Inspired by the Japanese Fan / Веер и икэбана

A fan in Japan was never just an accessory: a poem, a secret letter, a phrase book, a dancer’s attribute or more often a weapon (offensive or defensive fans existed), it was always the essential part of the outlook. Counting its history from 2nd century BC China and made from wood, bamboo, paper, silk and metal, fans were folding (sensu) or just rigid circular (uchiwa). Check the wikipedia Hand Fan article for more history & pictures.

Associating ikebana with a fan, finding inspiration in it, seemed to me something natural to add to the student’s program. Yet for some reason, we never tried that before in my own practicing class. But I’m sure Japanese teachers do it! So I can’t say that was the topic I invented, I was just happy to use my imagination & implement it into the program. And as this is one of those topics that you can practice at any level of ikebana, my students were doing it in the course of their kakei-ho studies of basic variations.

Let’s say these three compositions below represent 3 different summer months, though mine orange one is more about September for me… The others being July and June respectively. In my arrangement I use an original japanese fan, a family treasure, which is a classic example of decorating the fans with 2 seasons pictures (the opposite side has a blooming sakura on it). The idea to put daylily and willow together in a metal indian vase was to emphasize the beauty of mystery & the possible danger that through the ages was associated with the fans, war fans, especially used by ninja’women (kunoichi). Yet having some fresh air between the leaves and the tranquility we get from the willow. And it’s still Reversed Variation 2, slanting style, nageire.

Orange flares

If we imagine this arrangement below is about July where we tend to hide in the shade of trees and overgrowing greenery of gardens to find a safe place from the cruelty of sun burning all down, we can feel the light breeze in it! The tender coolness of yellow chrysanthemum, and the light green ceramic bowl remind us we can find a shelter near the water and relax with a proper the midsummer pace. The fan used here is a printed copy of the one dating back to late Tokugawa period (1792-1867), used by Noh theater actors in a play named Faded Beauty. And it’s Variation 1, upright style, moribana.

Inspired by Japanese fan: Variation 1, upright style, moribana

Here we can think about June, the full beauty of the fresh leaves and the flowers in their glory days. Open the window facing the garden and you will feel that instantly. The exuberance of nature! But not without its lightness, little birds and butterflies here and there, rays of sunshine dancing…The fan also dates back to late Tokugawa period, was used in a woman play of Noh theater, called Lady Tamakatsura.  And this is Variation 2, slanting style, nageire. The fans used in arrangements 2 & 3 are taken from a book Painted Fans of Japan: 15 Noh Drama Masterpieces by Reiko Chiba. And I´m more than sure that we will continue doing fan’inspired arrangements during my ikebana classes.

Inspired by Japanese fan: Variation 2, slanting style, nageire

Веер в Японии никогда не был просто аксессуаром: Continue reading


What matters is the work…

Если когда-либо мы чувствуем себя беспомощными в том, что мы делаем, теряемся, не понимая, а кому всё это нужно. Всё, что может вывести нас из такого болота на свет, – это только работа, практика, оттачивание мастерства наших рук. Приводя результаты наших трудов все точнее и точнее в соответствие с тем, что чувствует наша душа. Мы словно учим язык, только это некий мета-язык. Всё это одинаково применимо к любой области творчества и навеяно прочитанным сегодня в книге Патти Смит “Просто Дети”:

“…I wondered what was the point of creating art. For whom? Are we animating God? Are we talking to ourselves? And what was the ultimate goal? To have one’s work caged in arts’ great zoos – the Modern, the Met, the Louvre?…Why commit to art? For self-realization, or for itself?…

Often I’d try to write or draw, but all the many activity on the streets, coupled with the Vietnam War, made my efforts seem meaningless. I could not identify with political movements. In trying to join them I felt overwhelmed by yet another form of bureaucracy. I wondered if anything I did mattered.

Robert [Mapplethorpe]…never seemed to question his artistic drives, and by his example, I understood that what matters is the work: the string of words propelled by God becoming a poem, the weave of color and graphite scrawled upon the sheet that magnifies His motion. To achieve within the work the perfect balance of faith and execution. From this state of mind comes a light, life-charged…” – Patti Smith “Just kids”.

Photo by Robert Mapplethorpe.

Ps. Книга Патти Смит “Просто Дети” была также переведена и издана на русском языке, издательством АСТ.

Как проходят занятия, часть 2 – Начало изучения нагэирэ / How is it going, part 2 – learning nageire

So you’ve seen the very beginning of the classes… Then getting more or less handy with moribana as making arrangements in vases with low borders, using kenzan, my students switched to explore another style called – nageire – which literally from Japanese means “the flowers freely put in the water”. Having quite a natural look above the vase, inside of the vase it can be really complicated: to manage nageire arrangements, you have to learn some types of fixtures & use them freely inside the vase.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have a look inside the vase… It’s really not as easy as it is said in Japanese. There’re 3 main types of fixtures. Each time you arrange the flowers, considering the plants you have & the vase,  you need to choose which type of fixture to use, or how to combine them in a way to make all the elements stand firmly.


