Ikebana – The Art of Arranging

Ikebana is the art of arranging natural elements in a display.  The art is over 500 years old, beginning around the time of the advent of formal gardens in Japan.  Bringing the natural world inside is something we all do, picking flowers from the garden to display in a vase on a table, or bringing in pine cones to decorate for fall.  In Ikebana, there are many ideas, but as is usual for the Japanese culture, each element has meaning and purpose.  The Asheville chapter of Ikebana International held a show last fall, showcasing three schools of Ikebana – Ichiyo School, Sogetsu School, and Ichiyo School.  Although the arrangements were labeled with the school, there was no information on how they differed.  So, we just had to enjoy them as they were.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

From research, common to most Ikebana is the overall triangle shape of unequal sides ( a scalene triangle), minimalism, and emphasis on shape and line over flowers.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

Generally, there are three stems in the arrangement.  The longest stem called shin represents heaven and is one and a half times the longest dimension of the container.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

The second longest stem represents earth, called soe, and is three-quarters or two-thirds of the length of the shin, depending on which school is followed.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

The third stem called the tai represents the people, and is three quarters or two-thirds the length of the soe.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

In some schools of Ikebana, the second longest stem represents man, and the shortest represents earth.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

There are more than 3000 schools of Ikebana, with teachers all over the world, and many conflicting ideas between the schools.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

However, they all seem to have some common ideas.  Shibui means subtlety.  This one is from the Ichiyo School.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

Iki means original. An artist from the Sogetsu School showed this arrangement, unusual in it is three containers with the shin, soe, and tai split between them.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

Ensou means void or negative space, and some of the arrangements drew your attention to what was not there, like this one with no leaves on the branches.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

Miyabi means elegance.  This basket shape with the illusion of water at the base still has an unequal sides triangle shape overall with all the elements considered.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

Geido means discipline, resisting the urge to fill in spaces, limiting the arrangement to just what is needed.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

Some Ikebana reminded the viewer of bonsai.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

Yugen means mystery, depicted in this arrangement, the viewer may wonder where the water is coming from, and where it is going.  Note the tall shin branch, 1-1/2 times the width of the container in total height, not in total length due to the interesting twists in the branch.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

Wabi-sabi means imperfection, perhaps in this arrangement a graceful line not perfectly straight, or some flower buds only partially open.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

Most of the designs conformed to the preference for odd numbers, particularly 3 and 5.  I liked this one with the lichen covered branches, and three flowers from an artist with the Ichiyo school.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

Near the windows, three more designs from the Ikenobo school of Ikebana.  These used more Western ideas of floral arrangement.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

Vibrant colors in this final arrangement really capture attention.

Ikebana Exhibit NC Arboretum at From My Carolina Home

One of these days I’ll give this a try.  I went to two stores looking for a floral frog and cannot find one, but there are more places to look.  I’m just not in a hurry to find one.  If all else fails, I’ll order one of THESE from Amazon.  I have a couple of trays that might do well, just need to give it some more thought.  There are a couple of books on Ikebana now on sale at Amazon, thank you for using my affiliate links –
Ikebana: The Art of Arranging Flowers
Japanese Ikebana for Every Season
Keiko’s Ikebana: A Contemporary Approach to the Traditional Japanese Art of Flower Arranging
Exploring Ikebana

Do you like to do floral arranging?

9 thoughts on “Ikebana – The Art of Arranging

  1. Shirley

    How very interesting. Somehow when I attempt flower arranging, the image in my mind doesn’t quite transfer to the finished product. However, I keep trying.

  2. Elaine Nemeth

    My mother was a national flower show judge so this is a great reminder of her. I need to use her wonderful planters still around my home and do an arrange ment thanksforthemotivation

    Sent from my Verizon 4G LTE Droid

  3. What I think I like most about these is that they don’t use a large number of flowers. Adding interesting branches (free) and containers (could get at the thrift store) you could get by with a very economical amount of flowers. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Tami Von Zalez

    I just adore Ikebana. I have scanned in images from two books I found thrifting. I use the images on Facebook for my cover photos.

  5. Melanie

    I am not good at floral design but I keep trying. Carole, I found several frogs at local thrift stores, so you might try those. I think people inherit them but don’t know what they are and they end up at the thrift stores or antique stores. LOL

  6. Brenda Ackerman

    Hello Carole: This was all very interesting and so pretty. I try occasionally to arrange some picked flowers in a vase. But, I am not very good at it. So, I leave most of my flowers outside and I enjoy the arranging that I do there. Which I do get better at every year. Thank you for sharing all of this and have a great day!

  7. This was such a fun post :

    My grandmother used to do huge and amazing arrangements in her home ( she’d have had a great career doing this in a later time / era if her focus was just not being a wife and mother 🙂

    I love to do this in the summer using my flowers / bushes etc.

Due to the volume of comments during Autumn Jubilee, I am unable to respond personally to each one via email during this event. I love your comments and read every one. Thank you and enjoy!!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.