Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Struggling with Shoka

What you see below is my current assignment. My teacher asked me to do an arrangement of spring branches, in this case, crab apple. The assigned form is shoka shofutai, or classic shoka. What you don't see below is the mess. I started on Monday; this is Tuesday. The floor is covered with spilled water, crab apple petals,  discarded branches, and pieces of my confidence. Yesterday I thought I had it finished. Funny how I think that until I need to photograph it to send to my teacher (see earlier post about an unusual way of studying ikenobo). As soon as I look at what I've done through the lens of my Canon, I suddenly see glaring problems I hadn't noticed before.
Now here's where the mess really starts. I have what I think is a completed, photographable arrangement, the water is all nice and clean as it's supposed to be, the stems are all lined up shoka-proper as best I can manage, BUT omg, all of a sudden, it looks absurd. So I have to start pulling out stems and replacing them with new ones, and the petals shower down all into the water and around me, and the stems I think I did manage to place correctly now fall over, and everything's all wrong.

 At this point I could give up, but what keeps me going is practicality. Today I have the flowers. If I give up, I may not be able to get more at this stage of bloom. So I have to do it NOW. I keep working to find the right shapes and insert them in the right places. I use a little strainer to remove all the fallen petals floating on the water surface (I think they're kinda pretty that way, but ikenobo says NO, the water must be clean). So I tidy up, and then I notice that I should have trimmed off some stubs of stems. I hate to touch anything again, lest it all come apart, but I take my scissors and snip off the stubs. It all comes apart again, petals raining, stems falling over. I knew it.

If you are asking yourself, why is it important to get it just so, I wonder that, too. But then I remember that I'm trying to learn how to create with a certain aesthetic. I don't have to do this. I could arrange flowers free-style and do it however I wish. But shoka, when done properly, offers a unique kind of serene beauty, and the only way I can learn to achieve that, I suppose, is by losing my own serenity in the process.


  1. Where are you taking Ikebana classes?

  2. Thanks so much for your comment. I think the best way to answer your question would be to refer you to my post of February 27. The way I'm studying ikenobo is described there in some detail. It's definitely unusual. I'd be glad to answer any other questions you might have about my studies.

    Are you studying ikebana, and if so, where?