Ikebana: flower arrangement

I learned the basic aesthetics of Ikebana flower design from my kind neighbor, Mariam, whose garden I worked in. Basic flower design is based off of high, medium, and low flower approach, as well as various angles and containers. Like all art, the real aesthetic appeal comes from what the Japanese call Myo. Myo is an appearance devoid of form, which is impossible to identify with in which the audience reacts without even really knowing. This is a term often used to describe the aesthetic term of `wabi` which is a sensuous awareness of `the void` a manifestation of Buddhaland, simplicity that is found in the natural world, often incorporating inherent moral principles through means of a purity that is free of defilement. A closely related term which applies to flower design is`Sabi`. Sabi is an immediate aesthetic apprehension of real as opposed to `Yugen` which is an aesthetic experience characterized as a vehicle to point beyond itself into a numinal dimension, or a hidden reality bridging the real with the phenomenal. Sabi is unique in it`s valoration of nature, a loneliness, a feeling of separation that is detached of civilization, from self as ego, a pure direct experience of solitariness.

Ikebana flower design has its roots in Buddhism and were initially made as offerings to the Buddha as flowers were not only seeing as aesthetically pleasing, but were in themselves symbols of Kami, the gods, and places wherein they would take residence. Ikebana flower design gradually expanded from the secondary role of alter pieces and became solitary masterpieces used for festivals, home decor, for chado (tea ceremonies), and even to social parties that were based around the art form.

Ikebana flower design moved from the humble alters of the people to the grand decoration of ceremonial halls to the mansions of the aristocrats and even the homes of the warrior class. Although Ikebana was considered to be a valuable trade to all young men who had come of age, there were schools dedicated to flower arrangement to create professional advisers in the art-form.

I designed my flower arrangement beginning with the container, which is almost, if not equally as important as the actual arrangement. Before the art form of Ikebana developed the flowers were used to accentuate the container, although now the combination of flowers and vase is considered equally complimentary, especially in regard to the form of Ikebana design such as the complex form of rikka, to the simpler arrangements of nageirebana, the free-arrangement of jiyu-bana, or cha-bana which is flowers used in decoration for tea ceremonies. The ceramic mug pictured here was made by my colleague Jacob Olsen. Within the mug sits a shot-glass, this cup within a cup is used as a support structure. I arranged my flowers to appear as if they were cascading out of the containers, a thrust of life which possess a wild nature that can not be contained. I used the leaves to counterbalance the composition, create strong diagonals and to hide the stems. I chose to conceal the stems to suggest hidden supports.

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