Could Ikebana Be Your New Creative Hobby?

I once came across a description of ikebana, calling it “an art that can expand your appreciation of beauty”.

As I started practising this Japanese art of floral arranging, I discovered that it not only offers a creative outlet with flowers but also provides a calming process.

Here in this article I wish to share my personal experience and observations so you might also decide to experience the wonderful benefits of ikebana as a creative hobby.

IKEBANA AS A CREATIVE HOBBY

Ikebana as a creative hobby

What is Ikebana?

Ikebana (pronounced ee-kay-baa-nuh) is a Japanese term meaning “bringing life to flowers”.

It goes beyond merely placing flowers in a vase.

Floral materials such as blossoms, branches, leaves, and stems are thoughtfully arranged as an expression of individual creativity.

The line and form of plant materials are closely studied to highlight their best qualities.

Space is also emphasised, considering both the space where the arrangement will be placed, as well as the space between different elements within the arrangement. This often results in minimalist designs that evoke a sense of peace in the viewer.

Ikebana designs can range from showcasing a single flower beautifully to large, striking compositions of branches, blooms, and foliage.

The end result can be deeply meaningful because one is “working with nature in an individual and imaginative form” – Sogetsu Ikebana NSW.

How Did Ikebana Start?

Ikebana is widely believed to have started as simple flower offerings at altars when Buddhism was introduced to Japan from China as early as the 700s.

Interestingly, men were the first to make and display these arrangements. It wasn’t until 1831 that women participated in this art form. (Source)

Initially, ikebana arrangements were stiff, formal and highly decorative, but later styles became freer, simpler and more natural.

Traditional ikebana styles

The Different Schools of Ikebana

Did you know that there are actually many different ikebana schools?

When I first started learning ikebana, I had no idea there were so many!

The arrangement styles varied, and some designs seemed difficult to learn or understand on my own.

It all made sense when I discovered there are over 3000 ikebana schools today, with the largest and most popular including Ikenobo, Ohara, Sogetsu, and Chiho.

I stumbled upon a Sogetsu Ikebana NSW brochure at the Annual Collectors Plant Fair held in Sydney.

Intrigued by the Sogetsu philosophy, I began lessons with Sandy Marker in 2018.

Comparing Western Floristry and Ikebana

Having completed a Certificate IV in Floristry at TAFE, I noticed similarities in learning designs or patterns in both Western floristry and ikebana.

In Western floristry, you learn to make spiral bouquets, posies, sheaths, and symmetrical arrangements.

And in Sogetsu Ikebana, we learn patterns combining three main stems into various compositions.

These patterns serve as inspiration, especially on days of creative block, and can always be relied upon for ideas.

Ikebana often uses fewer plant materials, focusing on minimalism and the use of “empty” space (in design it’s referred to as “negative space”). (I discuss this topic in greater detail in another post here).

This is advantageous when short on flowers or plant materials but still wanting to create.

This contrasts with Western floral arranging, which uses masses of flowers to create impact.

(Discover more differences between Western and Japanese floral arrangements in this post.)

Some ikebana techniques in Sogetsu are almost on par with what I learned in floristry, and in hindsight, my ikebana knowledge would have greatly helped in my floral design studies.

On a personal level, practising Sogetsu Ikebana gives me satisfaction and challenge, allowing me to apply my Western floristry skills and further expand my creativity.

Despite its simplicity, ikebana can be mastered with practice, and you don’t need formal training to create beautiful arrangements.

“Sogetsu Ikebana can be created anytime, anywhere, by anyone in any part of the world, and with any kind of material.”

Ikebana as a Creative Hobby which Calms Your Mind as You Connect with Nature

The most significant impact of ikebana on me is the calming effect it has.

Creating ikebana arrangements connects me with naturehelping me accept imperfections in both nature and life.

Unlike in Western floristry, where I discarded imperfect flowers or discard any bug-eaten leaves, ikebana embraces these imperfections, accepting these as part of natural life.

This is liberating for a perfectionist like me.

So I take joy in the process of making the arrangement as much as the end result.

Ikebana truly makes an excellent calming and relaxing activity.

How Do You Make Sogetsu Ikebana Arrangements?

The Foundation of All Sogetsu Style Variations

The Basic Upright and Basic Slanting styles form the foundation of all variations.

These can be arranged in Moribana or Nageire styles.

Moribana uses a kenzan (a heavy metal needle point holder) in a low container, while Nageire uses tall vases without a kenzan.

