|Stunning Iris (photography courtesy of Dianne Norman IKEBANA book)|
For those of you who don’t know, I am a student of IKEBANA.
When you live in a country that is so very different to your own, you seek out cultural experiences, otherwise in my humble opinion you might as well stay home.
For example, in Japan, besides the obligatory language lessons we all take for the first few months, we will participate in Taiko (drumming) classes, we’ll take advantage of our international friendships and attend cooking lessons, or attempt calligraphy or Ikebana (these are the more popular choices)
You also have so much time on your hands, that you create ways to fill in the day. I know, a luxuary many friends wish for -TOO much free time! Trust me, it's not all that it's cracked up to be. TOO much free time easily leads to boredom, social isolation and depression very quickly.
So in order to till in time, you take up a hobby, learn a new skill, take up a sport. Peer pressure plays a role too – if you are the only one in your group of friends NOT going to Pilates on Wednesdays from 9am-10pm then you’re taking a chance of being left out of any Wednesday luncheon.
Peer pressure sort of worked on me – I did Pilates for a few sessions then decided it just wasn’t for me, however I made sure I knew where the girls were meeting for lunch! Would you believe I absolutely LOVED Kick Boxing and was good at it (my teacher reckoned it was cos I’d danced as a child) I was so disappointed when the teacher stopped coming to Yokohama from Tokyo; however nothing could get me jogging, running, playing squash or tennis.
Ikebana was offered as a weekly activity by the Parents Association at MissM's school. MrsB and I went to our first lesson together and while we had no idea what we were doing, I knew I wanted to persist with it. It was challenging cos of all the rules, but intriguing at the same time - why is this placement right but not this one? It was also very peaceful as you are working quietly with the materials (flowers, leaves, branches) and I’m surprised that after chatting with you for many months now, I’ve not dedicated one chat to Ikebana.
"Ikebana" is from the Japanese ikeru ("keep alive, arrange flowers, living") and hana ("flower"). Possible translations include "giving life to flowers" and "arranging flowers".
It is more than simply putting flowers in a container (westerners would call it a vase, tho it’s seldom glass) Ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together.
Ikebana often emphasizes other areas of the plant, such as its stems and leaves, and draws emphasis toward shape, line and form. Though ikebana is a creative expression, each design has a distinct set of rules to follow. Sometimes I think it’s a comprehension lesson in geometry!
There are several ‘schools’ of Ikebana, each one following slightly different techniques. I’m learning OHARA Ikebana.
|Our text book for what of a better description|
Unlike ‘western’ floral arranging, ikebana is very minimalistic and very real in the materials used. In other words, in winter you use dead leaves, or bare branches, in early spring you’d use buds.
|Sensai's stunning late autumn/early winter|
Different placement of the main pieces symbolize heaven, earth, and man and in others sun, moon, and earth. You sometimes need to be aware of the ‘wind’ moving thru design, or the way in which the water might reflect the materials in the garden.
|This one's my spring RIMPA|
The container is a key element of the composition, and various styles of pottery may be used in their construction. In OHARA Ikebana there are specific containers for each design (when I first started a soup bowl or pasta dish had to do)
I could go on and on about Ikebana but you can Google it if you want to learn more.
How surprised do you think I was when I (and who knows why) I Googled Ikebana Hampshire UK (as opposed to Hampshire USA) and found a school not 40 minutes drive away.
My Sensai is English. She was invited to a floral exhibition by a friend over 25 years ago and saw Ikebana for the first time and ‘fell in love’. Since then she has visited Japan numerous times, has become a collector of Japanese art and is now Sensai Ikebana Master.
|Sensai's beautiful coffee table book contains stunning photos but also|
explains Ikebana in a 'western' way. You can still get it on amazon.co.uk
if you are interested
Many of the ladies who attend class are qualified florists, gardeners and Ikebana adds a dimension to their work that is so different and refreshing. Sadly tho the friendships are limited to class, and not even friendships. They are simply the ladies I do Ikebana with.
I simply love it because it’s gentle, reminds me of Japan, and is something I can do where ever we live.
|Stunning - using 5 leaves|
|The MOON container was a gift from Mum, and I just love iris|
|No matter what material is places in the MOON it's magic|
|MissM's first lesson over the school holidays|
|So many designs, each one in a different container. WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE?|
In just under 18 months, I’ve achieved my first three certificates from the OHARA school in Tokyo.
|Sensai placing her official stamp onto my first certificate|
Di’s an amazing teacher, and makes you work for every ‘stamp’ of approval of each design.
No short cuts allowed.
No matter where we live in the world a little bit of Japan will always be with us as will Sensai here, in the UK.
So, from a desire to learn a little bit about Japanese culture while we lived there I have discovered not only a new hobby but something I am good at and really enjoy.
Maybe one day I’ll give tennis a go,