Learning Flower Arranging From The Japanese

Learning Flower Arranging From The Japanese

It is worth considering some of the lessons that can be learnt from Japanese flower arrangement.

Firstly, it is clear that it is not necessary to have a great many flowers or other materials to make beautiful and satisfying decorations. In classic Japanese arrangement no superfluous materials were permitted. By arranging them to numbers, as it were, every piece of material had its place and its purpose. Restraint was shown to be both beautiful and desirable and asymmetry depended upon balance.

A traditional practice which appeals to me was that of first taking the materials in the hand and holding them as they would be displayed in the container. This preliminary step can save a great deal of time when arrangements of many kinds are being made. This practice can be taken further and one can completely arrange and then tie the flowers before inserting them into the container. This is an ideal way of using bottle-shaped containers and it can be applied to materials of many kinds from snowdrops to sticky buds.

Proportions and placement: Another golden rule was laid down by one Yurasaki, ‘Never decide on the flower vessel until you have seen the flowers.’ On the face of it this seems self-evident but there must be many of us who set out, say, to find berries and foliage to fill a certain favourite container. Japanese rules help the undecided and I think that some are worth observing in the beginning for many styles other than the Japanese. Later one can find one’s own way.

Take the rule relating to the stem proportions for tall vases. The ancient masters said that the tallest stem should be as long as the height of the vase plus its width at the widest part plus half this sum again. Classically it can be more than this, but it should never be less. A simpler working calculation would be to say that the tallest stem, measured upwards from rim level, should be roughly one and a half times the height of the container.

Not all arrangements lend themselves to the central stem rule. In this case we have to imagine a line which will take its place and become the centre of balance. This will give a guide to both proportions and placement of materials.

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