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Language: English / Japanese

Ikebana: Learning to Branch Out

Words by Riley Messina Photographs by Parker Fitzgerald

Florist Riley Messina demonstrates the quiet, minimal, spiritual process of Japanese flower arranging called ikebana.

In the tradition of ikebana, an artist combines three elements to represent heaven, Earth and man. The intention to bring forward a greater simplicity in design is first evident when gathering the few materials needed. Using a kenzan (pin frog) and a sharp pair of shears, carefully select branches and flowers—often just a few—and manipulate to form harmony in negative space. Essential to the process is a still and contemplative environment. Allow yourself the time to collect foliage, gathering even the bug-eaten blooms as nature intended, and settle into a quiet space to arrange.

1. Prepare your container and work area. Place your kenzan in a shallow bowl filled with water; any will do, but a pretty one is best. Clear a comfortable table space and lay out your tools and materials.

2. Gather the goods. Choose branches and flowers of different lengths and textures from your florist or cut a few favorites from the yard. When selecting, think about how the flowers will interact with one another as they are arranged.

3. Arrange. Before putting a stem in water be sure to cut it with a sharp knife at an angle, or use ikebana shears. Place flowers directly into the kenzan at varied angles; the pins will hold the stems in place. Remember to be intentional with each stroke. Simplicity is key.

Parker Fitzgerald shot this story using a Leica M3 and Kodak Professional Portra 160 Film.

Styling by Riley Messina. Photo assistant James Fitzgerald.

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