Hanakubari by Lennart Persson
I came across this blog post by my friend Lennart Persson on his blog, "The Nordic Lotus Ikebana Blog" and had to share it with everyone. All of us who practice the art of Ikebana are familiar with kubari, but it is not usually used as a part of, or an element of, the design or arrangement. It is usually used as a mechanical technique to anchor material in position and then hidden. But what if..............

To read more, just click on the picture or this link: "The Nordic Lotus Ikebana Blog" and enjoy.

 
 

The Problem With Small Feet
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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"
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This glass of water weighs half of a pound.....
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while these pebbles weigh three quarters of a pound
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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.

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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!
 
 
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.

 
 
Useful Tools for the Ikebana Designer
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A static display of three similar containers
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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.
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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. 
 
 
Designing without the Background
Ikebana Relief Flower Arrangement
For my second experiment with Ikebana relief designs, I decided to create something that used the actual wall as the background - eliminating the tray, board, scroll, etc... that one would normally use to build upon.

I have seen relief arrangements that incorporated an open grid or lattice made of bamboo - but I wanted something more organic and irregular. I settled on a nice piece of wild grape vine I have growing on my property as my starting point. 

The additional materials I used for this design included a long narrow ceramic container glazed in a dark rust red ash glaze, 26 gauge floral wire, wire cutters, hasami, ginger leaves, and three yellow "stock" mums.

After running the wire through the two small holes in the back of the container, the grape vine was then wired to the back of the container and a hanging loop formed.

With the wiring completed, all that was left to do was arrange the ginger leaves and yellow mums. I just love the tropical feel of this design - exactly what I needed after a long cold winter!

If you are enjoying this series of posts or have any questions, leave a comment below. And if you like this series, do share it with your ikebana friends.
 
 
An Ikebana Relief Design with a Traditional Feeling
Ikebana Relief Design Using Pussy Willow and Lavender Mums
As I said in part 1 of this series, I wanted to start my design experiments by producing a design with a more traditional look and feel. 

So I started with a bamboo tray as a background, frame, and structure to build from. Additional items to make this arrangement included a small turquoise ceramic container, 26 gauge floral wire, wire cutters, hasami, pussy willow (2 twigs) and lavender "stock" mums (2 flowers).  You really don't need much to create one of these arrangements. 

The ceramic container (for sale on this website) has two very small holes in the back to allow it to be wired to almost anything. I just ran the wire through the holes and then through the bamboo tray. Giving the wire a couple of twists on the back side of the tray tightens the container to the tray and makes everything secure.


The trickiest part of this arrangement was finding the proper placement of the wire on the back side of the tray to create a hanging loop. Because of the off center nature of this design, the wire hanging loop also has to be located off center to get the arrangement to hang straight. The hanging wire is actually located near the top of the tray and directly above the ceramic container.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about relief arrangements - just click on the comments section below and if you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer them.
 
 
Moving Ikebana from the Table to the Wall
Ikebana Relief Floral Arrangement
At the October, 2014 meeting of the Blue Ridge Chapter of the Ikenobo Ikebana Society, in Hendersonville, NC, Laura Felt and Norma Zunich presented the design of relief style ikebana arrangements. 

Over the next several months, I created some containers that I thought would be suitable for this type of arrangement in the hopes of trying them out at the chapter meeting workshop on relief style arrangements scheduled for February, 2015. Unfortunately, that meeting was cancelled due to winter weather.

Anxious to try this type of design out for myself, I scheduled a whole day in the studio to experiment and make this type of arrangement. I decided to start with something that would look more traditional and then work towards a more modern interpretation.


With few rules, this design maximizes creativity!
The rules for relief style arrangements in Ikebana (as presented by the Ikenobo school) are few and unique:
  • Arrangements must be made to hang on a wall
  • Use at least one natural, live material (you can use dried materials, man made materials, etc... just remember to include one live material)
  • There should be a clear focal point
  • Mechanics and containers should not be visible unless they blend with or contribute to the overall design of the arrangement
  • If you are using two or more flower containers, the arrangement should show a connection between them: similar in design, color, size, connected by blossoms, line materials or other design elements

Comment and let me know what you think about Ikebana Relief Arrangements - and if you've never experienced this type of arrangement before, join me for parts 2 through 5 in this series and see some of the many possibilities!
 
 

Adding Woody Material to Your Ikebana Design

In the Japanese art of Ikebana, sticks, twigs, branches and roots are often used as "line material" in the design of an arrangement. I am continually fascinated by the way a simple twig, branch or root can change the entire character of a pot/vase/container. I've included some images below to demonstrate what I mean.  
As you can see in the three images above, the vase by itself provides the foundation, while the branch begins the process of creating line, movement and maybe a little drama. This is just the beginning of designing an arrangement.
In the urn shaped container above, two very different tree roots create two very different moods. Both accentuate the vertical nature of the container yet the first root is curvy, smooth, and rounded while the second root is jagged and sharper (almost like teeth or claws). Both roots make the container more dramatic to be sure; the curvy one adding a soft, peaceful quality, the sharp, pointy one creating a more energetic - almost aggressive quality. The roots add to the foundation (the vase) and you build from there. 
In these final two images, I wanted to show (using the smooth curvy root from above) how the same "line material" could be used on a different container. I love the added drama this curvy root creates when combined with this more traditional bowl shaped vase.

So what do you think? Leave me a comment.