What is Ikebana?
Ikebana (meaning "arranging flowers" or "making flowers come alive") is a long-cherished way of Japanese flower arranging. It's a craft that values meaning, precision, and symbolism when it comes to every part of the process.
Ikebana also closely relates to Chabana, the term used to describe the traditional flower arrangement that's present in every Japanese tea ceremony. It's definitely not something for those who are naturally impatient, but if you want to learn the way to achieve inner peace and stillness in your life, it's definitely worth a try.
Ikebana's roots are a little unclear since it's been around for so long, but there are two generally accepted origins of the craft:
The first has something to do with the design of Japanese houses. The aesthetic of Japanese construction usually leans towards neutral and muted colours, but there is usually one space in the house that's the exception to this rule. Known as a tokonoma, it was a special space reserved for a precious item belonging to the house's inhabitants. It also included a scroll and Japanese flowers.
The contents of a tokonoma were usually changed every season, and the shifts in both the decoration and the flowers used would come to influence Ikebana design as we know it today.
The other origin can be traced back to the country’s native religion of Shintoism, where regular flower offerings would be put at shrines all over Japan. Other theories include Buddhist influence (which was imported from China around the time the first Ikebana arrangements were recorded), or simply just a way for devotees to express their gratitude to spirits or other gods.
What Flowers Can You Use In Ikebana?
Traditional Ikebanists will often use Ikebana flowers native to their specific area in Japan, or flowers that carry some meaning with the season in which they bloom. There’s a lot of leeway with the flowers you can use, depending on what kind of arrangement you want from your Ikebana.
It's useful to think of a painting when you're practising an Ikebana arrangement. Instead of paint, you’re using flowers – and instead of using a canvas, you use a vase. Each element must be placed in the exact right place, and you always need to take the meaning of each bloom into consideration before putting them all in one arrangement.
Flowers and plants that Ikebanists often use include:
- Bamboo grass
- Peach branches
If you don’t have any of these flowers, don't worry! A large part of what makes Ikebana so special is finding the unique meaning and symbols inherent to your own region. Many modern Ikebanas use flowers native to their own country, and some can even be made out of other crafts like origami!
While it's best to pick up a book written by a long-practising Ikebanist, most of them haven't quite been translated to English. Fortunately, there are plenty of videos by talented creators out there that can show you the process and philosophy behind Japanese flower arrangement:
They all explain the basics of Ikebana very well, alongside offering tips and other ideas you can use to make arrangements of your own.
Where Can I Find Ikebana Supplies In Australia?
Ikebana may have started in Japan, but it doesn't mean that you can't start on your own floral arrangements at home! There are a couple of companies in Australia that offer everything you need to get started on Ikebana:
Additionally, if you want to be more creative about your arrangements, you can always visit your nearest flower shop and/or pottery store, and work from there! An important part of Ikebana is also being creative.
More than just a pretty way to arrange flowers, Ikebana's values of patience, precision, and finding meaning in the middle of chaos. If you've ever wanted to take a moment to stop and smell the flowers (and possibly do a little arranging while you're at it) then try an Ikebana arrangement or two. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results!