Composition of an Ikebana Arrangement

Ikebana Moribana Basic Upright
A Moribana Ikebana Arrangement

The composition of an ikebana arrangement is generally framed by three main stems of various lengths placed at different angles.

Supporting stems add fullness to the arrangement as well as aid to hide the kenzan in a moribana arrangement.

The lengths of stems are determined by the size of the container. I discuss this in greater detail in my FREE IKEBANA GUIDE where I help you get started on your first ikebana arrangement. Get it here.

In contrast to Western style floral arrangements, ikebana arrangements are typically asymmetrical, with a preference for using an odd number of flowers, which is considered to be lucky.

Line and form are accentuated, sometimes removing parts of plant materials to showcase their beauty.

My favourite tip on floral placement:

Observe nature and see how plants grow in their natural environment. For instance, look at how the flowers of plants bloom – are they flowering upright, to the side of the plant, etc? I believe when you let nature inspire you, your flower arrangements will appear more natural and less contrived.

One more thing, in ikebana it’s also important to give the feeling of energy through the tips of your plant materials. One of the ways you can achieve this is by ensuring your plant material points upward rather than downward towards the tip.

Tools Needed for Ikebana

The main tool you’ll need is a pair of sharp flower scissors (pruning scissors) or secateurs. There is of course the Japanese style ikebana scissors called hasami. While it’s nice to own a pair, you can still make your ikebana arrangement without them.

If you plan on purchasing a kenzan, I recommend getting the ‘sun-and-moon’ kenzan for its versatility. It can be used either as a single kenzan, or pulled apart and used separately. You can find kenzans for sale on Amazon and Etsy.

Otherwise a round kenzan (around 7 to 8 cm, or about 3 inches in diameter) would be a handy size to have in your tool kit.

PRO TIP: Get kenzans that are heavy in weight and preferably with their metal pins closer together.

Ikebana Scissors and Kenzan

As for vases or containers, you can use whatever vessels you have on hand as long as it’s not glass if you’re planning to use a kenzan. (The kenzan can shatter the glass. Plus an exposed kenzan is not a good look!)

You could even use a ceramic pie dish or cereal bowl for your ikebana arrangement – just as long as it has a flat surface to place the kenzan.

Where To Buy Vases for Ikebana

There are many options when it comes to the types of vases or containers you can use for Sogetsu Ikebana.

You could purchase Japanese style ones from online stores like Karaku, or Arakawa Pottery if you are based in the US. Also check out Etsy or local ceramic artists.

But this can get expensive when you’re just starting ikebana as a creative hobby. As such you could consider getting vases from home decor stores.

By the way, IKEA and Kmart are a couple of my favourite places to hunt for vessels. Or you could even visit your local op shop!

Tip: In particular look for vessels in interesting or unique shapes. (Note: some vases are for decorative purposes only and are not water-tight. So check the label if there’s one.)

How long do ikebana arrangements last?

An ikebana arrangement can last up to a week or more, depending on the plant materials used and where the arrangement is placed.

Maintain water freshness in the vase or container. For example, try and replace the water every few days.

You can also replace any “tired-looking” plant materials with fresh ones.

As much as possible, keep your ikebana arrangements from direct sunlight, heat sources or draughts.

Could ikebana be your new creative hobby?

If you’re looking for a creative indoor activity that can help you calm the mind and relax, I would highly recommend ikebana.

While it may take some getting used to, you’ll build confidence and improve with practice, creating stylish arrangements that beautify your space. 

You might even impress your family and friends with your unique ikebana creations!

Sogetsu Ikebana is about personal experience and expression. It’s about experiencing the beauty of plants and the joy of expressing ourselves creatively through our arrangements.

So, are you ready for ikebana as a creative hobby?

Why not start with my FREE IKEBANA GUIDE? I share my best tips, plus a basic ikebana pattern to get you going on your first Japanese style arrangement.

IKEBANA AS A CREATIVE HOBBY

free guide

TIME TO DE-STRESS WITH IKEBANA

Studies have shown that arranging with flowers can help you relax and reduce stressful feelings. Ikebana is a great way for you to get in touch with nature while being creative with flowers. No prior training required – just A LOVE OF FLOWERS!

In my FREE GUIDE I share EASY PRACTICAL STEPS (including visuals) to help you GET STARTED.

GET YOUR GUIDE NOW.

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Difference between a Florist and Floral Designer

HI! I'M GWYNETH

nice to meet you!

As a qualified floral designer specialising in Japanese ikebana and modern elegant styles, I offer custom arrangements and classes for individuals looking to decorate their wedding, event and space with flowers.

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