Yesterday I attended an ikebana class that some friends in the neighborhood organized. Ikebana is "the Japanese art of flower arrangement" (source: wikipedia!). Honestly, when I got to the house, I wanted to turn and run. I just don't think of myself as very creative or artistic, and I was afraid of making a fool of myself and having to leave the house with a terrible arrangement of flowers that my friends would try to compliment, just to be nice. This happened to me at a scrapbooking gathering once, and I've been rather traumatized by it ever since. As I sat down at the table and looked at the bewildering array of vegetation in buckets of water nearby, I wondered what on earth I was doing. I needn't have worried. The teacher did all the arranging for us. I just had to sit and watch and be amazed. Ikebana is a big deal here. There are actual schools that people attend to be trained and certified. There were six of us, and each of us had a different ikebana vase - which are more like bowls than what you might think of as a traditional vase. In the bottom of the vase is the kenzan - a spiky apparatus that holds the plants in place. It was so fascinating to watch this woman work. She would look at a vase, and in a matter of a few seconds, choose flowers, leaves, and a delightful viney, woody thing called dragon willow. She would pull off leaves snip stems, hold them up in the water to test the look, snip some more, twist and weave the dragon willow, and in five to ten minutes have a beautiful creation that I never would have envisioned, but which perfectly fit the shape and color of the vase. I don't know if I will ever be able to make an arrangement myself, but if the teacher wants to continue arranging for me, I'm happy to attend!
The pictures from my phone didn't come out very well, but the last one is my arrangement back at home, taken with my camera instead.
Here's some wikipedia information about ikebana for you:
More than simply putting flowers in a container, ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together. Contrary to the idea of floral arrangement as a collection of particolored or multicolored arrangement of blooms, ikebana often emphasizes other areas of the plant, such as its stems and leaves, and draws emphasis toward shape,line, form. Though ikebana is a creative expression, it has certain rules governing its form. The artist's intention behind each arrangement is shown through a piece's color combinations, natural shapes, graceful lines, and the usually implied meaning of the arrangement.
Another aspect present in ikebana is its employment of minimalism. That is, an arrangement may consist of only a minimal number of blooms interspersed among stalks and leaves. The structure of a Japanese flower arrangement is based on a scalene triangle delineated by three main points, usually twigs, considered in some schools to symbolize heaven, earth, andman and in others sun, moon, and earth. The container is a key element of the composition, and various styles of pottery may be used in their construction.
Happy flower arranging!