3 Main Elements of Ikebana Flower Arrangments: Element 2 – Mass

Mass is a slightly controversial topic in contemporary Ikebana. On one hand it is quite similar to the appearance of Western arrangements and therefore is not “Ikebana-like”. On the other hand it is a rather difficult task to construct a proper mass. In several workshops I have seen advanced students and even teachers struggle with satisfying master instructors’ requirements with regard to the mass arrangements.

In this post I will share my point of view on what is important in successfully arranging a mass. I am sure there are many opinions so please leave your comments at the end of the post, I would be happy to have some discussion.

First, density is what defines a mass, so no compromise is acceptable. There should be no spaces  between flowers. If need be one can tighten the mass with a wire on the back of the arrangement.

Second, a shape of a mass does not have to be just a round ball of flowers. Interesting compositions can be created by constructing elongated or triangular shapes. Several masses together also can be quite impressive.

Ikebana Sogetsu Mass Color Gradient IkebanaWeb.com
Dahlias Color Gradient Arrangement with Elongated Mass Arrangement in Two Nageire Vases.

Third, a mass does not have to be made of the same color of flowers. Experimenting with color gradient is interesting. I have tried it in the above arrangement and then developed it further for one of my exhibition pieces described in an earlier post.

Sogetsu Ikebana mass arrangement moribana
Round Mass of Forget-me-Nots, Elongated Mass of Eucalyptus Leaves and a Cylindrical Mass of Cornus Twigs.

And finally, a mass does not have to be made of flowers only. It could be a mass of leaves or twigs. Or even like in the top photo of this post, it can be a mass of artificial materials. In this case I used some computer cable (or was it a printer cable?… not like it makes any difference). It nicely integrated with the color of the ceramic container, which I recently made and at the same time it gave good contrast to the color of the flower mass of Gerbera.

Do you see how mass and color are closely interlinked and need each other to make the arrangement work? This brings us nicely to the next Sunday’s topic “Color”. Until the next Sunday!

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Ikebana Sogetsu lines arrangement IkebanaWeb Ekaterina Seehaus

3 Main Elements of Ikebana Flower Arrangements: Element 1 – Line

In the last week’s post we introduced the three main elements of Ikebana arrangements: mass, color and line. Traditionally they are all equally important. Well, let me use the words of Gorge Orwell “we are all equal but some are more equal than others” to express by bias towards the lines. Yes, it is all about the overall harmony and balance but we all have our preferences. Lines are my favorite Ikebana element.

3 examples of different usages of lines in Ikebana. Sogetsu school. IkebanaWeb.com
Just a few example: combination of straight lines with curved ones, building a structure of crossed lines, using leaf surfaces as lines.

I find it interesting how the use of lines completely changes the character of your arrangement. It can make your arrangement static if you use horizontal or vertical lines or can add dramatic movement with diagonal or curved lines. Can you imagine all the possibilities!

Ikebana Sogetsu curved branch in a curved container emphasizing the movement.
Single curved branch in a curved container emphasizes the movement.

Even a single strong line in an arrangement makes it into a statement piece, into something, which catches attention and looks quite different from what you typically see in a florists’ shops. With bold lines and minimal number of flowers you can create arrangements, which will have a dramatic impact on the space where they are displayed.

There are plenty of different types of lines you can use in your arrangements: natural curves of branches, straight lines of reed and bamboo, peculiarly curled stems of flowers just to name a few. And if you add the lines made of artificial materials such as colorful cocktail straws, electrical wires (those could get pretty colorful as well), thin metal pipes … the possibilities are endless. You can combine straight and curved lines, add different texture, create modern look and test the limits of your creativity.

Sogetsu Ikebana Diagonal Lines with 2 moribana containers IkebenaWeb.com
Bundling several reed stems together for stronger impression. Containers leaned against each other to emphasize the movement.

Just start experimenting. If your material is really thin such as straw or reed, you can put several pieces together or even tie them together to make stronger impression like on the above photo. Another trick is using color to make your lines look more pronounced. On the first image of this post there are 2 reed stems, which are painted red. This gives them more visual “weight” and prevents the flowers from overpowering the thin pale reed stems.

