Monday, 30 May 2011

Practice to Become Fluent

"Once a flower is cut, it must be set by someone who understands the language of the flower. Just as musicians express themselves through the language of music, ikebana artists must use the language of the flowers. Creating good ikebana meens becoming fluent in this language. ... This is what ikebana means - always facing flowers with candor and listening to what they say."

Sofu Teshigahara, founder of the Sogetsu School of ikebana,
from "Kadensho; The Book of Flowers"

Rowan and purple wild flowers.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

EN Japanese in NYC

I've just had a wonderful evening at EN Japanese Brasserie in Manhattan's West Willage. Excelent food served in an enviroment combining a trendy NYC feeling with modern Tokyo aesthetics, flowering branches arranged in large vases and authentic Japanese antique panels. I'm posting some photos for your inspiration.

We had their Soyo Kaze menu with Kyoto-style appetizers, Saikyo Miso Grilled Black Cod, freshly scooped chilled tofu, and other goodies. Try it if you have the opportunity.

Photos: Svein G. Josefsen

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Playing with Straight Lines

Bamboo and wooden sticks.

I was going through the Sogetsu textbooks with my ikebana teacher the other day. We were finished earlier than expected, so I got time to do a quick ikebana arrangement as well. It's interesting to see how the textbooks are designed to help develop your creativity and your individual expression. Bamboo is a material with natural straight lines. I've chosen to emphasize the thin diagonal lines by sticking wooden sticks in a contrasting colour through the bamboo stems.

Sorry about the lousy photo quality. I didn't bring my camera so I had to use the iPhone, which didn't turn out that well. Anyway, I hope you can find some inspiration. Let's be playful today!

Monday, 9 May 2011

A Blessing in the Park

Magnolia and Spirea.

Spring is a great time for walking in The Botanical Garden. On my way home tonight I stopped by to experience the evening sun and the blossoming trees. Under a Magnolia tree I found a fresh flower laying on the ground. Someone must have broken it and then left it.

I always feel blessed standing under a blossoming tree. This time I got the rear opportunity to bring home a little bit of blessing from the park. Magnolia blooming on bare branches symbolizes love of nature. Spirea symbolizes victory.


Cherry blossom and forsythia.
Contrasting branches.
Arrangement without kenzan.
Focus on lines at the base.

Sakura, the cherry blossom, is considered to be the national flower of Japan. There are more than 350 different kinds of cherry blossom. Every year people are gathering to picnic under the trees and celebrate the spring.

One cherry blossom opens and everywhere is spring - o
pen the blossom of enlightenment in your heart and eternal peace dwells in you.

Old cherry branches with lichen,
two sizes of white cherry blossom
Ishu-ike with branches.
Mass and lines.

The mountain god Oho-Yama had two daughters.
He wanted the incredibly strong daughter
to marry Ninigi, but he rice-god preferred her younger sister Kono-Hana-Sakuya-Hime, the flower princess.

It has been told that this caused Iha-Naga to trow her sister out of the heavens. The flower princess landed on mount Fuji at the same moment as the cherry blossoms opened. Kono-Hana-Sakuya-Hima makes the flowers blossom, and the Sakura trees got their name when she landed on them.

According to another story Iha-Naga
cursed Ninigi for choosing her sister over herself. Iha-Naga who's name means "princess long-live" cried out that had he chosen wisely his children would have lived long in the land, and continued: "Now that you have chosen my sister, you and yours will perish as quickly as the blossom on trees, as quickly as the bloom on my sister's cheek."

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Ikebana Studio Visit

Today I'd like to invite you on a tour to the ikebana studio of my teacher. She lives outside the city and it takes me an hour to get there, first by commuter boat across the Oslo fjord and then half an hour by bus. The trip is long enough to help me tune inn and leave the busy workday behind.

Getting off the bus and walking down the steep road to the house you'll notice that you're in the right place. A Japanese metal lantern is placed on an old stump. A bamboo fountain provides an atmosphere of tranquility.

