Hirozumi Sumiyoshi, Rikka, ca. 1700. Image via Wikimedia Commons
Ikebana (“living flowers”) is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, also known as Kadō (“way of flowers”). The tradition dates back to the 7th century when floral offerings were made at altars. Later, they were placed in the tokonoma (alcove) of a home. In contrast to the western habits of casually placing flowers in a vase, ikebana aims to bring out the inner qualities of flowers and other live materials within certain rules of construction and ultimately – express emotion.
Branches and flowers are placed at specific angles to represent ten (heaven), chi (earth), and jin (man). The way they’re placed represents the strength, delicacy, and ephemerality of living flowers. Funnily enough, the word ikebana comes from ‘ikuru’ – to live and ‘hana’ – flowers: literally ‘living flowers’.
It’s an art that restores our sense of inner harmony. A sort of lovely mix of therapy and meditation. Anyone can ikebana. It’s about trusting your intuition and creating something according to how you feel right at that moment. There’s no right or wrong. It’s your self expression!
Toshiro Kawase, Japan’s leading modern Ikebana Master
Where western-style arrangements go for flowers in a vase on mass to make an impact, ikebana goes for structure, space, and minimalism.
It’s common to see tall branches balanced precariously in ikebana. That’s because it uses a 30/70 balance ratio, rather than the normal 50/50.
The art of creating an arrangement leads to self awareness (and happiness!).
Japanese Yin and Yang is about opposites completing one another.
Ikebana aims to capture the fleeting beauty of things. A lot of ikebana arrangements feature a bud to represent the promise of hope.
Not just emptiness, but an important part of the design as a whole.