Contemplating Zen floral design




Professor Masafumi – Ikenobo Isivata school




Floral arrangement by Junko Toshima — Flickr – AndyAtzert



Between the spaces – the Tao of Ikebana


‭When it comes to Ikebana, I prefer the simpler styles like the early Kuge or Shoka that only employ up to three botanical elements mixed with a lot of space and minimalism. If I can feel the spaces breathing, I’m more content with what I see. This usually occurs with the more simple arrangements. Ikebana is a meditative genre and the spaces are where the yin and yang merge, to create a balance. Just like in meditation, the space between the inhaling and exhaling breaths is a focal point to connect with inner harmony.
The Zen artists approached their sumi-e brushwork art by first contemplating the inherent nature of the aesthetic object and understanding its inner qualities before executing any brush strokes. Ideally its eternal nature could be expressed with purity, spontaneity and an economy of strokes. Similarly, most ikebana arrangements aspire to presenting the design elements with a sublime simplicity and harmony.



Flickriver–Otomodachi Ikebana


‭Some skillful ikebanists can create busy pieces with less spaces that still maintain balance and graceful expression, but this is more challenging, because extra importance is loaded onto the overall form and composition to realize any transcendental qualities. It’s worth keeping in mind that a lot of movement in a floral design can build an underlying stillness that exists by virtue of counterpoint.

‭Flowers seem to respond to tasteful arrangements and have their beauty enhanced in the process. The choice of the display vessel is of importance and can influence the direction of the design. A heavier, more horizontally inclined vessel of warmer colours will be more yang in nature. A grounded yang vessel will allow a greater yin expansiveness of the flowers and design. If the vessel is overwhelmed by too many vertical (yin) flowers, the top heavy design leads to loss of harmony. Horizontal lines and curvature and even diagonal lines within the design, help to ground a piece.

In the philosophy of Ikebana it was emphasized that the cultivation of a transcendent feeling while creating ikebana would be absorbed by the flowers and design and later reflected through the art. The Taoists alluded to this with the statement ‘Keep the fire beneath the cauldron’. What this meant was to avoid being too hyper cerebral when creating a piece. Cultivate awareness from your tan tien (navel), which translates as “elixir field”, rather then from the mid brain. Grounded, relaxed awareness can be attained more easily with this practice, which allows spaces in your mind to manifest, that give more room for inspiration to surface and in some instances create beyond the limitations of coherent logic. ‬Even in the planning stages, if a sketch is made, this was also encouraged.
I have assembled a diverse assortment of pieces that represent the ikebana aesthetic and some vessels that would be a natural fit for the refined ikebana arts.


2013-Ikebana Master-class-with-Professor-Masafumi-Ikenobo-Isivata

Rikka Shimputai –  Professor Masafumi, Ikenobo Ishiwata

The Rikka form originated from the Ikebano school of flower arranging in the 15th century




Toshiro Kawase




japanese-green-glaze sculpture-ikebana-vase

Green glaze modernist ceramic vase



Omen-2013-Calendar---Catalog Catherine White vase

Vase by Catherine White – Omen AZen Calendar 2013

Photo – Warren Frederick
 elegant ikebana arrangement

Elegant Ikebana



Kamaka Pottery Hanaire with Interned Top by Estelle Martin

Estelle Martin ceramic vessel




Ikebana display at Professor Keiko Takano workshop




Early Bottle Form – Joanna Constantinidis




cherry blossom ikebana

Ikebana cherry blossom




Matsudo Sato




Professor Keiko Takano-ikebana-workshop-2015

Keiko Takano ikebana




Kokedama---Japanese-moss-balls - a Japanese variant of bonsai

‘Kokedama’ — Japanese moss ball





Freestyle Ikebana (Jiyuka) by Nadezhda Kuznetsova




Infinite ikebana -

‘Infinite’ ikebana





Isamu Noguchi-ceramic sculpture

Isamu Noguchi ‘s ‘Lonely Tower’ – Shigaraki stoneware with thin ash glaze made in 1952 – with ikebana by Teshigahara Sofu



