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.

Hotel Lobby Ikebana

This is what I tend to think of as Hotel Lobby Ikebana. It’s big, bold, tropical, and symmetrical, and it wouldn’t feel out of place as you’re checking in to a nice resort. This isn’t a bad thing at all, it’s just where my mind immediately goes when I see this sort of arrangement.

For this one, I challenged myself to work from a pre-assembled bouquet from the drugstore, of all things. Who knew you could get ginger flowers in that sort of a place? I love how sculptural and bright they are, and thought this red vase I found at the thrift store would balance them nicely.

I tried to keep the balance and framing I learnt about in last month’s ikebana atelier in mind while I put this together, but still kept it more modern and free-form. I liked the idea of symmetry and like how the end result has a pleasant fan shape that also adds to the formal and dramatic feel of it.

I can’t wait for the weather to start getting nicer so I can go back to using seasonal flowers from the garden and great outdoors, but for now I’m just glad I have access to interesting plant material.

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!

Think Pink Ikebana

Very, very pink! I think I was inspired by the #monokimono challenge and ended up doing a #monoikebana without really intending to. I found the two different shades of alstroemeria and thought they’d make for some interesting texture and colour interplay, and then I stumbled across a gerbera daisy which just happened to match exactly. The pink vase seemed like the next logical step after that.

Typically when I buy flowers I choose my own greenery and avoid the fluff and frill of ferns (woo hello there alliteration!) but I was rushing to an appointment and there was a new girl behind the counter, so when I saw she’d taken the greens out I decided to just run with it. I do like that they add a good grounding base to the whole arrangement, and another layer of texture. However, the arrangement felt like it was missing height and balance, and I racked my brain to think of something I could add. The green bamboo-like bits are actually simply the stems of the alstroemeria flowers that I cut off. I love the idea of giving them a second life that also helps make the whole arrangement feel more harmonious. I might have to revisit this sometime, working with the entire stem, not just the bloom.

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!