ikebana and life in japan

a blog about ikebana and life in japan


Spring Ikebana Exhibit -- scouring rush in a cool summer breeze

Recently, I have been very interested in zokei ikebana. Being able to create a totally unique and creative work is exciting to me. Trying to find new materials to work with, show a material in a new way, or creating an expressive work are what I most enjoy when creating a zokei arrangement.

This year, for the spring exhibit, I wanted to use just one material, to really showcase the beauty of it. I chose scouring rush. They are often found near the waters edge of a lake, stream, or river, but can also be found in moist, dense forests. They can grow to be quite tall, and when a cool summer breeze hits them, they bend playfully in the wind.

I went to the local hardware store/DIY center to look for something I could use as a base for the piece. I chose a plastic fencing material in a black color. I thought the black would go well with the green of the scouring rush, but it could also be painted if I wanted to change the color or finish (I was thinking a metal finish would also be interesting). The mesh of the fence was also the perfect size for each frond of the rush to fit into. I used some black zip ties to hold the fencing together and made a tall column. I had my base for the piece.

I played with the fronds for several hours, trying different ways of arranging them in the mesh. Some were very planned out, and others were more organic. "Playing" with the materials is an important step in creating a zokei work; it enables you to find the best way to show off the natural beauty of the material in a new and interesting manner. I finally chose on a combination of planned and organic. I arranged the fronds along one line of the fencing, extending out to the right, but the angles and length of the scouring rush were arranged in an organic way, making them look as if they were being blown in the wind.

scouring rush

slightly from the left

looking into the fronds, from the right

Can you feel the cool summer breeze?

Let me know what you think of the piece in the comment section below!


kari yadro said...

I love how you've showcased one material--and a rather humble material at that--so beautifully. Not only can I feel the summer breeze, but I can also hear the river flowing by along side.

Lovely, Stephen!

The FitzWilliams said...

I love the reeds and I love the base you used! I'm just getting back on my laptop after Marty restored it, so I'm so happy to get to catch up on your blog!

Stephen Coler said...


thanks for the nice comment! it has just started to warm up here -- spring was late getting here this year -- but, before you know it, i will be wishing i were near a cool river with a cool summer breeze blowing.

thanks, again!!!

Stephen Coler said...

misty leigh,

it was just some plastic fencing i found at a home center store like home depot. it is supposed to keep little critters out, like rabbits. but i think it looks much more sophisticated using it like this!
thanks for the comment!

nordic lotus said...

I like the lightness of your work. It has a refreshing summery feeling to it. The fencing is modern and straight forward but also very gentle. The lines that you have added with the grass works very well. It's harmonious and interesting.

Stephen Coler said...

thanks for your wonderful comment, nordic lotus! i'm glad you could feel the "summer" in the arrangement. i had a log of fun creating this work, trying out different ways of arranging the scouring rush. just "playing" with flowers always makes me happy!

Anonymous said...

This is just fantastic! Like everyone else commenting, I, too, feel the summer-like breeze metaphor that you've created. But also, it's a truly mysterious piece that plays optical tricks with the viewer. It's obviously 3-D in the sense that it's a sculptural arrangement, but there's a 2-D-ness that's embedded in there as well. If you look at the picture in a slightly detached, dreamy and languorous way, those criss-crossing green reeds sort of transfigure themselves into dynamnic green brushstrokes spurting out of the vertical fence/support. Sort of like a Jackson Pollock Abstract Expressionist painting.

I'd love to hear how your audience at the Spring Show responded to this work. It's so original. YOu're a TRUE artist, Stpehen!

By the way, I think there are several possibilities in which you can develop this unique form/idea. Could you introduce a "fall/autumn" version of the same arrangement, using fall reeds later in the year? Or maybe even use different flowers/branches/leaves using the same vertical fence as a base----and thereby paying homage to this visual study of reeds?

Just caught up on your blog entries. What a fantastic one-man show that you had this past winter! Congrats! And keep up the good work!


PS: I don't have a google account, so my name always appears bizarrely as Anon.

Stephen Coler said...


Thanks for the wonderful comment about the piece. You always have the most interesting/insightful/thought provoking comments. I think what you say makes me look at the work in a new way. I can see how it could look like a Jackson Pollock Abstract Expressionist painting. Very interesting!

Everyone that I talked to or overheard thought the work was new and interesting. They had never seen anything like it, which is what I always try to do -- something new. Some people felt it was very modern, and others felt it looked very Japanese. The black fencing reminded them of shoji screens and the view of a garden at the waters edge that could be seen from the window. All in all, good responses from everyone.

I could see doing another work like this in the fall, using another material. But I don't think I'll do that, just because I always like to try something new. It could be something that I come back to in a year or two, though.

Thanks also for the comment about my exhibition. It was a lot of hard work but very rewarding in the end.

Glad to see you back with a comment!