If you ever need a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, the never-ending pile of workload that threatens to spill over, the constant nags from your friends and family to spend more time with them, Ikebana is the way to go! Don’t worry, it isn’t as difficult as it sounds, you can easily embark on your own Ikebana project with a little guidance from us! Nonetheless, it does take practice!
“Experience the beauties of nature, and in doing so learn about yourself.”
Directly translated to Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon, the Japanese proverb, 花鳥風月 (Kachou Fuugetsu), presents itself in the concept of Ikebana. Ikebana — the way of flowers, also as known as Kadō, is a Japanese art form that focuses on the spirituality and beauty of nature. With a rich history of over 500 years old, the origin of Ikebana can be traced back to the birth of Buddhism in Japan in the 6th century. It was around this time where the idea of Ikebana was conceptualised, thanks to Chinese Buddhist missionaries who introduced flower arrangements as offerings.
Principles of Ikebana
In and Yo (Japanese Yin and Yang) Philosophy
The scalene triangle used in the structure of Ikebana is representative of “heaven, earth and humankind” and their harmonious relationship.
Regardless of the different styles of Ikebana, this tradition is practised to emphasise these elements. In linear terms, “heaven” is represented by a branch that points towards the sky and the opposite applies for “earth”. “Humankind” is at the middle of this, where we set a balance for the harmony between the “heaven and earth”, mediating the two. However, as with every art form, its underlying principles are more of an abstract concept than a rigid set of rules and application. In fact, the alignment of the branches is not necessarily akin to “heaven” or “earth” but rather these elements represent freedom and discipline respectively. Feeling lost?
Well, to put it simply, “Heaven” symbolises creativity and freedom, “Earth” symbolises discipline, and “Humankind” is the balance between “heaven” and “earth”.
Unlike Western flower arrangements, Ikebana is a disciplined art form that incorporates the use of other plant parts such as stems and leaves, so as to draw attention to its shape, line and form. With some styles of Ikebana, which we will delve into later, the flower arrangements generally hold implicit meanings. Did you know, flower arrangements that feature a flower bud represent hope? Guess that’s the beauty of appreciating Ikebana!
Tall branches used in any Ikebana flower arrangement generally follow a 30/70 ratio. We certainly don’t want to see a bouquet of forest!
If you carefully observe various Ikebana arrangements, you’ll notice that negative space is often used to bring emphasis to the flowers and stems, which is undoubtedly an integral part of the overall arrangement. In this case, less is definitely more!
Now that we’ve gotten over the basic principles, we can move on to the next step: Tools.
1) A pair of sharp scissors for trimming the stems
2) Different shapes and sizes of containers
3) A Kenzan (also known as a spiky frog)
Once you have gathered your flowers, stems, leaves or branch, you can begin to compose your Ikebana! Psst, a useful rule of thumb: use about 5 to 13 stems for your composition. It also helps to use the KonMari method if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed.
Don’t know where to start? Here are some Ikebana styles you can model after for a start but do feel free to explore with your creativity as well! After all, it’s about self-expression!
The oldest style of Ikebana uses seven branches to symbolise the landscape of nature: hills, waterfalls, valleys and other elements of nature. There are two types of Rikka, Rikka Shofutai and Rikka Shimputai.
Rikka Shofutai (Traditional form)
Rikka Shofutai comprises of seven to nine main parts, which mirrors the inner character of each plant. It uses a symmetrical vase that flares open at the top, with the stems vertically hovering 2-3 inches from the central axis.
Rikka Shimputai (Contemporary)
This contemporary style only comprises of two main parts so as to bring focus to the contrasting colours, quantity and texture, essentially expressiveness. The difference between Rikka Shimputai and Rikka Shofutai lies within the types of florals used and the arrangement style.
Nageire translates to “to toss”, which is the key idea behind this particular style of arrangement.
Legend has it that a bored samurai tossed a few blossoms into a deep vase across a room, and that was how Nageire came about. Contrary to her peers, this arrangement does not require a Kenzan but a tall vase instead. Learn more about how to create fixtures in your vase here.
Moribana translates to “piled-up flowers” and surprisingly, this is its distinguishing feature. It utilises a shallow and wide container (Suiban) to hold many Kanzens, creating an expansive landscape of flowers. The scalene triangle principle is explicitly showcased here, with strict adherence to a foreground, middle ground, and distance arrangement.
Learn how to create a Moribana arrangement here.
This style is pretty self-explanatory, the only rule is that there are no rules! The flowers and other elements can be arranged freely, with no restriction whatsoever. Time to let your imagination run wild!
Ta-da, you are more than equipped to start on your Ikebana project! Remember, the most important part of Ikebana is self-expression and appreciating the beauty of nature, so don’t stress yourself out over the technicalities of your floral arrangement.
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