Ikebana is like meditation for me.Azzmin Frances
Interview with ikebana enthusiast Azzmin Frances, one half of Braer, in Byron Bay, Australia.
How were you introduced to ikebana?
I was introduced to Ikebana through books I have collected at op-shops over the years as well as gifts from friends. When I began learning about flowers I became even more curious about Ikebana and its history. I met Georgia and we started Braer together towards the end of 2015. Georgia had done a short course of Sogetsu studies in Brisbane and shared with me some of her experience which made me even more interested.
Why do you love ikebana?
Ikebana is like meditation for me. I am terrible at clearing my mind but creating art with paint or playing with flowers is the closest I can get to a quiet mind space. I love how subjective it is (Sogetsu Ikebana) and that it can be so kooky. I love that it’s not about making a floral arrangement simply beautiful but rather a successful Ikebana arrangement, in my eyes is one that creates a bit of movement or peacefulness or sometimes even discomfort. A really good arrangement makes you feel something. It’s always a challenge to create something that’s balanced or has that tension I’m looking for. I often don’t get there. It’s always on my mind to find textures and unusual ingredients for Ikebana. Georgia and I joke that we must be the worst drivers as we always have an eye out for roadside treasures!
What’s the best advice you’ve received through your ikebana studies?
I am mostly self taught but Georgia (the other half of Braer) and Luke from @relikdesigns gifted ourselves a week long intensive Ikebana lessons at the Sogetsu headquarters in Tokyo in 2019. We learned SO much during this time and the best piece of advice I took from our Sensei was to think about what you can ‘take away’ from the arrangement to create a more harmonious composition. It really works.
Are there any artists who you look up to or inspire you most?
Yes, there are many. In the flower world my most favorite florist is Emily Thompson who creates super inspiring arrangements and large scale installations. I am forever in awe of the technique and detail in her designs. They look like monsters.
I love researching architecture and my most recent obsession is the Japanese architects. Terunobu Fujimori’s amazing designs transcend time and what he created 40 years ago is still so inspiring and would look modern today. I love following along with Tomoaki Uno’s stories on instagram is so satisfying to watch his craftspeople building with wood and stone. The buildings he creates are so ethereal and materials are just so harmonious but bold..
I adore the work of fashion designer Molly Goddard and her fluffy tule dresses. The colours she chooses and the way she uses the fabric is inspiring and new.
Where do you source your materials & containers?
We work with a lot of talented Australian makers, locally Soft Edge has been a favourite. Also beautiful works by our friend Pan Pottery made from hand dug clay and using a wood fired kiln and thrown on a kick wheel. Completely no electricity in the process really makes the pieces extra special, made from magic.
Our best mate and fellow Ikebana lover Relik designs is a forever favourite too, he makes such creative and inspiring shapes out of concrete. He’s such a talent, I’m forever in awe of his work.
We get as many locally grown flowers as possible each week, from our friend Brianna at Jumping Red Ant as well as many different smaller growers for special seasonal crops throughout the year. We are getting a lot of beautiful dahlias at the moment and foraging palm inflorecence. Waterlilies are abundant and in season locally. Looking forward to the tuberose season next and picking up buckets full from Charlie.
How would you describe your style of ikebana?
Free and definitely not traditional. I would love to continue my studies and become more knowledgeable with traditional compositions.
Do you have a favourite material, or season?
Winter is my favourite season. The native flowers in Australia are abundantly in bloom and there is so much to forage in our area. I love Camellias and orchids but my favourite flowers are flannel flower and tree peony.
What is the advice you would give to someone who is studying or teaching ikebana?
Do your research, buy books and just get into it. A simple bowl, kenzan and hasami is all you need. Snip some flowers or foliage from your neighbourhood and get started. Practicing often and without pressure is the best for learning and not worrying too much about getting it wrong, just make something you enjoy.
What is ahead in your ikebana future?
I want to keep studying, spend some time learning in Japan one day and hopefully get my teachers certificate.
Co-founder of Braer
Byron Bay, Australia
If you’d like to be involved in an interview, or would like to share any ikebana news, please get in touch with Julia Rush, ikebana teacher in Tokyo and founder of this blog. Always happy to talk about Ikebana!