Walking closer and following the path around the next corner you're facing the small entrance door to the studio. Welcome, come inside!

Behind the screen is a low table with cushions for drinking a cup of tea before the ikebana lesson starts. On the shelfs are lots and lots of vases and containers to choose between.

After a cup of tea and an introduction to todays lesson; ikebana with cherry blossoms, we're ready to start working.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Euroflora Inispiration

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Euroflora exhibition i Genova together with friends in South of France. In addition to a lot of outdoor plants there was also a section with floral art.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Phillytea: The Fallen Blossom

In addition to ikebana blogs I also follow a couple of chado (tea ceremony) blogs. This week Morgan of the Chado Association of Philadelphia has posted a beautiful and thoughtful ikebana related story about a tea master arranging a Camellia blossom in the tokonoma.

"The moment when the blossom falls is a moment of transition ... There’s beauty in all moments, in all phases of existence, in endings as well as beginnings."

Read the full story here:

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

LA Luncheon 2

I made a new friend that I'd like you to meet. At the anniversary luncheon of the Sogetsu Los Angeles Branch in April this year I sat at the same table as Norma McDonough who was also helping out with the arrangement as a volunteer. Norma is a Los Angeles based art director and web designer. In between the courses I found out that she is a member of the Soho Study Group in San Francisco, a really creative group of students of ikebana master Soho Sakai. Together with three other ikebana enthusiasts Norma is also part of Renka Design Group working together on big projects such as exhibitions. The arrangement pictured here is their latest installation at the Bouquets to Art exhibition at DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, March 2011.

I like the name of the group and the idea of working together. Renka is a collaborative form of ikebana that was introduced to the Sogetsu School by Hiroshi Teshigahara in the 1990s. Inspired by the classical poetry genre renga, wich is a form of linked verse that became the basis for the modern haiku, he created an avant-garde method of ikebana that involves several people. A renka work consists of a series of interdependent arrangements. Since each participant interprets the previous works in the series of arrangements the completed form of the renka ikebana is not known until the last contributor has finished her work. Unlike a joint work, in renka the individual work is created by a single artist. One by one, the participants challenge the given space until the work is completed.

Read more about renka here.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Heaven and Earth are Flowers

It's often said that you should choose one ikebana School and then stay faithful to your choice. I remember my teacher advising me to concentrate on Sogetsu ikebana rather than comparing it too much with other schools. Trying to grasp the many rules and styles of different schools would be like studying several languages at the same time. The focus may get too broad and the whole situation confusing. Still I can't help being fascinated by the differences. I'm especially intrigued by the old classic schools. I find that their teaching enriches my understanding also of modern ikebana.

Lately I've been reading "Heaven and Earth are Flowers: Reflections on Ikebana and Buddhism" by Joan D. Stamm. This is a quite new book. I've been reading it really slowly allowing it to stimulate my own reflections while reading. Joan Stamm is an authorized teacher of the Saga School, a school that traces its traditions back to more than 1200 years and has as it's motto "to unite flowers and religion". She merges stories from everyday experiences with the wisdom of Buddhist philosophy, traditional ikebana, and insights learned from living the way of flowers.

Finding a place for the book in my bookshelf I feel grateful for stories that are shared and teachings that are handed down. I'll place it together with Gustie L. Herrigel's book "Zen in the Art of Flower Arranging" sharing her gradual understanding of ikebana and buddhism in the 1920's Japan, and a book by the Swedish author Ida Trotzig telling the story of her life in Japan in the early 1900's and her fascination with ikebana that, as for Joan Stamm, started with a visit to the old temple Daikaku-ji.

Reading this books has been stimulating. I know I'll keep exploring the balance of opposites in ikebana known as In Yo in Japanese and Yin and Yang in Chinese. I'll also keep thinking about the differences between Japanese and Western views on how to cultivate a humble personality.

by Joan D. Stamm
Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2010

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