Chinoiserie Meets Ikebana
June 18, 2012
Chinoiserie, from the French word chinois meaning Chinese-esque emerged during the period of Rococo and became a very popular motif which still is prevalent in design today in porcelain pottery, textiles and wallpaper. The Chinoiserie style features Asian landscapes, pagodas and pavilions, elaborate birds, dragons, and Chinese figures.
Ikebana - Japanese Flower Arranging
Several years ago I took a class in Japanese flower arranging and found it a lovely way to arrange flowers. Currently I am taking a series of classes from Ping Wei a Sogetsu Ikebana teacher and member of Sogetsu Teacher’s Association in Tokyo, Japan.
The word Ikebana (eey-kay-bah-nah) means “living flowers” and refers to the arranging of flowers so they look alive and embody principles of heaven, man, and earth. The beginnings can be traced to the 6th century introduction of Buddhism to the Japanese. Part of the worship involved offering flowers on the altar in honor of Buddha. In India, the birthplace of Buddhism, flowers were placed informally. By the 10th century, the Japanese arrangements became more formal and were presented in containers. The plant offerings were the responsibility of the priests of the temple. The earliest school of Ikebana dates back to a priest who was so artistic in arranging flowers; he was highly sought for instruction. He lived near a lake for which the word in Japanese is ikenobo (eey-kay-no-bo), thus the name ikenobo became associated to the priests there who specialized in these altar arrangements.
Over the centuries many different styles and rules of arranging evolved. By the beginning of the 20th century, many new schools of instructions were expanding. Unshin Ohara, an ikenobo professor in Kobe, introduced a new style. This particular style is known as moribana (more-eey-bah-nah), which means “piled up.” Morbiana style uses a shallow container and a kenzan or metal frog with many sharp points. The style of chokutai (choke-tie) is the most common. The style consists of three stems of varying heights. The primary stem or drama the shin (sheen) representing heaven is cut to twice the diameter and height of the container; the soe (soy) representing man is ¾ the height of the shin and the hikae (he-guy) representing earth is 3/4 the height of the shin.
The materials used should be in harmony with each other in color, shape and mass and should be proportionate to the container used. What distinguishes ikebana from other types of flower arrangements is its asymmetrical form and use of negative space. The primary stem or shin is placed vertically in the center, the soe is placed at a 45-degree angle and the tai is placed at a 60-degree angle in front. Accent elements can be added anywhere on the arrangement and are visually appealing at the base of the design. Rocks, glass, or plant material should be placed over the kenzan to cover it.
The nageire style (nah-gary) tossed in flowers” emphasizes a freer style using a narrow mouth tall container to arrange the flowers. The basic elements remain the same as in moribana. The distinction between moribana and nageire is in the shape of the container the flowers are placed in. Moribana containers are shallow and low while nageire containers are tall and narrow. Glass containers work well for both styles because they are neutral and allow the flowers to dictate the color scheme.
The techniques are meant to be a guideline for ikebana arrangements. Use your discretion and intuition to create your own signature work of art. The possibilities are limitless.
By Charisse Marie Colbert