Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ichiyo: Ikebana's Contemporary Style

Yoshiko Nakamura.

The word Ikebana is derived from the Japanese word "ikeru" which means "to keep alive" and hana which means "flower". Thus Ikebana: Giving life to flowers. 

 Traditional Shouka.

The precise origin of Ikebana is unknown. The offering of flowers on the altar in honor of Buddha was part of worship, and Ikebana no doubt evolved from the practice of offering flowers to the spirits of the dead. 

The first classical styles of Ikebana started in the middle of the Muromachi period. Patterns and styles evolved and by the late 15th century, arrangements were common enough that they were appreciated by ordinary people, not just the imperial family and their retainers. 

  Elaine Jo, Ichiyo Ikebana of Atlanta

The first students and teachers of Ikebana were Buddhist priests and members. As time passed, other schools emerged, styles changed, and Ikebana became a custom throughout Japanese society and remains so to this day.

 Free style arrangement

Like all things artistic and creative, Ikebana has evolved. But the "7 Principles of Ikebana" remain constant. They are:

1. Silence
2. Minimalism
3. Shape and Line
4. Form
5. Humanity
6. Aesthetics
7. Structure

Elaine Jo, Ichiyo Ikebana of Atlanta

1. Silence - a time for contemplation; to quietly observe nature.
2. Minimalism - a Buddhist concept: Less is desirable.
3. Shape and Line - minimal and natural; lines are graceful.
4. Form - found rather than planned. You find what is already there in yourself and in nature.
5. Humanity -  a reflection of your feelings.
6. Aesthetics - subdued, austere beauty; refined style.
7. Structure - scalene triangle (three unequal sides) delineated by three main points. These are often formed with twigs. The three points of Ikebana represent heaven, earth and humanity.

 Arrangement by Elaine Jo, Ichiyo Ikebana of Atlanta.

"The goal of the ikebana artist is to communicate an idea, thought, or feeling through creative form.  This requires a complete understanding of the various characteristics of nature, a sense of imagination, and the technical knowledge to transform these features into artistic form with rhythm, balance and harmony.  The higher the level of artistic expression, the greater the encounter between nature, the flower arranger, and those who view the arrangement.  Thus, ikebana is an art of personal enrichment and an art to be shared and interpreted by others according to their own individual imagination and experience."  (Elaine Jo)

Arrangement by author

This arrangement was quickly put together with flowers and greenery I already had on hand. It's more an arrangement with a 'Zen' attitude rather than serious Ichiyo. But it illustrates what an amatuer can do with no formal training. I intend to continue working with flowers and other natural materials, concentrating on the 7 Principles of Ikebana. No doubt, the first rule...Silence....will prove the hardest!

For anyone in the Atlanta area who wishes to pursue this wonderful art form, here is some information about classes:

Ongoing Ichiyo Ikebana Classes:

Teacher: Elaine Jo, Executive Master
Monday mornings  from  9:30 - 12 Noon    Cost: $220 - 10 lessons .

Wednesday mornings from 9:45-10:00  - 12 Noon     Cost: $220 - 10 lessons .

      For registration/information please call Elaine Jo, 404-233-1846 or e-mail

Teacher: Donna Scott,  Master
Monday afternoons from 12:30    Cost: $220 - 10 lessons .

       For registration/information please call Donna Scott, 404-841-0582 or e-mail

Teacher: Neda Tasson

Thursday afternoons from 2:00   
   Place: Roswell

       For registration/information please contact at  e-mail


  1. The examples, including your own, are beautiful. I love the idea that any small container will work.I'm just not sure I can be restrained enough to achieve the classic results, but it will be fun trying.

  2. Y, I know what you mean. When looking over the wide selection of flowers available, it's hard not to want an armful!

    Ichiyo appeals to the minimalist within me. The desire to do more with less. Not for everyone certainly. As always, go with your instincts and discover your artist within.