Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist. –Pablo Picasso
A friend posted that on her Facebook yesterday, and it is the perfect quote to describe the Ikebana process. Love it. Like I mentioned in my last post on Variation #2, we first have to learn the foundation – the basic arrangements – and then we expand on that knowledge with variations. (To catch you up on the basics, I have posts on Basic Upright and Basic Slanting.) We had several lessons on each before moving along to the variations, but only hit each variation once with the assumption that we’ve mastered the basics.
Before we had our Variation #3 lessons, we had a lesson on Special Occasions. There are many, many special occasions for which an arrangement would be perfect. Our teacher has the class do a special occasion that’s pertinent to the season and locally relevant, but since I am working ahead in the book I had chosen to do one from the book, not realizing. I picked a Japanese festival that’s traditionally celebrated with bamboo arrangements on July 7, called Tanabata, or Star Festival. The arrangement didn’t have to be in any specific style, so freestyle was okay for it. Still, once you have the basics mastered, your freestyle arrangements are very much informed by your study.
The thing with Special Occasions arrangements is to keep it relevant to the occasion. In some cultures (particularly in Asian countries) there are specific plants that are traditionally associated with certain occasions. In ways, the same is true here. We use fall foliage and pumpkins and gourds to decorate for Halloween, for example. At Christmas time we see lots of boughs and holly. The common thread is that the association is with plants that are available locally during the season of the occasion at hand. The beauty of choosing your plant materials from what you see growing around you instead of buying them at a shop is that you’re bound to have seasonally-appropriate arrangements no matter what!
Variation #3 of the upright arrangements, as compared to basic upright, switches the positioning of Soe and Hikae. Shin stays in its relatively upright position 15° off center. Soe swings over into Hikae‘s normal spot at 75°, whilst Hikae comes to front and center, staring you right in the face. Yes, I used the word “whilst”. 🙂 I should have taken some side shots of the arrangements, because the pix don’t show very well that Hikae is very much the same length as in the basics, but with it pointing straight at you it looks like a shorter Jushi.
With Variation #3 of the slanting arrangements, Shin stays in its basic slanting spot of 45°. Soe swings to the opposite side of the central axis, to give you a wide “V” shape. Hikae again moves to the front-and-center position.
And there we have Variation #3 of upright and slanting, Moribana and Nageire!
Just before writing this I decided to Google my teacher, our Sensei Soho Sakai. (Soho is not her birth name, for an interesting tidbit about Ikebana culture. When graduating from Ikebana school in Japan to become a teacher, your own teacher chooses a new first name for you! You discard your old name. Cool, huh? “Soho” is Japanese for a California native plant, but I just can’t remember which one right now. She took it as serendipity when she moved here years later to teach.)
That aside, I found a link to her own Sogetsu Ikebana study group. She also was invited to Boston not long ago to do a demonstration for their chapter of Ikebana International. She’s a fantastic teacher, and a delight to study under. Even with all the drama going on with enrollment and accreditation at CCSF lately, there is always opportunity to take her classes outside of the school. Just sayin’.