Bountiful Garden Ikebana

Today’s ikebana is inspired by our beautiful, bountiful garden. I love this time of year. It’s not oppressively hot or humid yet, but it’s warm and sunny and there are flowers blooming everywhere! It’s not great for my allergies, but they’re so pretty I can deal with it.

Everything in this arrangement came from the garden. Irises are one of my favourite flowers of all time, and my mother planted these gorgeous rich purple ones for me. I managed to catch them at the perfect time, freshly bloomed and vibrant. The lilacs are reaching the end of their life cycle, but I still liked the soft, textural quality they brought to the arrangement, helping to balance out the roughness of the wood. The leaves are from a huge ligularia plant. It’s nowhere near blooming yet, but I do hope to use some blossoms off it when it does.

I’m still riding the wave of motivation I got at the ikebana display last week. I was particularly inspired by the use of driftwood in several pieces there, as well as in one of those charming books Naomi sent me.  I put my smaller kenzan in a little glass dish and nestled it into one of the natural curves of the wood. Funny story, this piece of wood is actually an old decoration from our aquarium. Our plecostomus likes to chew on them and smooth them out so we’ve got a bunch of old ones lying around.

Of course, I had to make use of the screen I made last week. I’m so pleased with how it looks, and it has an added bonus of helping diffuse light which makes the photos look much more even. I’m certain you will be seeing a lot more of this screen! I’m tempted to make one in black as well but I have lots of other things that need to be finished first.

Hanakago Ikebana

Hanakago (花篭) means “flower basket”, and it’s a common motif in art and textiles. The baskets can be of any shape and size, and are filled with a profusion of beautiful seasonal flowers. I knew I really wanted to do a hanakago ikebana arrangement, but I’d been waiting for more inspiration than that.

Today was the first day of the year that genuinely felt like spring. I actually went and ran errands without even needing a jacket, and I wanted to celebrate that. I decided to go for a very loose, natural-feeling assemblage of springy flowers in the basket. A beautiful blue hydrangea forms the anchor of the piece, sunny forsythia bring in height and shape, and yellow daisies and a few white ranunculus fill it in and bring some much-needed softness.

It’s a much looser shape than I’m used to doing, but I feel like it’s still very effective. It feels happy and natural and bright. I’m quite happy with how it looks in this little nook, and it will make me smile when the sun and warmth inevitably vanish again in a day or two.

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!