting variations to give the Object group a bit more weight to balance out the arrangement. The "gold dust" is also placed on either side of the Object group, helping to connect all three principal stems and make a cohesive arrangement. Some of the "gold dust" is low in the arrangement, and some is high in the arrangement. One side is also short, with the other side a little longer. This unbalance helps to balance out the arrangement -- the magic of ikebana!

You may be thinking, "What is going on with this picture?" There is meaning in the madness!

Here you can see the pink line goes through the middle of the arrangement -- the axis of symmetry. The tall Object leans slightly to the left of the line, creating some movement within the Object group. However, the Object that extends to the front must be on the axis of symmetry. This helps to unify the work with a central starting point for all other branches.

As you can see, all of the Subject and Secondary materials are placed at varying heights within the arrangement -- no two branches are at the same height (the red dots and red lines). The length of the branches are also all different. This makes the arrangement more interesting and creates points of interest throughout the linear form of the arrangement.

With this arrangement, I have focused on the use of color, but seasonal materials could also be used. An arrangement like this can be placed anywhere within your home or work space. Because of it's linear shape, it is perfect for a low table against a wall or on the mantel of a fireplace. Creating a Radial Form that is multisided would lend itself to be perfect for a table centerpiece. It is a highly decorative form that brings out the beauty of radial symmetry and is perfect for today's modern homes.

Please feel free to leave a comment or a question about the From in the comment section below!