Ikebana Workshop at Kyoto Fleurs

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending an ikebana workshop at Kyoto Fleurs, a charming local florist here in Montreal. I know that when I started this journey I said I would focus on self-driven learning and more casual forms because I didn’t have the resources to commit to proper lessons, but the great thing about these workshops is that they’re held once a month and you don’t need to attend regularly, you can just come to one whenever you’re free and have some money to spare. This setup is much more accessible to me than a more rigid once-a-week type schedule.

The workshop was taught by Satoko Ueno, who has twenty years of experience and teaches the Shogetsu school style. I’ve typically been learning free-form and Ikenobo-style through books and videos, and it was great to get help with a more strict and traditional form from another school. The workshop was broken up into two parts, the first part was a very rigid traditional arrangement using tulips, and the second part was a free-form arrangement of willow branches, pittosporum, and vibrant anemones.

First Satoko-san demonstrated each form, very clearly and kindly explaining as she went. We all watched intently as she showed us each step and broke down the stricter rules of the traditional ikebana as she assembled the arrangement.  She also provided us with printouts breaking down heights, proportions, and shapes to keep in mind. Of course, I forgot mine there as I was leaving. I’m not the most organised person on the planet sometimes…

The free-form arrangement was very different; we were all given the same materials and general guidelines but allowed to do whatever felt and looked right. It was fascinating to see all the difference in shapes and compositions we all came up with, despite starting with the same things. It also confirmed to me that I’m much more fond of the liberty the free-form style affords, but I really do need to focus on more traditional shapes and rules for a while, I think.

Here are my two final arrangements. I’m quite happy with both of them!

As much as I’ve been enjoying doing this on my own, this workshop showed me that I still have so much to learn! Being able to see a teacher’s work in person as well as receiving immediate feedback and constructive criticism as I went was an invaluable experience. I’m very much looking forward to attending more of these if I can arrange time off work.

If you’re local and interested in attending one of these awesome workshops, you can follow Kyoto Fleurs on Facebook. They’re typically going to be held the first Tuesday of each month, but dates are subject to change so follow them to get updates and information in advance!

Tropical Fire Ikebana

Tropical Fire Ikebana

I suspect you’re all probably quite tired of me complaining about winter, but I’m not done yet! Still cold and damp, still sick, and now they’re predicting half an inch of freezing rain overnight! I was very much in the mood for something reminiscent of the sweltering humidity of the tropics. The little flower counter at my local drugstore is not the place I’d expect to find birds of paradise or bright red waxy anthuriums, but lo and behold, they found me and called out to me.

The flowers are so bold and dramatic that I knew I wanted to do something big and sparse and sculptural. The beautiful blue vessel was a Christmas gift from my cousin and I love how it anchors everything, is reminiscent of water, and pulls out the hint of blue in the bird of paradise flower. I tried to arrange the anthurium to almost look like steps leading up to the stark angles of the bird of paradise, and attempted some fancy weaving of the palm leaves. It didn’t hold quite as well as I’d like, I clearly need more practice! The whole arrangement was perched dramatically onto this carved wooden stand that was my grandmother’s. I love the way it raises the whole piece up and elevates it to a work of art.

Spring can’t come soon enough! Aside from all my complaints about flu season and the cold and snow, I’m also eager to go back to working with seasonal flowers from my own garden and the great outdoors. There’s a forsythia bush in our yard that I never got the opportunity to work with last year, and I’ll be damned if I miss its blooms again this year!

Origami Ikebana

Sometimes, when you combine two very traditional Japanese art forms, you get something delightfully modern and original – like origami ikebana!

A friend of mine just bought a new condo and is having a get-together this weekend. I wanted to bring her a little something but plants or real flowers were out of the question due to a very clever and curious kitty friend. I tried to think of something I could make that would be bright and cheerful and pet-friendly and it struck me that I could make paper flowers and do a traditional arrangement with them! I made three salmon lilies, two purple flowers that don’t really look like anything specific, and lots of foliage. The centres of the purple flowers are rolled and curled yellow paper, and the lilies have floral wire and pearls. The stems are just floral wire and floral tape. The thin wire gives the lilies some movement, but they can be manipulated into place if necessary. I admit, I did use some glue to attach flowers and foliage to the stems, but most of this arrangement is held together with nothing more than sharp folds and hope!

I’m really happy with it overall. I just hope my friend likes it!

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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