The Art Of Japanese Floral Arranging 


GardenClubIkebanaBy Anita Stein

From the desert to the tropics, in deep woods, urban cities and cracks in the sidewalk, the sight of flowering trees and bushes, blooming bulbs, perennials, annuals, container gardens, seedlings sprouting in a jar and even some flowering weeds bring joy and anticipation, and are used as tokens of love and friendship, good health, congratulations and festivity throughout the world.

The art of arranging flowers, leaves and stems, which evolved into styles and recognizable schools, can be studied, judged and casually enjoyed for their presence in our lives. On Monday, June 20, from 1 to 2 p.m. at Great Neck House, the Great Neck Garden Club will present a program on Japanese floral arranging from the Sogetsu School called Ikebana, which can been updated and westernized for a contemporary approach.

Ikebana Designs will be presented by Shigeno Okamoto, director of the NY branch of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, a senior master holding rank of Riji, the past president of the New York chapter of Ikebana International and a private instructor of this classic Japanese art form that transcends the act of floral arranging. Some floating arrangements, where water symbolizes renewal, will be demonstrated.

Ikebana has been practiced in Japan for more than 600 years and has about 3,000 schools. Despite the number of schools, the commonality between all is an aesthetic for elegance through line, form, color, harmony, simplicity, balance, unity, an implied reverence for nature and the desire to bring the outdoors inside. While these elements are common to our western design aesthetic, too, western arrangements are more volume-oriented, focusing on design shapes by categories, favoring formal balance and using containers with wet floral foam to hold flowers. Ikebana designs are more minimalistic, favoring the use of fewer botanicals, asymmetrical balance, symbolic placement of plant materials and often using shallow containers containing “frogs” or pins to hold stems upright or angled.

Creative planning and appreciation for natural beauty are integral to both western-created and Ikebana floral arrangements. Yet, in Ikebana, the design execution process expects the use of time and silence in the doing, and an understanding of what appears to be spaces between selected branches and flowers. These spaces lend both a quiet, yet dynamic, look to the finished arrangement, and help in the understanding of Ikebana. Spaces are considered full, not empty, accentuating each design by defining the space shapes create by the bordering plant materials, and they are integral to overall Ikebana design. There is an art to using space, which is a kind of silence or resting place, in all creative art forms, including painting, poetry, dance, staging and floral design.

“Ikebana is the art of space—the space between branches, the space between flowers and leaves and the space between masses,” according to founder of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, Sofu Teshigahara. “Ikebana is not just about flowers; it is about the person who arranges them.”

Join the Great Neck Garden Club for this free quiet yet exciting introduction to the art of Ikebana flower arranging. Be sure to bring paper and pen to write down your observations as you watch Okamoto create her arrangements. For information about programs or membership, call 516-305-5251.

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