A Demonstration by Susan Cano at Ikebana International, Asheville, NC
The April meeting of Ikebana International Chapter 74 was all about bringing the drama to an arrangement or design intended for a big event or exhibition. Susan Cano, Riji, Sogetsu School and president of the Asheville Chapter of Ikebana International shared some of the things that she considers important for exhibition arrangements.
Space is important for any work of art. Positive, negative, and what Susan calls "invisible" space, all contribute to the three dimensional nature of a design. Invisible space is the space between the layers of the different elements in your design and it is key to creating depth in an arrangement. You can not see this space because it is obscured by the element in front of it, but without it, the whole arrangement would appear flat and two dimensional. 

"Using Line To Emphasize Space"
The line material used in both arrangements below, were added to emphasize space in the designs. In the first arrangement, a cylindrical container was used. To create the impression of depth, Susan used two arcs of overlapping thin strip bamboo. This not only helps to give the impression of depth, but also aids in defining the negative space in the design.
In the second arrangement, the goal was to create lots of drama with strong colors. Susan used a red line material made from dyed thin strip bamboo which perfectly matched the red halliconia. The last addition to this design however, was incorporating a strong focal point by adding several bright yellow calla lilies in the center. The yellow callas intensified the yellow highlights on the halliconia and were so strong that they just kept bringing the eye back to the center of the design. It was hypnotic - I loved the energy of this design. 

"Extending The Arrangement To Incorporate More Of The Surrounding Space"
This last arrangement was all about incorporating more of the space around the arrangement - drawing it in and making it a part of the design. Using just two materials (pussy willow and pine), Susan was able to include the surrounding table top into her design and create a fairy tale ballet - simply magical.

It is always a pleasure to see a master at work. Susan Cano gave us a lot to think about at this April meeting of Ikebana International; using space and line and focal points to create depth, movement and drama. It was a mind blowing demonstration considering she created seven arrangements in under an hour! 


The Problem With Small Feet
Like a ballerina on her tip toes, a small footed vase has a tremendous sense of lightness and grace. The beauty of this type of container comes at a cost, however, due to the presence of a high center of gravity. 

Add on top of that a lead "kenzan" and an arrangement that uses heavy extending branch material and you have greatly increased the possibility of the whole thing tipping over and potentially breaking your lovely container. 

The solution to this dilemma is to lower the center of gravity and make the container + kenzan + arrangement less top heavy - but how? The answer is to simply increase the weight at the foot as much as possible. The more weight present at the foot of the vase, the lower (more stable) the center of gravity.

So how do we do that? How do we make the bottom third of the container weigh more than the top two thirds plus the added weight of the water, kenzan and arrangement? Many Ikebana designers use decorative rock in the bottoms of their containers to add more weight. Decorative rock and pebbles can be useful, but they are only about twice as heavy as the same volume of water. What's the best thing to use then?

"Finding The Best Solution"
This glass of water weighs half of a pound.....
while these pebbles weigh three quarters of a pound
but at two pounds, this glass of lead weights is four times heavier than the same volume of water!
The best solution is lead. It weighs over twice as much as decorative rock and slightly more than four times an equal volume of water. This is the kind of difference in weight that shifts the center of gravity downward.

For this demonstration, I used a plastic net bag that once held fresh garlic and an assortment of lead fishing weights that I had in a old fishing tackle box. The plastic net bag aids in the placement and retrieval of the lead weights and helps to prevent them from marking and chipping the container. Another option to the lead fishing weights are the round lead musket balls used as bullets in black powder rifles. The fishing weights and musket balls can be found in most outdoor sporting goods stores.

While the materials I'm using in this arrangement are not all that top heavy, the container is very stable with the added lead weights - I think a cat could even climb around on it and have difficulty knocking it over. The materials I used in this arrangement consist of Pussy Willow (with a very nice "Koshi"), a single Aspidistra leaf, and the wild flower of the Blood Root.
I hope you've found this tip helpful the next time you make an arrangement in a small footed container. I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas about this post - just share in the comments below. And thanks for stopping by!
"Koshi" is the Japanese term for hip. It is used to describe the curve of a line usually in upright arrangements. 

Example #1: "That Shoka flower arrangement has a really nice koshi, don't you think?"

Example #2: "Does my koshi look OK in this dress?"

