On Saturdays, I study flowers.
Just as community groups in the west might gather in a church hall, my flowers class rents a room in one of the local temples. There are perhaps 15 of us, but the class time is flexible with people coming and going throughout the afternoon as suits their own schedule. Like most Japanese temples, the grounds include an beautiful garden with a small koi pond that we can see while we work on our arrangements. Ono-sensei, our teacher, has been studying flowers for more than 30 years and her arrangements are simply amazing. I’ve been studying for about 5 months now, my arrangements are decidely UN-amazing, but I’m hoping to do better.
Learning Ikebana is more complicated than just learning to stick flowers in a vase nicely. At my first class, there was so much information about lines and angles and degrees that it felt more like a geometry lesson. Everyone receives a package of flowers and foliage that are generically referred to as “the materials”. And then with whatever materials you’ve received that week, you endeavor to create something pleasing within a particular katachi (a model style or form). Each katachi is defined by dominant lines and angles of placement, which is where the feeling of geometry comes in.
And of course, seasonality. Ikebana is a compound word composed of ikeru (to live) and hana (flowers), that is, “living flowers”. Seasonality is a reflection of the life cycle. The lotus at left are shown in summer and fall arrangements, mirroring the life cycle of the plant. Even the withering leaves have beauty.
Both of these lotus compositions are advanced arangements using nageire (upright vase), far too advanced for a mere beginner such as myself. The forms taught at my level are much simpler and use wide shallow bowls or a small pedestal bowl as shown below. All three of these arrangements show hiraku-katachi (radial form). Despite the use of different materials, the dominant lines are similar. The top and bottom arrangements were done by my classmates, while the middle arrangement is mine (with lots and lots of coaching from Ono-sensei).
There are few things in life that speak so eloquently of luxury and elegance as filling your home with fresh flowers. And it is a treasure indeed to find so lovely a group of women who come together each week just for the love of flowers. It’s the same with my embroidery and sewing friends, so lovely to build social relations around the sharing of something wonderful.