Friday, May 31, 2013

What I Did Wrong--Lessons in Ikenobo and Editing

Yes, you're right, on the left is the same photo I put up last time. My last post was about the flowers pictured in the photo but not really about the arrangement itself. Now I've had the benefit of my sensei's comments on the arrangement.

He complimented my choice of material, noting that the delicate lines of the columbine and honeysuckle were appropriate for a half-moon container. The honeysuckle offers the kind of gentle curve traditionally suited to this particular type of shoka design. I was pleased that he approved of the plant materials, because that selection is of prime importance in creating an appealing arrangement in a container with such a bold, black form.

However, what I didn't manage to do successfully was to give the pleasing lines their due emphasis. He pointed out the blob of green honeysuckle leaves at the far right, which obscured the lines. In his edited version of this photo, he erased most of that distracting patch and said he probably would have removed it all if he had been actually working on the arrangement instead of a photo of it. Alas, I never even noticed that bunch of leaves until he pointed them out!

He also erased the tangle of criss-crossing columbine stems inside the moon. I should have clipped those with an eye to simplification.

Finally, he pointed out what he called the "staircase regularity" of the opposite leaves on the longest, the shin honeysuckle stem. He said that a Japanese teacher would run his/her fingers along a section of that stem and remove the leaves from it, leaving a bare bit of stem to emphasize the line and introduce an interesting  randomness into it.

As a writer I can see the similarity between editing plant materials in an ikenobo arrangement and editing words. A writer wants her line of thought to be clear, not obscured by a patch of unnecessary words. She wants to eliminate or break up boring repetitiveness. She wants to reduce distractions and cleave to the main point.

I'm a novice flower arranger, learning how to edit.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Local and healthy-for-you flowers for ikebana, Part 1

Columbine and honeysuckle from my garden
I had no idea I might be breathing in pesticides when I bought and arranged a bunch of roses, until I read Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart. I learned in reading it that some growers, florists, and floral designers are very concerned about the environmental and societal effects of  importing cut flowers that have been heavily dosed with pesticides and then are flown and trucked long distances to finally reach the arranger.

Then I learned from reading Debra Prinzing and David Perry's book, The 50-Mile Bouquet, who some of those growers, florists, and floral designers are. Prinzing and Perry write about some who grow cut flowers on sustainable, chemical-free farms in California and the Northwest and sell to local markets and flower arrangers.

I also learned by reading that some ikebana arrangers in Japan are also worried about the health effects of working with pesticide-laden flowers, only this time I found it in a work of suspense fiction by Sujata Massey called The Flower Master.

All this reading got me, a novice ikebana flower arranger, interested in the movement toward local flowers grown in environmentally sensitive and healthy ways. In addition to the above three books, which I enthusiastically recommend to flower arrangers, I have another reason for wanting to use local flowers: I've been passionately interested in native plants of the Southwest since the early 1980s. It would make a lot of sense, then, to use locally grown and native plants in my ikenobo ikebana arrangements as much as possible.

However, if you have read any books on Japanese flower arranging, you know that the exquisite arrangements you see in the illustrations in books or magazines are often composed of plants that are not easily found where you live. Plum trees don't come into bloom in New Mexico in time for New Year's arrangements. Moss-covered Japanese apricot and Camellia japonica, shown in a recent photo of an arrangement in Ikebana International's magazine, don't show up in my local florists' shops all that often. But even if they did, I'd know they traveled a long way and used a lot of resources to get to me.

So the solution is to learn how to find, grow, and adapt flowers from your own garden or from local growers to the classic Japanese ikebana styles. The arrangement I did above used New Mexico native columbine and a non-native honeysuckle that grow in my pesticide-free garden. The bonus thing I learned in doing that arrangement was that both those plant materials lasted a long time in the hangetsu container.

My next entries on this subject will be about finding suitable natives and learning about local flower growers.