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The Sogetsu School of Ikebana

From the Archives: This post was originally featured in the May 2014 edition of The Garden Path magazine.

The Sogetsu School of Ikebana: By Don Davidson, Director of Sogetsu Portland
If there are hundreds of schools of ikebana, then how is the Sogetsu School Different? (And how will the exhibition at the Garden be different this year?)

The Sogetsu School of Ikebana is one of the newest and one of the largest schools of ikebana in the world. The founder, Sofu Teshigahara, started it in 1927 to embrace contemporary design. A sculptor as well as an ikebana artist, he saw no line between ikebana and sculpture. He viewed them as the same–that their only difference was in the materials.

Display of Sogetsu Ikebana / Photo by Jonathan Ley

I try my best as Director to instill in our members that we are first and foremost fine artists. We are Sogetsu Ikebana fine artists. My background is in design and art so I distinguish that classes are for studying design. Our classes should train the eye to be sensitive to lines, form, color–no different than first and second semester in any fine arts school. And I try to impress on our students that by acquiring sensitivity to these design principles that they will find their way to their own ikebana. Being a fine artist is something you can do for your entire life. It is a creative, joyous experience.

View the Exhibition

From October 28-29, view an exhibition of elaborate and colorful flower arrangements presented by the Sogetsu School of Ikebana.

I always remind our members that an exhibition at the Japanese Garden has to have “show value.” I strive to make it as exciting as possible, to give people something of value and make them want to come back because they know they will see something different the next year. Last year we were very reserved because we were following the look and feel of the Noguchi exhibition and did not want to distract from it. The theme of the 2014 Sogestsu Rose Festival Show (a Rose Festival sanctioned event) is going to be “Color!” so this year visitors can expect something lively and exciting.

Visitors often ask members of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana what their arrangements mean. The answer may be that the artist was “creating space here” or in other cases, creating “a line that extends from here to eternity.” Students typically create something in their mind first and present their design to the teacher. Three main elements are: line, mass, and color. Maybe baby’s breath will accomplish what they had in mind for mass. If they wanted to create a certain line, maybe they used a horsetail fern. But it could be that the plant or the container was the inspiration. “Even though there are various forms and you can get very philosophical, if it talks to your heart, then I think our exhibit does its job,” says Nana Bellerud, Deputy Director of Sogetsu Portland.