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Sunday, June 29, 2008
Learning the sublime ikebana lessons of nature
By ERIKO ARITA
Nature and humanity are brought together in ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging cut flowers.
Odile Lundy, a French ikebana master, expresses herself by getting her artistic inspiration from flowers, branches and containers.
The harmonious composition of a pink orchid and palm leaves in water, which she made at her home in Tokyo's Shibuya district, exuded the atmosphere of a beautiful waterside.
"The leaf gave me the idea of a fan," Lundy said, adding she wanted to make something summery. "It's nice to create space to appreciate the water."
The container was ceramic with a rough texture and natural color.
"The color of the container goes from green to gray and white. When you look at the clear water of a river, you see stones in the bottom. You have the same feeling when you look at the container," the 46-year-old artist said.
The vase's color, texture and shape should harmonize with the flower arrangement, said Lundy, who has been teaching ikebana in English at her home since 2001 to students of various nationalities.
The ikebana creation we were beholding was in a style called moribana, (meaning "heaping up flowers"). In that style, flowers and branches are positioned by spiking them on a kenzan needle-point base in a shallow container.
In learning various styles and techniques of ikebana, Lundy has never encountered undue difficulty, she said, since she began to study the art in 1993 at the Sogetsu School, one of the major schools of ikebana, which offers lessons in English.
At that time she was working as a French teacher in a Tokyo language school. One of her colleagues there was interested in ikebana and suggested to Lundy that they should start learning it together.
"I discovered it fitted me very well. I really love it and it's part of my life. When I see materials, I don't have to think for long, and I am pretty quick at making the arrangement. My creativity goes into the work," Lundy said.
"(When you are doing ikebana), you relax and concentrate on what you are doing, and it is very pleasant to do that. You also learn space, color, shape and texture. After that, you can see nature in a different way," she said.
While there are rules in ikebana, such as angles of placing flowers in the container, the arrangement expresses the artist's creativity and personality, she said.
Lundy finds it delightful that her friends and family — including her American husband and two sons — also enjoy her floral creations.
"People come and see the flowers," Lundy said. "You please people around you by sharing ikebana."
When Lundy entered her work of cherry trees and a tulip to the 1998 exhibition of Ikebana International, an organization that promotes international exchange through ikebana, she met an old Japanese ikebana teacher at the exhibition.
"She came to me and said, 'You made very good work," Lundy said. "She wanted to see me in person and it was the best compliment. People appreciate your ikebana whether you are from this country or not."