Week One: Valuable Lessons

The first week of ikebana lessons started well; however, the challenge has been huge. By Thursday of the first week I was punch-exhausted from all that jetlag, settling into my apartment and resuming classes entailed.

Image credit to Sogetsu Ikebana website http://www.sogetsu.or.jp/e/

To complicate matters, the steel grass I’d chosen for the design I’d imagined was predisposed to  bend into sharp angles where I wished to create curves. The flax leaves split, were hard to fix and gave me a considerable amount of grief.

As I worked I felt as if I were floundering around in a creative dead zone. Unable to trust that my instincts were anywhere near the mark, I simply kept going until I got to a point where I figured I was done. Stepping back to assess it I liked it, but that counts for nothing in ikebana.

Because of all that studying in Tokyo rather than in Canada entails, I put significant pressure on myself.  Though I’d given it the best I had in me during the allotted hour, the week’s cumulative fatigue had impaired my judgement. I had little confidence in the job done. Was my best enough? Was it even close?

Of course, in that state of mind I was surprised by sensei’s tremendously encouraging evaluation. First, she called the arrangement “unusual” which in Japan isn’t always a welcome thing. Wondering whether I’d broken another unwritten rule and the nail was about to be hammered down, I cringed a little.

3.16 Intertwining Leaves

However, sensei pointed out the wonderful spaces created by the curved lines which harmonized well with the container. The colours of the leaves and the container were a good contrast as well. In addition, the fact that the challenging materials I’d used were well fixed indicated to her that I had worked very hard.

For the second theme of the day, I curved leaves into the same shape as the container and threaded similarly curved flax leaves between them. I didn’t think it particularly successful or attractive. Frankly, I didn’t like the arrangement all that much.

Repeating Forms 3.17

To my surprise sensei called it a light, lively, fresh, rhythmical and very natural arrangement. In addition, she said that she understood the expression that I was aiming for.

Good. That makes one of us.

At the end of class she came over with the interpreter a second time to ask how long I was staying and to encourage me in my studies. Afterwards I went out into the balmy Tokyo evening to begin the National Sports Day long weekend quite chuffed. I hadn’t expected this delightful high note after the challenges of the first week. To gain confidence in my own artistic instincts I need that sort of feedback.

In addition to knowing where they have gone wrong, all students need to understand what they are doing right in order to do more of the same. It was lovely to get that feedback so early into the lessons. Of course, the next class could be a total bust—or not. There’s no point getting cocky. I know exactly what I don’t know—everything.

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