Practical Guide to Ikebana Vases [What Every Beginner Must Know]

Guide to Ikebana Vases

When practising ikebana, the vase is an important element of your flower arrangement. It can help to enhance your ikebana arrangement so that the arrangement is appreciated in its totality. The end result ought to be flowers that are carefully selected and thoughtfully arranged in a complementary container placed in the space you’ve chosen.

Here in this guide to ikebana vases, I share some practical tips which I hope will be helpful especially for beginners in Sogetsu Ikebana.

PRACTICAL BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO IKEBANA VASES

How to choose your ikebana vase

The act of selecting your ikebana vase should be part of a carefully considered process as it can affect the final outcome of your ikebana arrangement.

Before I begin working on my arrangement, I usually consider the location or space where I will place my arrangement, and how the arrangement will be viewed.

For example a smaller arrangement will suit a smaller space. Conversely, somewhere spacious will require a larger arrangement.

In another instance, if the arrangement is going to be placed on the dining table, then I know my arrangement will be low to allow for conversations across the table. Therefore I will choose a low container instead of a tall vase.

Next the length of my flower stems or plant materials also influences my decision on the size of the container I will use. The tallest stem or longest stem is usually at least 1.5 to 2 times the sum of the height and width of the vase. For beginners, this factor helps to keep the right proportions of the floral materials to the vase or container.

In ikebana it’s also important to consider the colour of the container. For instance you may want to think about whether you’d like the container to blend in with the colour of your fresh materials, or if you prefer to use a vase with a colour to create contrast with your flowers.

In addition, the shape of the container can be used to inspire your floral design ideas. In some ikebana arrangements, the fresh materials are arranged in such a way as to mimic or replicate the form or shape of the container.

Another factor to consider is the type of vase or the material the vase is made of. For instance glass vases are great when you want to show more transparency in your arrangement.

Sometimes using the magnifying or refraction effects of water by placing materials under water can result in a striking modern ikebana arrangement.

Ikebana Glass Vase Arrangement
Using refraction in water to create an interesting arrangement

PRACTICAL GUIDE TO IKEBANA VASES

What ikebana vases to buy or own first

As a beginner’s guide to ikebana vases, the first couple of vases you should own are at least:

1) one Nageire style vase for tall arrangements (something similar to the one pictured left below), and
2) one Moribana style vase for low arrangements (pictured right below). A kenzan is usually used with a low vase also called the suiban. A kenzan is like a metal pin cushion that holds your flowers in place.

Dimensions: I personally find that it’s handy to have a tall vase around about 21-25 cm in height, or low vase 25-30 cm in diameter in your vase collection.

Just like fashion, either black or white is the most versatile and both are great choices to begin with. 🙂

Ikebana Moribana Basic Upright

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GUIDE TO IKEBANA VASES

Type of Ikebana Vases

There are many types of vases used in ikebana such as:

  • Ceramic vases
  • Metal vases
  • Bamboo baskets
  • Bamboo vases
  • Slate vases

etc.

If you are planning to use fresh materials in your arrangements, it’s important to make sure your container is waterproof. If using a vase for the first time, place some water in the vase and leave it overnight. Check for any water leakage on the following day.

When purchasing new vases, check the labels on the vases. This might seem somewhat unusual, but I’ve come across some vessels labelled as for decorative purposes only. Therefore they may not be functional as vases for fresh flowers, but more suited for dried or silk flowers.

If you are purchasing handmade vases from a ceramicist, you can always ask if the vessel is suitable for fresh flower arrangements.

Sunflower Arrangement Ideas
Sunflower ikebana arrangement in a Japanese bamboo basket

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE LIMITED IKEBANA VASES

Understandably if you are a beginner in ikebana, you may not own many ikebana vases. And that’s OK because you can start out by using some basic vases and slowly build up your collection of vases.

In the beginning you can even use things around the house, such as a kitchen ceramic baking dish, a cereal bowl, etc. as long as they are waterproof. For instance, the vessel below is a Salt & Pepper plant pot I found in a homewares store.

Ikebana Arrangement in a Plant Pot
Ikebana arrangement in a Salt & Pepper planter

Modifying the Look of Your Vase

When you have limited vases, you can also consider modifying the look of the vases you have in creative ways. For example, try using colourful fabric to wrap the exterior of a glass vase. Alternatively you could decorate your vase with pretty paper.

As I did in the arrangement below – I used blue corrugated paper to cover a glass vase so that I could introduce a contrasting colour to the orange in the strelitzia flower. Moreover the corrugated paper added a nice texture which I quite like.

A more permanent way of modifying your vase is to spray-paint an old vase to a different colour.

Ikebana vase with coloured paper covering

Where to buy vases for ikebana arrangements

Places where you can source ikebana vases include:

  • Etsy, or local markets for handmade craft products – always great to support local artisans or small businesses
  • Home furnishing or homewares retail stores such as IKEA
  • Stores selling Japanese ware
  • Online Japanese ikebana supplies stores such as Karaku
  • Op shops selling pre-loved items
  • Antique stores

You may be surprised at what you stumble across when you’re not intentionally shopping for ikebana vases! Like I found the vase pictured below in a second hand store.

Nonetheless, be forewarned – hunting for ikebana vases can be addictive! You might soon have to find space to store your growing vase collection.

ikebana vase

Other ikebana-related articles that might interest you:

Ikebana As A Creative Hobby

Western vs Japanese Style Flower Arrangements

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Guide to Ikebana Vases
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Difference between a Florist and Floral Designer

HI! I'M GWYNETH

nice to meet you!

I’m a qualified floral designer who is passionate about helping those who love the minimalist aesthetic celebrate their special moments with flowers inspired by nature and ikebana, the Japanese art of floral arranging.

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