1. What is ikebana?
Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging. The word “ikebana” comes from two Japanese words: “ikeru” which means “keep alive, arrange flowers, living” and “hana” which means “flower.” Possible translations of these two words are “giving life to flowers,” or “arranging flowers.”
The practice of ikebana first started around the middle of the fifteenth century as an outgrowth of the practice of offering flowers on Buddhist altars. The first students and teachers of ikebana were Buddhist priests and members of the temple congregations.
Over time, the practice of ikebana spanned out from just being in Buddhist temples and monasteries to the Japanese population in general and their homes. Different schools emerged and so did different styles of ikebana. Now there are hundreds of ikebana schools officially registered in Japan. Ikebana arrangements are now in all aspects of Japanese culture from the traditional Buddhist altars, to homes, and even public buildings.
It is different from Western style flower arrangement in that is does not just focus on the arrangement of multicolored blossoms. It emphasizes other parts of the plant such as stems, and leaves and focuses on other aspects of arrangement such as line, mass, color, movement, line, shape, form and space. The ikebana artist’s intention is not just to arrange something pleasing to the eye, but also to express the meaning behind the arrangement. What also characterizes ikebana many times is minimalizm—using the least number of materials in the arrangement for its completion. The container is also very important in ikebana as it is also apart of the whole composition. It is not just something to hold the flowers.
Ikebana can be practiced just as an art practice. But, it also can be practiced as a spiritual practice in that it helps the student to realized the wider and deeper absolute nature of the Universe.
2. What is the Ichiyo School of Ikebana?
The Ichiyo School of Ikebana was founded in 1937 by a brother and sister—Meikof and Ichiyo Kasuya. Since the school’s establishment, the two ikebana masters sought to create original ikebana that would be suitable for modern lifestyles and environments. They focused on two types of flower arrangements: one to fit diversified personal surroundings, from traditional Japanese tokonomas, or alcoves, to Western entry tables; and another for public spaces, from stage settings to hotel lobbies.
The Ichiyo School instructs students worldwide by using unique, systematically organized textbooks. In 1966, centers for instruction in Europe and the United States were established, and today Ichiyo ikebana is widely known overseas. Tests are written in both Japanese and English. In the beginning, the school offers students more formal training based on text books and supplemental material. However, as the student progresses, the instruction is received more directly from one’s teacher based on the student’s needs. The student’s own creativity is developed and expected as one progresses.
3. Why practice ikebana (kado)?
People practice ikebana for different reasons. Some do it because it is fun. Others may do it because they enjoy art and like working with plants such as gardening. Some may do it also because of the social benefits of being in a friendly group of people who meet regularly. Some may also do it for the spiritual benefits. Ikebana can be a relaxing and meditative art form that can help balance out one's life particularly if they have regular experiences that are difficult to deal with, such as being a social worker who works with abused chidren, or a nurse who works with the terminally ill.
4. Who am I as a teacher?
My taking up the art of ikebana started in 2012 when my professional life took me to Rochester. Being a formal student at Zen Mountain Monastery (an American Zen Buddhist monastery of the Japanese Soto Buddhism lineage) since 1997, one is expected to take up an art practice as part of the spiritual training matrix. Since my interests have also been in bonsai and Zen gardening, taking up ikebana as my art practice just made sense. However, with Rochester and New York City being the only two cities in the state of New York in which there is a chapter of Ikebana International and active teachers, it was not possible until I moved to Rochester. Since moving to Rochester in 2012, my ikebana training has progressed ever since allowing me to reach the point at which I may now accept students are part of my training.
My Zen training background has heavily affected my practice of ikebana and my style of teaching. Ikebana for me is a spiritual practice. The goal of ikebana is not to create something beautiful, though the arrangements many times are just that. The goal is to express the true nature of the flowers. And by doing so, we are awakened to our own true nature—the absolute nature of the Universe. It is a spiritual practice of enlightenment and actualizing that realization.
1. Times individually arranged.
2. Cost: $15 which includes flower and branch material.
3. Containers, shears, and kenzans (weighted needle flower/ stem holders)
initially supplied for first three lessons.
4. Purchase of the text book is required after third lesson.
If interested in learning more and/ or possibly taking lessons, please contact me