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How to Arrange Simple Ikebana

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Ikebana is a Japanese art form that creates serenely beautiful, yet deceptively simple, flower arrangements. It is a practice that is nearly 500 years old. Translated, it means "flowers kept alive," an apt phrase for flower arranging. The bouquets are stunning pieces of home decor. Yet ikebana is not just a way of arranging flowers; it's also a meditation practice. While there are many forms of ikebana, you need just a few tips to get started.

Japanese Flower Arranging:

  1. Choose your vase. Containers are part of the arrangement and should be carefully considered. You can use a shallow vase, called moribana, or a tall, slender vase, called nageire. Pottery vases are the most traditional form. Use floral foam to hold your flowers in place.

  2. Make a drawing of your design. Drafting your idea on paper will help you visualize the finished arrangement. Keep in mind that ikebana is meant to be seen from all angles, and the empty spaces are an important part of the overall design. Make note of the proportions and the natural materials you'll need to assemble.

  3. Find stems to frame the arrangement. The most basic ikebana design features three stems of different lengths: "Shin" is the longest stem, followed by "soe" and "hikae." Each stem will be visible in the finished bouquet, with the shin being the most prominent. The stems can be branches or twigs, sturdy plant leaves, grasses, or long flower stems. They might have small flowers, but usually don't have any large blossoms.

  4. Choose flowers and leaves to fill out the design. The filler flowers are called "jushi," and they provide the color and texture of the finished project. Flowers with showy blossoms make good jushi. You don't need many flowers; ikebana has a minimalist aesthetic, and a few well-chosen blooms make a stunning visual display.

  5. Prepare your mind for ikebana. Japanese flower arranging is a spiritual activity. It is done in silence so the artist can concentrate on the natural, aesthetic elements of the design. Choose a quiet place to work and take a few minutes to calm your senses before you begin. Then work slowly and deliberately.

  6. Arrange the stems. Imagine a vertical line set in the middle of the arrangement; you'll arrange the frame, shaped as a triangle, around this line. Place the shin (longest stem) in the vase first, leaning it to the left at a 15-degree angle from your imagined center line. Set the soe, also leaning to the left, in the vase at a 45-degree angle and in front of the shin. Complete the frame with the hikae. It leans to the right at a 75-degree angle and juts toward the front of the arrangement.

  7. Finish with the jushi. The filler flowers enhance, but do not hide or obscure, the frame. Follow the design you drew out on paper, and then make adjustments until you have just the look you want.

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