“IKEBANA” – Japanese Flower Arranging
WHAT IS IKEBANA?
While a painting is an expression of art drawn on a canvas with a brush, Ikebana is an expression in three dimensions composed of plant material arranged in a vase. In general, a flower or tree looks perfectly beautiful blooming in its natural environment. It can hardly be improved upon. So if we cut it down for our Ikebana and simply try to reproduce its original beauty in a vase or by presenting it in another space, the attempt will be a failure and the plant’s original, blooming beauty will elude us.
It is up to your aesthetic awareness to assemble the materials, choose their most beautiful aspects, put them in a different order, and endow them with a value transcending that which they had in nature. Arranging Ikebana begins with careful observation of the plant materials. With the help of nature, beauty is expressed by man’s hand. Flowers are often given as an expression of affection or respect, but once you come to know the charm of Ikebana, they will attain a new dimension of liveliness and value for you. For the Japanese, flowers signify communion with the heart of nature.
Although it is difficult to identify the true origins of Ikebana, the general belief is that it stems from the offering of flowers to the Buddha. At the beginning of the sixth century when Buddhism was brought to Japan, the custom of dedication flowers came with it. It was this custom that developed into the art of Ikebana. Another view is that customs of ancient times, such as putting up evergreen trees and arranging flowers to call the spirit-gods, developed into Ikebana.
Records from the Muromachi Period (1333-1568), show Tatebana as the first clear expression of Ikebana. This was also the period when Ikebana became separate from religion, and the emphasis came to be put upon the act of arranging rather than on the mere appreciation of the beauty of the materials. Chabana, which developed in the same period, was closely related to the tea ceremony. From the Azuchi Momoyama Period (1568-1600) through the beginning of the Edo Period (1603-1867), Ikebana became widely popular among the urban merchant class. From the beginning of Ikebana, practitioners of the art were mainly male. However, when the Meiji government (1868-1912) adopted Ikebana as part of the curriculum for girls’ education a sweeping change occurred, and, until the 1960’s, Ikebana was regarded a necessary social grace for the young women of Japan before marriage.
HISTORY OF SOGETSU SCHOOL OF IKEBANA
The Sogetsu School was established in 1927 by the late Iemoto (headmaster), Sofu Teshigahara (1900-1979), who believed that Ikebana should be both enjoyable and creative. Sofu created a school that is deeply rooted in Japanese tradition yet meets the requirements of the modern age. The changes of Japanese lifestyles and the release of the Japanese traditional mentality after World War 11 made the novel and original Sogetsu Ikebana accessible to everyone. His primary premise for the Sogetsu School, Anyone can enjoy and create Sogetsu Ikebana anytime, anywhere, using any material, was a radical and quickly embraced concept. Sofu had been on close terms with many famous Western artists, which helped make the term Ikebana known to people throughout the world.
Kasumi Teshigahara (1935-1980) the daughter of Sofu was inaugurated as the second Iemoto in 1979. She started her career as an Ikebana artist after World War11. Her elegant, feminine, yet dynamic works charmed many overseas enthusiasts of Ikebana. Her exciting career was cut short by her early death at the age of forty-seven in 1980.
Hiroshi Teshigahara (1927-2001), the son of Sofu and well-known as a film director, was inaugurated as the third Iemoto in 1980. His bamboo installations received international acclaim in such cities as Paris, New York, Seoul, Lyon, Avignon, and Milan. Hiroshi also was celebrated for his work in opera stage direction and producing tea ceremonies in countries all over the world.
Akane Teshigahara was inaugurated as the fourth Iemoto in 2001. Born in 1960, Akane Teshigahara, the current Iemoto of Sogetsu School, is the second daughter to Hiroshi Teshigahara. Creating the stage with bamboo materials and undertaking theatrical arts, she has been exploring the possibility of spatial arts with plants. She also presents her own designs of jewelry, and is continuously broadening her field of activities.