Winter to Spring Ikebana

Here is is, guys; my first attempt at a proper ikebana arrangement!  After spending the past week and a half poring over the books I’ve received. There’s two still in the mail, but the ones I’ve got already help a ton. There is so much to learn, and I suspect in a year or so I will look back on this one with embarrassment, but for now I’m very proud of myself.

For this first project I wanted to keep things simple, so I stuck with a moribana-style arrangement with three types of plant materials representing the shin, soe, and hikae elements. The pussy-willows were chosen to represent the upcoming spring, but also to remind me of my grandmother Lorraine, whose collections and passions for Japanese art have always inspired me. She had pussy-willows in a glass vase in her apartment at all times. The white spider chrysanthemums felt like an ideal way to represent Japan. The red berries represent the last of winter, and bring a bit of colour and rhythm into an otherwise very quiet arrangement.

This was very soothing for me to make, and I’m very much looking forward to continuing this project as I get more access to flowers and greenery.

My Ikebana Journey

That’s right, I’m dipping my toes into something new! Kimono will always be this blog’s focus and my first love, but ikebana is another traditional Japanese art form that’s always fascinated me. Every time I’ve looked into taking lessons they’ve either been way out of my budget or at times that were impossible for me to work with, or done in a very traditional environment where I’d have to sit seiza for two hours, which my body cannot handle.

However, I was discussing it with a friend recently, and with his encouragement I realised that through the magic of books and the internet, I can at least learn the basics on my own. I did it with kimono and kitsuke, and there were way less resources fifteen years ago than there are now. Maybe one day I will have the time and money to take proper lessons, but until then there’s no reason I shouldn’t start soaking up all the knowledge and experience that I can.

So today begins the first step in my new journey. I am trying to keep to a very strict budget for this venture, since I’m not exactly rolling in spare cash at the moment. I’ve assembled some books from AbeBooks (admittedly, the Dale Chihuly book is not a guide book so much as I love his glass art and I hope it will inspire me) and a basic tool kit, including an antique kenzan that belonged to my grandmother. She was very influential in the development of my passion for Japanese traditional arts; all the artwork and little decorative objects you see in the backgrounds of photos on this blog were hers. My only regret is that I didn’t get more into this sort of thing while she was still alive. She would have loved it all. Thankfully the tools required for ikebana (at least at a very beginner level) are quite easy to procure, and fairly inexpensive. My beginner’s kit is comprised of my grandmother’s kenzan, a smaller one I found at a local florist’s, a tool to straighten the pins, and a neat little set of shears, floral, and wire cutters I got at Michaels for free (after creative use of coupons combined with a mistake on the price tag). The pouch arrived in the mail on the same day as the pin straightener. It was a free promotional item, but it seemed like fate, so now all my tools have a place to live.

 

I’ve also assembled a collection of varying vases and containers to use. Most of them are things I already owned, and a few were found at thrift stores for a dollar or less. So far, the biggest investment here has been the books, all five (plus a dvd) of which set me back less than $20. I think I’m doing quite well up to this point!

I am hoping to post at minimum one arrangement arrangement a month, possibly more if I’m inspired or the garden is exceptionally abundant. I will write about my thought process, what inspired my flower choices, and what I’ve learnt since the last one. Please join me on my ikebana journey!

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The one that started it all…

Have you ever bought something on somewhat of an impulse that you both cherish and regret? I sure as hell have! I love this piece to bits and I’m so proud I snagged it before I knew what I was doing, but my wallet still holds it partially responsible for this habit hobby.

Back in 2003, I’d toyed with the idea of buying a kimono for some time, due most likely to my paternal grandmother’s appreciation of Asian antiques and textiles. She’s not been with us for a very long time, but I’m sure she would heartily encourage this silly hobby. But I digress..

As I mentioned, I’d waffled with the idea but did essentially no research. A smart person would have probably started with a yukata or something, but I honestly had no idea of types, formality, eras, motifs, etc. I just saw this beast and fell head over heels. I had to have it.

It’s a gorgeous early-Showa era houmongi. The silk is thick and rich and delicious, and the design is sweeping streams of spider-style kiku in white with faint black and gold accents. The dramatic, graphic contrast is what drew me to it in the first place. The sleeves are long, not quite Taisho-era, but still elegant and draping, and the lining is a vivid red.


I love the subtle black to grey yuzen dyeing on the leaves so much.

I’ve paired it up with a black, red, and gold formal obi, but I’d like to try it with a softer, more vintage style at some point. Though, I have to say I love how it looks with the contrast of black, and how the red makes my skin and hair look. Is that conceited? XD