Ikebana: A simple way to create beautiful floral arrangements

By Naira Ruiz
Ikebana— the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging—is a relaxing way to tap into your creative side. In fact, this artform is known for its meditative qualities.
It’s also surprisingly simple and you don’t need a full bouquet of flowers to create elegant arrangements. Just one special flower combined with a curved branch or long leaf instantly creates a beautiful botanical sculpture.
Virtually any vessel can be turned into an ikebana container. All you need is a kenzan (a flower frog) to hold the flowers in place. When choosing an ikebana container, the trick is to pick something that enhances your arrangement.
Appalachian Spring carries a number of ikebana containers to suit a variety of tastes and arrangement styles.
For example, these small iridescent ikebana containers by Abelman Art Glass are great if you want to add a pop of color.

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 Since they’re small in scale, they won’t distract from the arrangement.
Or, if you want something more sculptural, these wooden ikebana containers by Kovecses are perfect.

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If these pieces seem architectural, that’s probably because one of the studio’s craftspeople, Joseph Kovecses, has a background in architectural design.
Looking for something with a more natural and rugged form?  You couldn’t ask for a better choice than this turned Buckeye Burl container by Warren Vienneau.

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Vienneau carefully selects woods with distinctive figures and grain patterns to create pieces which he describes as “preserving some of the natural existing beauty that was already there.”
If you’re aiming for something sleeker, check out Studio Paran.

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This ikebana container is part of the grass series which pays homage to “that lowly plant beneath our feet that so much of civilization is built upon.” Hand cut silver foil makes each piece unique.
If your theme is fusion, try a piece by Charlton Glassworks.  This mother and son team fuses metals between layers of glass to create striking glass art. The 1500-degree kiln turns the metals into unique, fiery images.

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This piece incorporates hand-cut copper into the design.
You can find these, as well as other beautiful ikebana containers Appalachian Spring offers here.  Create a stunning arrangement for each season.  All you need are the materials in your surroundings and your imagination!

Japanese Inspired American Crafts just in time for the National Cherry Blossom Festival

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photo credit: ©DavidMDworkin

March heralds the arrival of spring in Washington DC along with the celebration of the cherry blossoms that bloom along the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. In 1912 the mayor of Tokyo bestowed upon the United States 3000 Japanese cherry trees as a gesture of lasting friendship between the two countries. The initial gift was commemorated by a simple ceremony that featured First Lady Helen Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planting the first trees along the banks of the Potomac River.

In 1915, the United States government sent a reciprocal gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. In 1981, when thousands of Japanese cherry trees were destroyed in a flood, cuttings from the original gift of trees were sent to Japanese horticulturists to replace the lost and damaged flora.

Over the years the festival has emerged and grown. It is a time in which Washingtonians celebrate the arrival of spring, the beauty and variety of Japanese art in America, Japanese cultural experiences from drumming and dance to tea ceremonies and historic dress. In addition to events that are scheduled to honor Japanese culture, there are traditions that draw over 1.5 million visitors to the nation’s Capital each spring including among others: the annual Cherry Blossom parade, paddle boats on the tidal basin, throngs of photographers-professional and amateur alike, and the daily bloom forecast telling us that spring has truly arrived! Over the years we have seen Japanese influence in hand made objects ranging from glass to wood, pots to silk and jewelry to kaleidoscopes.

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I love that American made objects owe so much to the craft, practice and techniques of untold people who came before us throughout history and across the globe.  As these trades and crafts passed through cultures, countries and time, they reflect the particular flavors of the people and period. And yet the origins of each can still be seen and felt in the very fiber of glass, wood, silk and metal today.

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I see the Japanese influences in a surprising number of our American or Japanese-American artists. Nichibei, which translates as Japan and America, is a studio that blends the elegant tradition of Japanese folk art with the flair of contemporary American pottery. The “chop” used to sign Matsumoto’s pieces is the Japanese character for Pine Tree, the English translation of his familial name.

Good Elephant Studio produces rice bowls, plates and platters evocative of her Korean roots and contemporary graphic design training.

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Marc Matsui uses the simple elegant lines of his finely thrown bowls as a canvas for his spectacular glazes that integrate color and geometric designs. Marc is truly a master of the glaze, transforming clay into a glass-like finish with brilliant colors.

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The Japanese art of flower arranging is known as Ikebana. Over the years various American artists have begun to create forms or vases that can be used to make Ikebana flower arrangements in which heaven, earth and humans are united in a pleasing design. The use of a kenzan in the interior gives a firm base for these elegant arrangements.

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 Ikebana artists study for years to acquire the knowledge and skills that eventually can lead them to mastery. It is not surprising that we see Ikebana vessels made from wood, glass and clay. All of these materials were available in early Japanese culture and utilized to create organic presentations that were one with the environment.

Several of our woodworkers have been inspired by the Japanese aesthetics of elegant refinement, delicate detail, and subtle metaphors using archetypal shapes and forms. Cherry blossoms represent classic beauty and fragility. It reminds us that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful and yet tragically short.

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The architectural flavor of Japanese influence can be seen in the boxes made by Bill Bolstad. Using spalted woods infused with colored resins, he has created a limited edition set of boxes in various sizes. The ebony detailing and the shapes are evocative of miniature pagoda like buildings.

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Silk originated in China in 1700 BC, but there have been silkworms in the oldest of Japanese mythology. Shibori is credited as being a Japanese dying method that clearly gave rise to all of the many forms of tie dye that we have seen over thousands of years. Vivid colors and repeated geometric patterns can be seen in the Antrim Street designs.

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Theresa, one of our textile artists, spent 7 years in Japan as a university administrator, where she fell in love with the local textiles. She was immersed in Japanese culture and came to appreciate the embroidered silks and hand painted fabrics used in making kimono. Vintage kimonos are given new life in these handmade silk scarves by her studio.