How Ikebana Arrangements Help You Feel Calm

Ikebana Arrangements Help You Feel Calm

In an age where our lives are easily cluttered by our surroundings and when everything is seemingly out of control in the world, we become easily distracted or feel overwhelmed. Find out how Japanese style or ikebana arrangements help you feel calm and hopefully bring a little zen into your life.


Results of studies by Homma I, et al suggest that practising ikebana is beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety in people with high trait anxiety. 

Personally I have found that whenever I am making Japanese style flower arrangements, it helps me slow down my pace and achieve a sense of calmness. There is a feeling of stillness while I’m observing my floral materials and working out how I’d like to place them in my arrangement.

It is not just for the person who is making the arrangement that feels this sense of tranquillity but also the observer of ikebana flower arrangements. Why is this so and what is it about Japanese style of flower arrangements that can instil a sense of peace?

One key reason why Japanese style or ikebana arrangements help you feel calm is the use of negative space, known as “Ma” (間). This principle is often seen in traditional Japanese gardens and ikebana. You can read more about this concept in an article by Unique Japan

What is Negative Space in a Flower Arrangement?

Negative space is a space that is not filled with any materials in a flower arrangement. Conversely positive space is the area in floral design physically occupied by materials including the vase.

Space in ikebana or kado (the Japanese style of flower arranging) is seen as something either to be preserved or created. It is not something to be filled up, like western style floristry.

Why negative space in ikebana Arrangements Help You Feel Calm

The negative space in ikebana arrangements helps you feel calm because it: 

  • provides breathing space for the viewer so the floral design does not feel excessive or overly cluttered. Unlike western floristry, it does not strive to fill up all empty spaces. As a result, it slows down the busy mind and allows the viewer to calm down and be present. 
  • allows the viewer to engage with the composition and be intrigued by the asymmetrical visual balance of the arrangement. Additionally it draws the viewer to appreciate the composition. Not just the overall arrangement, but in particular, its individual elements and spacial connection between those elements.
  • leads the viewer to focus on the important parts of an arrangement. When there is negative space, the main elements of the arrangement become more apparent. For instance your eye begins to follow the natural curve of a branch. You become connected with nature displayed in the arrangement. 


Negative Space Japanese Style Flower Arrangements
The Use of Negative Space in a Japanese Style Flower Arrangement

Negative space is used in ikebana arrangements particularly when you want to showcase a characteristic of the floral material. Or perhaps when you wish to draw the viewer’s attention to appreciate a particular aspect. You would therefore create some space around it.

Consider using negative space for maximum impact particularly when you have little materials to work with or when you have beautiful materials you want to display to great effect. As mentioned before, this is not limited to flowers but also natural graceful lines of branches or twigs.

The principle of negative space helps to create harmonious relationships between elements. The negative space implies there is movement in the composition. In fact this could inspire the imagination of the viewer as our brain will help to complete that is incomplete. You can read more about how the Kanizsa Triangle explains the law of closure.

Now that we have explored how negative space in ikebana arrangements help you feel calm and when to use it, let’s look at how we can create negative space in an arrangement.

How Do You Create Negative Space in an Ikebana Arrangement?

Ikebana helps you feel calm
Negative Space in Ikebana Helps You Feel Calm

Create negative space in your flower arrangement by carefully considering how you would place your materials in your arrangement. When making your arrangement, treat negative space as if it is one of your physical components in the composition.

For some inspiration, you might like to check out my other posts on the ikebana floral style or visit the Sogetsu Ikebana NSW website.

The creation of negative space should not be an afterthought. This is because you want to create a visual balance that optimises the use of positive and negative spaces.

Another aspect of negative space is that it acts as an amplifier. It makes the overall composition more interesting than the sum of individual parts.

When creating your arrangement, remember to also look at the shadows cast on the table or wall next to the arrangement. This can add to the overall aesthetics of a floral arrangement.

That’s why in ikebana we become careful with the material we use. We carefully consider how much to use or leave out when making an arrangement. It’s also why many consider ikebana arrangements to be minimalist.

If you are a western floristry student needing to understand the use of negative space, it’d be a great idea to do a little study on Japanese style arrangements. It will give you insights into how to use negative space to the fullest effect.

I hope the next time you have flowers in your home or if you are thinking of gifting someone with flowers, you’ll consider ikebana flower arrangements. 

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