That is why it all begins with moribana, which is technically easier & gets you acquainted with the main elements. But look how the impression of the arrangement changes within one scheme (variation 2 slanting style) in 2 different styles:


And this is actually how it works… step by step you move from the very basics to more deep understanding of the idea. It’s not just schemes, we add & explore the materials, the shapes of plants and their characters…


Thanks again to Lily, Jane, Nastya & Masha for their works, shown here, and for their patience and persistence! You can also see the best of works by my students on flickr

You can join us anytime you wish! Even if the others are already on their way, you get even more inspired in the class, looking at what is waiting for you ahead!


Посмотрев на результаты первого поста про начало наших занятий и освоение морибана, иначе говоря, композиций в низких вазах, с использованием кензана, поговорим о том, как мы изучали второй стиль композиций икэбана – нагэирэ.  Continue reading

Как проходят занятия икэбана, самое начало / What’s we’ve been doing in Keisei Ikebana class since the very beginning, part 1

It’s time to uncover some more details about how my ikebana class is going…We’ve been practicing kakei-ho since April, starting on the very beginning & going through the programe individually, with each student at it’s own pace. You can also see the best of my students’ arrangements on flickr – My Students. Keisei ikebana class

The programme is based on Sogetsu Textbooks, with Kakei-ho covering Books 1 & 2, giving the schemes to make the basic arrangement & and their variations in 2 shapes – upright & slanting, and in 2 styles – moribana & nageire, using 2 different types of vases. Basically every week we come to the class & practice ikebana, listening to aerial inspirational music while we arrange (to get in the ood & not to talk that much). We are also watching some inspirational pictures & talking about floristic techniques & philosophical matters of the arrangement.  I’m very proud of my students’ works & their progress, and I’m happy that step by step they are joining me on the way of expressing ourselves through flowers…Thanks to Lily, Jane, Nastya & Masha for their work & check out the next post – “How is it going in the class, part2 – learning nageire” – to have more of their works!

So we started with a basic moribana arrangement, in upright & slanting shapes. But from the very beginning trying to create a feeling, an emotion with each arrangement:

Basic upright style, moribana Basic Upright style moribana

And why do we practice? Imagine that ikebana is a verse, a sentence, a saying consisting of words…So we practice not just to enjoy it, but also to shape all the words, to spell them clearly. Have a look how two different vases changed the overall impression of the white tulip or white apple blossom arrangements from the slideshow? The transparent glass adds more fragility to the spring feeling of the composition, it´s a stronger adjective in our sentence.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And here above with the Easter & the coming of Spring theme, you can see how the basic arrangement can be very exciting to make. Because you don’t just follow the scheme, you follow your heart! Well, below we are adding some meaning to the Basic again. This time, the theme was to make an arrangement inspired by the verse. In the slideshow above you see a composition inspired by Lewis Carol’s “Alice in Wonderland”. Actually, this type of tasks you can add to any kind of arrangement at any level of studying ikebana. And then we are trying to get the arrangement more complicated by setting kind a still life scene around it, adding some more context to the idea. We also practiced arrangements inspired by Eastern verse & the Japanese fans.

Then you take each of the 8 variations, and practiсe them in moribana and nageire styles, “low-bordered” & “tall” vases, in upright or slanting dynamics. You can use the vases provided in the class or take your own, according to the needed style. And the more interesting it becomes with learning nageire…


The fog clouds between the autumn mountains

This arrangement inspired by the verse of Basho was made in the middle of summer, but for the mood it evokes – for me it’s completely about the autumn. The trees are already burning with red leaves on the hillsides…And the early morning fills the valley with sweet pillows of fog… Snow will be there soon too… At the same time, it’s a classic kakei-ho variation (var.2, slanting style). And what I like to do from the very first lessons of ikebana is to combine the idea and the technique. It complicates the task a bit from just arranging the plants according to the scheme. But the arrangement becomes the expression of your thoughts & feelings, through plants, and that’s the purpose of ikebana itself! Because while your hands are learning kakei-ho, your heart is sharing your inner world!

…and we´re back from summer!

Traditionally, for some reason, summer is excluded in Russian ikebana classes from the course’s time. There’s nearly nothing happening, only some events & rare workshops. Surely, mainly because everybody goes on vacation. But I thought that would be very very unfair to the world around and to my students, to skip that wonderful season, which gives us so many different flowers & greenery! Together with the girls, we’ve been trying hard to combine our holiday plans & meet for classes!

Summer night

We started from the very beginning of the textbook 1, in the late spring, moving lesson by lesson individually for each student. And the next post will be all about how were we doing it through these months & so far, showing you the most exciting stuff – the works of my students! And here I will highlight some of the arrangements I’ve made during the classes, so you have a quick tour before something more detailed a bit later. So here we’re, and the pictures can also be seen on flickr – as a part of My Ikebana set

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

….And I’m sorry, my Russian-only readers, for writing it all in English 🙂