Hope this post gave you some new ideas coming from the ancient Japanese art of Ikebana and inspired you to try expressing your creativity through arranging flowers in some new ways. If you make any pictures of your arrangements feel free to e-mail them to me Ekaterina@IkebanaWeb.com. It would be interesting to share those in the future posts.

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Ikebana Sogetsu Mass, Color, Line - 3 main elements. IkebanaWeb.com

3 Main Elements of Ikebana Flower Arrangements

Japanese art of Ikebana is most known for its minimalist aesthetics. Unlike the typical Western styles, which predominantly focus on creating large volumes of blooms, Ikebana puts equal emphases on the three main elements: mass, color and line.

This image is a simplified representation of an arrangement with the 3 elements being added one by one. First mass, then color and at the end the horizontal lines joining the composition. See how they work together and change the overall impression of a simple Syringa (Lilac) branch?

Ikebana: Mass, Color and Line. Sogetsu school. IkebanaWeb.com
Ikebana: Mass, Color and Line

Out of the 3 elements we are most familiar with the mass. Most of the traditional bouquets are masses of flowers. Color is also an obvious one. But the line is not used much in the Western floral art. Occasionally we see a line of a brunch being emphasized but such details as flower stems or roots are almost never in the spotlight.

Not all the element have to be present in each arrangement. But on the other hand it is quite rare to have only one element used in isolation. So it is all about balancing the 3 and using them effectively to create arrangements, which express your ideas and feeling.

In the next posts I will talk more about each of the elements and the interrelation between the lines, mass and color. Stay tuned.

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A 3D Challenge: Natural Creativity

I would like to take you on a quiet self exploration journey. The intention is to experience one of the important sources of your creativity: your connection with nature. No prior experience or special knowledge is required. You do not even need to see yourself as a creative person. Just let me explain first.

I became aware of this technique through my Ikebana flower arrangement studies. But similar exercise can be done in any field of self expression. The assignment we were given was quite simple: we received a photograph of a landscape and then we had to make an arrangement based on the personal impressions. And sure enough, everybody had arranged a very different composition. Here is the original photograph and my Ikebana composition inspired by it.

Ikebana Sogetsu Impression of an image IkebanaWeb

For me it was all about the contrast of the sharp, hard cliff with the soft blue of the sky and of the sea. Diagonal lines were also important as they gave some dynamic.

The materials are very simple and completely free: the piece of a tree trunk we picked up while walking through the fields nearby – an old hollow tree was cut and disposed off. The blue flowers are from a shrub in our garden and the yellow ones were just some weeds on the side of the road. The flowers are placed in a small bottle standing behind the piece of wood. Absolutely nothing special. Just going with a flow and keeping eyes open. Anybody can do this, right?

Now I want to challenge you with this:

1) Have a look at the picture of a waterfall below, get a feel of it, focus on your personal associations.

2) Then go for a walk in the woods or step out into your garden, pick up any materials, which seem to be resonating with you and with your impressions of the picture.

3) Make an arrangement. The simpler the better. Remember “less is more”.

4) Take a picture of your arrangement and e-mail it to me before September 15, 2015 Ekaterina@IkebanaWeb.com.

If there are enough participants (I would say should be at least 5) we will make a poll to select the winner and I will organize a nice prize. Are you in? If you are still hesitant, read on and I will give you a few hints on how to go about it. You will be surprised how much more you could feel and express if you just give yourself a chance.

Waterfall IkebanaWeb

For a few minutes just put on hold all the 10 000 things, which you should have done “yesterday” and quiet down those voices in your head, which say you don’t have time for this. You do have 5 minutes for exploring yourself. Just stay for a moment with the waterfall… in the forest… alone…

If you were standing there, would you feel the water with your bare feet? Would it be cold? Would you hear the waterfall, birds? Would you smell moss or freshness? Notice the emotions arising in your body, acknowledge them. Remember this feeling.

