Art of ikebana: from Japan with blossom

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Sergey Makhno Architects
November 19, 2019

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Do you know Sergey Makhno?
He is the founder of Sergey Makhno Architects, and he loves Japan. 

Sergey has been to Japan 11 times. He knows everything about Japanese design, architecture, gardens, food, and art. Ask him anything, and you’ll be amazed at an elaborate answer. It is Japan that inspired him to create a specific style in design. And it is Japan that gave him this unique blossoming hobby called ikebana.

The “what”

Ikebana (生花) is the Japanese art of arranging flowers, branches, and leaves to bring out the inner qualities of plants and express a certain emotion “flowers are cut and not killed”. In Japan, ikebana is an art in the same sense as painting and sculpture are in European countries.

“The whole universe is contained within a single flower”, — said Toshiro Kawase, a Japanese ikebanist

The “when”

Simple floral arrangements were made in the 7th century when Buddhism was introduced to Japan when people placed little flower bouquets before Buddha sculptures. In the 15th century, appeared the first known text on ikebana called Sendensho with a profound set of instructions on how to create flower arrangements according to the season and occasion. 

Around the same time, ikebana became a secular activity. The design of the Japanese home during this period reflects this transition: new homes were almost always built with a special recess called the tokonoma with a scroll and a flower arrangement in it.  

The “elements”

In traditional ikebana, both symbolic meaning and seasons have been prioritized in developing flower arrangements. Some of the most common elements used are:

  • bamboo grass (year-round)
  • pine and Japanese plum branches (around the new year)
  • peach branches (March)
  • narcissus (spring)
  • cow lily (summer)
  • chrysanthemum (autumn)
 

The “main schools”

    1. Ikenobō  (池坊) is the oldest and largest school of ikebana, founded in the 15th century by the Buddhist monk Senno. 
    2. Ohara-ryū (小原流) school was founded by Unshin Ohara in 1912 when Japan opened up its economy to the West and began to import European flowers. 
    3. Sōgetsu-ryū (草月流) school was founded by Sōfu Teshigahara in 1927. 
  

The “main styles”

Rikka

Rikka is the first ikebana style that aimed to elevate the concept of cosmos through flower arrangements. There are nine key positions developed by the Buddhist monk, that need to be followed: 

      1. Shin: spiritual mountain (the tallest part)
      2. Uke: receiving
      3. Hikae: waiting (the shortest piece)
      4. Sho shin: waterfall
      5. Soe: supporting branch (the medium piece)
      6. Nagashi: stream
      7. Mikoshi: overlook
      8. Do: body
      9. Mae oki: front body

Seika

In contrast to Rikka’s strict ikebana rules, there appeared freer ways of arranging flowers known as Nageire, when the flowers were allowed to rest in the vase naturally. At the end of the 18th century, the interplay between Rikka and Nageire gave rise to a new type of flower arrangement called Seika with only three obligatory positions that create an uneven triangle: shin, soe, and uke.

  

Moribana

Nowadays, open spaces require that ikebana is viewed from 360 degrees. Seika, for example, must be in a tokonoma and be viewed while sitting on the floor in front of the arrangement. The Moribana ikebana is evolved as a way to create a more three-dimensional sculptural quality with the help of plants. 

Contemporary ikebana

The concept and style of classic flower arrangements – such as Rikka and Seika – continue to be fundamental, but modern tastes have led to the use of a variety of materials not previously used in ikebana. 

The “how”

“Creating ikebana is like driving a car. There are basic rules about how to do it, but you can change the speed and destination whenever you want”, says Sergey Makhno, the architect, and interior designer. 

How to make a basic Moribana ikebana? Follow the steps:

      1. Find a shallow container and add some water into it.
      2. Put kenzan (a small object that keeps flowers in place) inside of the container. 
      3. Select the long branch for shin, a middle one for soe, and a flower for hikae
      4. Measure each stem and cut them to the lengths specified in the Moribana beginner’s manual. 
      5. At different angles, fix the stems on the kenzan
      6. Add some jushi stems to hide the kenzan
      7. Enjoy your first ikebana.

The “Makhno’s favorite”

Sergey Makhno:

Ikebana is my way of reaching zen. I feel like I am talking to nature. And every time my soul is healed and I am inspired to create and share. As for sharing, here is something I give from the heart — ikebana masters whose works have influenced my perception of beauty, and whose talks with nature are particularly beautiful:

      • Toshiro Kawase
      • Shuho Hananofu
      • Ug Ueno
      • Shozo Sato
      • Camille Henrot
And promise me to try to make ikebana by yourself. It will change your life”
 

Author — Lina Kulyk
Main visual — Nikita Uvarov

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