Pats-Ikebana flower display

Display from Pat’s Ikebana





Professor-Keiko-Takano at a workshop

Keiko Takano




Ruth Duckworth-ceramics-2010-Cowans-Auctions

Ruth Duckworth






Elena Dendova – bold contemporary ikebana



SookjaeArt-etsy---Ikebana-ring-vase with pink blossom flowers

Ikebana ring vase – SookjaeArt-etsy




Stig Lindberg; Glazed Stoneware Vase for Gustavsberg




Jiyuka-(freestyle) ikebana

Ikebana Jiyuka




Toshiro Kawase simple ikebana




Charlene Ho ikebana display

Ikebana Rikka Shimputai – Charlene Ho




Ashraf Hanna Small Angular Carved Vessel

Ashraf Hanna contemporary carved vessel





Shoka-Shimputai ikebana arrangement

Shoka Shimputai ikebana



winter-solstice-2014--Catherine White

Catherine White – winter solstice 2014




Ekaterina-Minina ikebana workshop

Ikebana arrangment –  Ekaterina Minina



Yasuhisa-Kohyama ceramic vessel

Yasuhisa Kohyama ceramic vase





Yoko Komae ceramic bottle





Catherine White – summer solstice 2014




Catherine White _hyacinth_bean collage

Catherine White creates collages combining hand-drawn images, seasonal garden plants, and other materials, as a method for interpreting nature. These are assembled and captured on a flat screen scanner.





2013---Tania-Rollond ceramic bottle

Tania Rollond




2015-Shoka Shofutai by Tatyana Lohova - Ikebana Ikenobo Russia

Shoka Shofutai by Tatyana Lohova – 2015




Kawase-Toshiro japanese ikebana floral art

Toshiro Kawase






Shoka Shimputai by Ekaterina Minina




Jiyuka-freestyle-ikebana with contemporary vessel

Jiyuka ikebana





Steel grass, Allium purple rain, Azalée —Thai Mai Van





Ikebana arrangement-by-jajasavage-on-Flickr

Ikebana arrangement by jajasavage on Flickr





Floral Japonesa  –  Celso Yamachita




atsum-izumi white ceramic tri footed contemporary vessel

Atsum Izumi tri footed contemporary ceramic vessel




Becky's ikebana art-by-hoto2-on-Flickr

Becky’s ikebana art arrangement






Black lily and wild cherry tree flowers ikebana – Toshiro Kawase




Catherine White - Ikebana_#3-summer-solstice-2014

Catherine White


---Ishii-Naoto ikebana -

Ishii Naoto ikebana





5th century Jomon Ware pot with ikebana display





Ikebana arrangement – Carolyn Lewis, Pinterest





Summer solstice 2015 – Catherine White






Rikka Shimputai with professor Ikenobo Ishiwata Masafumi.






Ikebana exhibition of the Ikenobo school, Kyoto

photo – Stephanie Giraud




Haiku-by-Cynthia-Decker - digital art

‘Haiku’ – Cynthia Decker

Persimmon tree bonsai





Atshushi ikebana





Ikebana-Odette-Nguyen orange flower display

Odette Nguyen





Ikebana by Jeroen Vermaas

jeroenvermaas Flickr



Ikebana-flowers Sogetsu-di-Pasqua

Ikebana @ Sogetsu di Pasqua




Ikebana-sublime-Master - Baiko

Contemporary ikebana – Master Baiko




Two Maiko (Apprentice Geisha) seated next to a bamboo vase with a Chrysanthemum Ikebana arrangement




Zhang-Zhengyu ceramic vessel

Zhang Zhengyu




Traditional Japanese Ikebana - Toshiro Kawase

Toshiro Kawase





‘Tulip with Anthurium’ – Horst P. Horst

Oyster Bay NY 1989





Ikebana flower art by Mario Hirama


Sogetsu-Ikebana-display with blue and orange flowerrs

Sogetsu Ikebana





Japanese Wooden Karaki Flower vase stand





Bonsai – Colonel Lao Tsu





1 Comment

  1. Mardi
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to thank you for this blog – it’s such a rich source of inspiration and information for me as a beginning/aspiring ceramic artist.

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  1. By Ikebana nirvana - Japan floral arts on December 1, 2015 at 1:38 am

    […] See more Ikebana on this Veniceclayartists post – ‘Contemplating Zen Floral Design’ […]

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