Ikebana as Performing Art

When I demonstrated Ikebana arrangements in front the audience at Seattle Art Museum last year, I compared Ikebana to jazz music.

When I had an opportunity to be a part of demonstrators under Ms. Koka Fukushima, the Sogetsu master from Tokyo, at Ikebana International Seattle Chapter’s 60th celebration, my experience has expanded further: A live performance, it was.

The production process was like this.

In March I met with Ms. Fukushima in Tokyo.  We Ikebana Inernational (I.I.) Seattle Chapter created a photo list of candidate containers, 34 of them all together, for her to review.  Ms. Fukushima selected about a dozen from the list prior to her arrival, so that we could bring them on the prep site.

On Wednesday, branches and containers were brought in at the prep site (many thanks to Mercer Island United Methodist Church for letting us use their space).  We lined up all the containers on the table, then Ms. Fukushima started to match the branches with each container. She then constructed rough shapes using the branches on each container.  All the branches needed to be carefully treated so that they would last until Saturday.  Not only water, other substances were used: alcohol, alum, etc. Ms. Fukushima sketched each piece, and listed up what kind of flowers were to be added.

Early Thursday morning, Ms. Fukushima went to the local wholesale flower shops. Some I.I. members brought flowers freshly cut from their back yard. While Ms. Fukushima chose flowers and roughly constructed each piece, I.I. members were busy prepping and treating the flowers.  There would be 13 arrangements all together, including the welcome flower.  Once each piece was roughly arranged, Ms. Fukushima laid out the order.  A large piece right after a small one.  A metal container after the ceramic one… The way she determined the order was like choreographing a dance sequence.

Then we dismantled them all, put the materials back to the buckets, and numbered them and the container accordingly.

On Friday morning, we moved all the containers and materials to Embassy Suite, where the demonstration was to be held. On the back stage we placed the containers and the buckets of materials in order.  And for each piece we numbered which flowers to be brought onto the stage.

Then the Saturday came.  Well, some flowers didn’t last.  We had to change them in the last minutes. And some branches were not cooperative as they were the day before.  Well, we need to improvise…

You can imagine how relieved Ms. Fukushima and us 8 assistants were when it was all over.  But can you imagine how much fun we all had?

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