The Art of Ikebana

We’ve spent the last several weeks discussing the various aspects of designing a floral centerpiece that will compliment and enhance your next big event.  Our focus has mostly been on traditional and modern centerpieces as we discussed everything from the principles of design to selecting the perfect container to display your masterpiece.

Today, we are going to take some time to explore the art of Japanese flower arranging.

What is Ikebana?

Ikebana is the Japanese word for the art of flower arrangement.  It comes from two Japanese words: “Ike” (which means pond), and “Hana” (which means flower).  By definition, Ikebana means pond flower and is interpreted to be the art of arranging flowers in water.

Ikebana has a deeper meaning than traditional and modern flower arrangements.  It is more than simply putting flowers in a container; its aim is to bring nature indoors and make it live.  It is a disciplined art form that brings nature and humanity IMG_1487together through the creation of a living thing.

The Influence of Japanese Culture

Many people say that the manner in which the Japanese relate to nature is religious in nature.  There is a spiritual aspect in the art of Ikebana, which involves the practice of silence.  In becoming quiet, one also quiets the mind.  This allows a person to focus on the moment and develop an appreciation for what is in front of them.  It encourages patience and tolerance.  Ikebana also allows for the individual to identify with the beauty of nature.

Ikebana is an art form equivalent to that of painting and sculpture in Japanese culture.  For some, Ikebana becomes a career.  For others, it is a hobby that allows an individual to retreat from the busyness of life and tap into their creativity.

The Guiding Principles of Ikebana

Although a unique form of flower arranging, Ikebana still follows the basic principles of flower design and places a high degree of emphasis on balance and harmony.  Ikebana arrangements are typically asymmetrical in balance.  This is generally accomplished through the use of empty space to create contrast.

Due to its spiritual nature, harmony is also of great importance in the art of Ikebana.  It is very important for the arrangement and container to not only harmonize with one another, but to also match the environment in which the piece is displayed.  This is largely due to its role as an art form in the typical Japanese home.

Materials Used in Ikebana

When selecting the flowers and plants to be used in an Ikebana arrangement, form is of the utmost importance.  There are three general categories of materials used in the creation of an Ikebana arrangement:

  • Plant Materials: Bamboo canes, pine branches, grasses, and fruit and seed pods are the most common plants to be used in Ikebana.  They create create height within the arrangement.
  • Large Flowers: Chrysanthemums have long-lasting blooms that represent longevity.  Peonies symbolize riches and splendor.  Lotus flowers symbolize purity and immortality.  Camellia, orchids, rose, azalea, magnolia blooms are also used as large flowers in Ikebana arrangements.
  • Flowering Branches: Cherry blossoms represent clouds and mortality.  Plum blossoms represent hope and resistance to injury.  Other examples of flowering branches include wisteria, forsythia, and jasmine.  These materials help to  create movement in an Ikebana arrangement.

Styles of Ikebana

IMG_1475As in any art form, there are multiple styles of Ikebana.  Each school that teaches Ikebana has unique styles developed by its headmasters throughout history.  Today we will focus on Moribana and Nageire styles of Ikebana.

Both Moribana and Nageire consists of three main branches:

  • The Shin: This symbolizes heaven and is one-and-a-half times the height of the vase.
  • The Soe: This symbolizes man and is two-thirds to three-quarters the height of the Shin.
  • The Hikai: This symbolizes earth and is one-third to half the height of the Shin.

Both Moribana and Nageire have three categories:

  • Chokutai: Upright
  • Shatai: Slanting
  • Suitai: Cascading

While Moribana an Nageire share many similarities, they differ in the following ways:

  • Moribana: Moribana means “piling up flowers.”  These Ikebana arrangements use wide, shallow vases to emphasizes the surface area of water.
  • Nageire: Nageire means “thrown in.”  These arrangements use tall, narrow vases and are tend to favor the slanting style.

Ikebana and You

You may be asking yourself why we’ve taken today to discuss Ikebana in our series on floral centerpieces.  An Ikebana flower arrangement makes a unique centerpiece.  It is a sophisticated piece of art.  Just as a painting or statue has a distinct environment in which it is appropriately displayed, so is a Ikebana arrangement.  When browsing possible options for your next event, it is important to determine whether or not an Ikebana piece is an appropriate choice.  Use the professionals at Brown Floral to help you assess your event and make a wise choice.

Even if an Ikebana arrangement does not end up making an appearance at your next event, we hope that this knowledge will increase your appreciation of this unique art form.  Who knows, you might even pursue the art of Ikebana yourself as you seek out a method of quieting your mind, practicing patience, and identifying with the beauty of nature.




Ikebana International

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