If you think of it, it is a miracle that you have just vividly experienced a place, which you have never visited. A photographer has captured a small part of a (remarkable) 3D reality into a two-dimensional frame. And now miles away and perhaps years later you feel real sensations of this waterfall. And what I want you to do is to continue the magic wheel of art and to try expressing those feeling back in the 3D world. You can use any materials or techniques you want.

When the next time (perhaps later this weekend) you wonder around nature try to remember this feeling of the waterfall. Look at grasses, trees, branches of shrubs, see if any are resonating with the feelings you have experienced “at the waterfall”. May be it will be the color, or texture of foliage, or a curve of a dry branch resembling the waterfall lines. There is no right or wrong, just go with what catches your eye, do not overthink it.

Bring your finds home. Look for a container. A big glass bottle or several cups together could make a great start. Even a plastic bottle could be made into an interesting container if you cut the top off or cut a large opening on the side. Do not restrict yourself to what is considered a proper flower container. Although there is nothing wrong with a normal vase either. Just listen to the sound of water while you are pouring it into the container and contemplate for a moment.

When you are done arranging your materials in the container, make sure you take time to enjoy it. Then take a few photos and attach them to the e-mail addressed to me. I am already getting excited thinking of the variety of pictures you folks will send. Can’t wait.

Enjoy your time with nature!

P.S. I need to make a disclaimer here: if you live in a city and visiting nature is not in your plan you can also try your nearest florist shop. Just make sure you give yourself time to feel which plant materials resonate with your “waterfall” emotions before buying them. Here is the picture of the waterfall once again, a bigger version.

Waterfall IkebanaWeb

 

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The essence of a woman

Ikebana Sogetsu exhibitionI see a difference between creating Ikebana arrangements for private viewing and for exhibitions. Once it is intended to be seen by many people in my opinion it becomes a variety of show business (in a good sense of the word). So I try to add a bit of entertainment to my arrangements and to avoid being too serious.

For one of the recent exhibitions I have made a somewhat whimsical arrangement combining a mass of high heel shoes with  a white-pink-purple color gradient of Dahlias.

I like watching people passing by my arrangements. Always interesting to see what the reactions are and whether the desired effect is achieved. And yes, this time it worked! There were smiles, and curiosity, and of course occasional attempts to see how it is all holding together.

I was pleased when a journalist covering the exhibition asked my permission to use a picture of my arrangement for her article. She also wanted to know whether the arrangement had a name. It never occurred to me that you can name your Ikebana arrangements. But somehow a name just popped in my head when she asked. “The essence of a woman”.  I do not mean to be sexist. Shoes and pink flowers are not the most important part of our lives. But they do make some of us very happy. Besides it sounded like fun and well, it was the first thing which came to my mind.

I hope you find it fun too, let me know what you think. Ikebana Shoes Dhalias Sogetsu

 

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“Poetical Ikebana” is published

I am super excited about being a participant in a recently published art book “Poetical Ikebana”. Two of my compositions are featured in the book along with about 150 other works of Ikebana artists from around the world.

The concept of this book is quite unique: participants were invited to illustrate 3 haiku poems with their Ikebana arrangements. We could select from a list of 35 haiku – traditional Japanese poetic form, very minimalist and philosophical, just like Ikebana is.

It was an interesting challenge and I enjoyed it immensely. Creating the arrangements is always a great pleasure for me. The more intense part is working together with a photographer on “letting others see what I have seen”. It is an interesting collaborative process. A photographer participates in part of creation as much as the artist: the final product is a photograph of the arrangement, not just the arrangement itself. Having similar artistic tastes and being able to communicate well is critical.

Ikebana Black Bird haiku Poetical Ikebana
This was my favorite out of the 3 compositions I have submitted. Photography by Frank Van Den Block

Selection of the illustrations for the book was made through blind voting by a team of Ikebana experts. As a participant you literally do not know whether your arrangements are selected or not until you arrive to the book presentation at the publisher. I was very happy to find out that 2 out of my 3 haiku illustration were published. The one, which did not make it to the book was actually my favorite! But of course every cloud has a silver lining: this means I retain the rights for the picture and therefore can share it with you here.

The haiku I illustrated with this arrangement is by Ann Colpaert:

just before dawn

the whole universe

filled by one blackbird.

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