Japanse tuinen en ikebana/Japanese gardens and Ikebana

Op deze blog zullen we berichtjes en informatie plaatsen over Japanse tuinen en ikebana.
Japanese gardens, floral design and musings about living a good life.

Friday, October 28, 2011


To the Chinese, the chrysanthemum represents rest and ease. To the Japanese, it is a sign of long life and happiness. In the Victorian language of flowers, it means cheerfulness and optimism. In the Japanese floral calendar, the chrysanthemum is the flower of September and the Festival of Happiness. It is the quintessential autumn flower, bursting like fireworks before winter cold sets in.

Although in Belgium the chrysanthemum is associated with All Saints' and All Souls' it is a very beautiful flower and you can make lively arrangements as you can see in this slideshow of arrangements made by students at Atelier Kado.

http://atelierkado.jalbum.net/ikebana/chrysanten/klik here for the slideshow
Op donderdag 27 oktober heb ik gewerkt met Mimosa en Chrysanten. Mijn oefening was variatie 3 hangende stijl.
Het is ongelofelijk hoeveel vormen er van Chrysanten er bestaan. Het was moeilijk kiezen deze morgen.
De Mimosa was wel een uitdaging. De takken bewogen alle kanten op! Ze bleven geen seconde stil staan. Ik moest op zoek gaan naar het evenwicht in de tak ... en dan juist knippen.

Acorns and Orchids

Tricyrtis photo, arborix.be
“The old conception, replaced by a later choice, is a way of seeing, and then seeing again.”  I have never read Lillian Hellman’s PENTIMENTO but I have carried this quote with me for over 30 years and it emerges from time to time through the layers of my life’s painting to remind me to keep my eyes open.

My first Sogetsu Ikebana demonstration with Ilse Beunen was on a afternoon in her cozy Atelier Kadõ in Antwerp. In the dying light she offered a short history of the practice while she selected plant material for the demonstration—several branches of sturdy oak and some delicate orchid like flowers called Tricyrtis. She spoke softly but confidently about the choice of vessel, the tools, and how to use eyes, arms, shoulders and hands to measure and manipulate the greenery. There is a prescribed order to build an arrangement. I already feel this will be a challenge for me as I have never been very good about following the rules, or at least, remembering them. Ilse examined the branches for their best features-and imperfections-and talked about being a student and a teacher. She told me about the life long lessons of ikebana and of the moments when a student will at last absorb a concept and “see it again for the first time” or when a student, with great excitement, will tell of a branch spied during a weekend walk that would be “perfect” for a particular arrangement. Inspiration can come from many sources, and a recent post on Nordic Lotus illustrates the beauty of lichen.

Lichen photo:nordic-lotus.blogspot.com
Ikebana masters passed the tradition and technique from one generation to the next. The Sogetsu school was the first to document the practice into a series of books to illustrate the basics (Kaheiho) and then to build on them for more complex arrangements. As Ilse placed the 3 primary branches (Shushi), carefully balancing the mass with the void, she spoke about nature and how ikebana tolerates a bit of decay in the autumn arrangement but asks for abundance in summer.
For this arrangement the oak branches sported a few acorns that needed to be pruned away despite their charm. That was a good talking point for snipping with care as the acorns made it back into the arrangement later on, lending just the right weight to the bottom instead of being too heavy at the top.There is a certain amount of coaxing of plant material a gentle bend or well-placed snip can send a branch into a different direction than it was headed. This is part of the challenge of realizing an idea, as sometimes the plant material will cooperate, but other times, not. Ilse sprinkled some more history along with some inspiration from a recent seminar.  But this was not a one-way lecture as we step back from time to time to discuss the composition and the characteristics of the branches.  This is integral to the learning process because it is important to know what you can expect of a bloom or branch. Sogetsu Ikebana is a reflection of the maker and how that person takes from nature to construct beauty with feelings.

I was struck with the ease that Ilse had with the materials and also how each placement flowed into the next.  The first branch, Shin, is the main and tallest stem, followed by Soe and then Hikae, the shortest (In this arrangement, it was tiny purple specked Tricyrtis). Each is in relationship to the other in three dimensions. They are always placed in that order, have a specified length in relation to the vessel and are fixed at particular angles. The Jushi stems that support the initial structure and there is not a set rule for their number or angle, but they must be shorter than the main stems. (This is where the acorns came back into the arrangement).  Ilse used her own body in relation to the arrangement and the vessel to illustrate how to measure the defined angles of  the main stems.

The kenzan, a small bed of nails, rests at the bottom of the low flat vessel submerged in water and the plant material is pushed down onto the pins. The final steps in the arrangement are to conceal the kenzan from the front and side views. The water element is an important part of the arrangement and it is amazing how the subtle reflection enhances and brightens it. As we stand back to admire the work it does feel as if this is a celebration of the natural materials, but also an expression of a human hand.

Acorns photo: Darren Hester
So, at the beginning there was a bucket of oak branches and a tangle of orchids.  These are not two that I would ever stumble across in the woods, but somehow here they successfully present how the potency of the oak and the fragility of the orchid can coexist.  It is said that what is in you will come out in your arrangement. Ilse’s choice of plant material, the firmly rooted oak and the airy orchid, embody a perfect reflection of the deeply rooted support and an encouraging sense of wanderlust that will guide me well on this new path…with my eyes open!   

Diane Porcella