Playing Around with Size and Scale
Ikebana relief flower arrangement and coke can for comparrison

Since I enjoyed making the grape vine relief arrangement in part 3 of this series so much, I decided to experiment with a similar design in this next arrangement. The biggest difference in this design is one of scale - this arrangement is barely bigger than a 12 oz. Coke can.

I have had a bundle of roots laying around the studio for about a year now, and was trying to figure out exactly what to do with them, when out of the kiln emerged this little ceramic relief container that perfectly mimicked the coloring and texture of these roots. When I put the two of them together, it was a match made in heaven!

Materials for this arrangement include; tree roots, ceramic container, 26 gauge floral wire, wire cutters, hasami, Statice, three green Mums, and a Coca-Cola for drinking and making a size comparison.
A PotterJohn Ikebana Relief Flower Arrangement

In the end, I was very pleased with the way this little arrangement came together. I can envision the roots and container with many different kinds of plant materials; delicate ferns, orchids, grasses (especially black mondo grass), wild flowers, etc... And the size of this design is so diminutive that it would fit just about anywhere in the home.

If you have any questions or would just like to share your thoughts, click on the "add comments" section below this post. I look forward to hearing from you.

Shiun Ikebana Container with Kubari
"Kubari" is the Japanese word for sticks used to create a division or grid in the interior of a vase or container. The sticks are used to support and anchor the flower and plant materials in an arrangement. In this image, the Kubari are being used to hold the material (Pussy Willow) upright in the center of the container.

In very traditional Ikebana arrangements, the Kubari is used alone. In the image below, you can see the Kubari is being used in combination with a Kenzan. This is not, however, typical.

Closeup of Y Kubari
In the image to the right, the Kubari is in the shape of the letter "Y" (called Y Kubari in America). Here it is being used to hold the floral materials in a straight line for a Shoka style arrangement.

Useful Tools for the Ikebana Designer
A static display of three similar containers
A dynamic display using wedges and a riser
Wedges and Risers
Wedges and risers can create interest and different perspectives for your Ikebana floral arrangements.  They can be used with a single, pair or group of containers. The lift and support that risers contribute to a design, can make the container seem lighter than it really is - almost floating. Tilting two or more containers up on their edge or corner with wedges can imbue the entire design with a sense of tumbling energy and movement. When used together, both aspects are at play in the design.  You can make your own wedges and risers like I did.
Choosing your material
Wedges and risers can be made from many different types of materials including: PVC piping, wood, bricks, stones, and found objects.
Choose the materials you are most comfortable working with. Some of these materials require special tools or skills to convert into wedges and risers. If you lack the experience and skills to manipulate these materials, a good alternative is to find someone that is handy with tools and get them to make the wedges and risers for you. A person with the right tools and skills can make these in no time (about 15 to 20 minutes for an entire set).
Because it is easy to cut, very durable, lightweight, accepts paint, and comes in both white and black, I chose PVC pipe for my wedges and risers project. You can find short three or four foot lengths in various diameters in the plumbing section of most home improvement stores. 
How to Cut Wedges and Risers From PVC Pipe
PictureSafety first, when using this tool.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is figuring out how to accurately mark the various degrees of slope you might want for your wedges and then cutting them true and straight. While this can be done with a carpenters square and hand saw (but very time consuming and difficult I might add), the best tool for this job is an electric chop saw. A chop saw simplifies the entire cutting process, making perfect cuts through your material.  Because most chop saws are designed to make angle cuts from zero to forty five degrees, making wedges is a snap! 

I was able to make two sets of these PVC pipe wedges in about twenty minutes.  The second set, I painted  with a black paint formulated for plastics. I'll use the second set on dark surfaces and black table cloths. 
Without the need to adjust the saw for angle cuts, making risers is an even easier process - just measure along the length of your material the height you want your risers to be, and cut on those marks.
The tool to use when cutting wood or PVC pipe
Found Objects for Wedges and Risers
I am certain that if one looks hard enough, there are many objects that could be used as wedges and risers. Hockey pucks and tuna cans might make good risers and door stops could be used for wedges. For someone who likes the outdoors as much as I do, it might be fun to collect natural wedge shaped rocks or flat pieces of shale or slate that could be stacked to make adjustable risers. The possibilities are endless!
If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like them, leave a comment below. I'd love to know what Ikebana topics you're interested in. And if you are looking for containers like the ones in this post, they will be available in the store on this website for purchase very soon.