Flowers and Ikebana Our Slice of Tokyo

On my Path to Becoming an Ikebana Sensei

Consider this as a sequel of my earlier post From Paper Roses to Ikebana. But this time, it is about my journey to becoming an Ikebana sensei or teacher. By end of February next month, I will finish my final course as a student. A week after that, my training for sensei level will begin.

Like any other art or craft, Ikebana requires patience, willingness to learn, creativity, and patience. I put emphasis on patience because learning the skills and completing all courses take a while and even years. Something that I did not expect that I can endure.

My plan was to attend a few classes, buy the books, and then study on my own. But as I browse on the books and observe during my first class, I realized that my plan will not work if I really want to learn. Also, getting the certificates will help me in a long run since they are considered as license or similar to a non-formal degree. But to be able to get these certificates, I need to receive stamps from an Ikebana sensei. There are four courses for student level and each course has 20 activities or arrangements to be done.

I enjoyed my first day session and the session after that.. and the next session.. until I also attend special lessons in the afternoon together with my neighbor in her house. And recently, I have declared my Tuesdays as Ikebana day.. and it is official!

The first course thought me the fundamentals of Ikebana based on Sogetsu principles. During this time I learned the basics like identifying the length of the flowers or stems, their positions, and arranging them properly in a flat wide-mouth vases or suiban or in tall cylindrical vases with or without a kenzan. A kenzan is a small metal base usually square or round with lots of nail-like pines. This holds the flowers and other materials inside the vase.

Basic Tools: Kenzan and Hasami (scissors)
Basic Tools: Kenzan and Hasami (scissors)

As I porgress, I learned about forms; choice of colors; lines; taking note of the style and color of the vases; use of dried and unconventional materials; and purpose of the arrangements. Unfortunately with my Sensei speaking few English words and my very limited Japanese, I cannot fully understand the meaning behind each arrangement. Still working on that. For the meantime i am contented and happy whenever she say omoshiroi(interesting); suteki(beautiful); jyozou(very good).

I have posted some of my works in My Ikebana but let me share with you some stories behind my arrangements.

Since I joined last December 2012, my first two Ikebana arrangements were for Christmas and New Year celebrations. It was like hitting two birds in one stone: 1) I learned Ikebana for special occasions and 2) the arrangements made our house pretty during the holidays.

My very first Ikebana
New Year’s Ikebana

Aside from flowers, I also tried making Ikebana using fruits and vegetables. This method is called Morimono.

My first Morimono
Autumn Morimono using fruits, vegetables, and anthuriums. I also made an apple swan to create a pond-like scene.

It was a different high when I joined my first Ikebana exhibition. When the flowers came in the exhibition room, they were already grouped into sets. And when one of our senior colleagues came, she asked as to write our names in the paper with numbers on it. Having no clue of what it was, I wrote my name under number one. After that another colleague came and asked us to pick a piece of paper from her small bag. Again clueless of what it was, I got number one. After that it I found out that the numbers correspond to the set of flowers that we will use. So I guess, me and my flowers were meant that day!

My first Ikebana exhibition piece

After 30 or so arrangements following focusing on the three main stems (Shin, Soe, Hikae), finally I was allowed to do free-style arrangement. However, I still need to follow some forms. My first free-style was all in straight position.

Vertical Composition

I also started experimenting on the materials that I use. One time on my way home, I saw some men cutting the grass in a parking lot. I asked them if I can have some for my Ikebana. My sensei was surprised when I told her where I found my flowers.

Colors in the same tonal range using Kirin grass as my main flower

What I liked most is combining Ikebana and drawing together. First I was asked to make my free-style arrangement then draw it to show some forms that I discovered. Then I was also asked to draw the arrangement that I like and then make the arrangement.

One of my free-style arrangements
A sketch of my Ikebana

As I try to experiment on the materials that I use for my arrangements, I noticed that I have started my collection of vases. Most of them I bought from my favorite secondhand store near my husband’s office. Although they were old, they are tenfold cheaper in price and Sensei said that most of them were handmade and of good quality.

My vase collection

Two weeks from now me and my colleagues will again have another exhibition in our community center. This time we will make arrangements in front of some people as our audience. So, until the next part of my Ikebana story…

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