SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

February 15, 2013

Exquisite Ikebana Art

GARY BARLOW    Ikenobo arrangements were showcased in an exhibit at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Ikebana a doable art

By Denise Trowbridge • FOR THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging, its oldest type — ikenobo ikebana — more than 550 years old. Modern gardeners can take a lot away from the art form. * “Ikebana makes us more aware of nature, flowers and of beauty in nature,” said Gary Barlow, who will teach an ikebana class in April at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. * “It can also be meditative. It slows us down when we get caught up in the hectic aspects of our lives.”

Ikebana arrangements are often both simple and dramatic, and there is no one right way to design one.

Ikebana has many schools, or aesthetic approaches, to arranging, each with its own design guidelines and symbolism. There are hundreds of schools, but the ikenobo, ohara and sogetsu schools have active followers in central Ohio.

Ikenobo is the oldest school. It is more traditional, with more rules about how arrangements are to be made. There are several substyles — such as rikka, a formal upright style, and shoka, which is more elegant and natural, mimicking the natural growth habits of plants, according to Ikebana International.

The ohara school emphasizes in-season plants. The sogetsu school encourages use of color and creativity.

There is also a free form or freestyle ikebana, in which symbolism and rules take more of a back seat to design and aesthetics.

In freestyle, “you focus more on form, color, texture, pattern and space,” Barlow said. “You can generally use more materials in each arrangement , too.”

Most ikebana styles use the materials and their placement within arrangements to represent heaven, man and earth, said Lew Shupe, who teaches ikebana classes across Ohio. But the placement of each concept varies by school.

In ikenobo, for example, “The highest form in the arrangement represents man. The next one down is heaven because heaven is all around us, and lowest is the earth,” Shupe said.

In all schools, the materials in an arrangement will ideally be alive, in season, natural rather than manmade, and picked from the arranger’s landscape.

“By concept, ikebana is a representation of life,” Shupe said. Plants and animals “are born, grow, mature and die, then are reborn again in spring, and ikebana arrangements through the season should reflect that cycle.”

Spring arrangements, for example, could use pastel blossoms. “Then in fall, you could use a weathered leaf or a bug-eaten blossom,” Shupe said with a chuckle. “You’re mirroring life and nature.”

Ikebana doesn’t require many specialized tools or supplies, other than Japanese flower shears, or ikebana scissors, which are small and light, and a kenzan, a small, spiky device placed in the base of the container to hold flowers and stems.

Each school has guidelines for containers, but common designs include a low, flat vessel, such as a suiban, or a cylindrical container such as a nageire.

Columbus has several active groups, including the local chapter of Ikebana International, and the Ikenobo Ikebana Society of America.

Classes are offered about once a month, and some clubs have supply and container sales. For a calendar of events, visit the Ikebana International Columbus Chapter 84 website, http://www.  iicolumbus84.webs  . com or watch the Coming Up listings in At Home.

Denise Trowbridge is a Columbus freelance writer who covers garden topics. cdecker@dispatch.com

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