Ikebana asks you to observe and appreciate every stage and part of a plant, from unopened buds to twirly roots and dying leaves.Cynthia Fan
Interview with Cynthia Fan, Ohara ikebana student from Cape Town, living in Edinburgh, UK.
How were you introduced to ikebana?
I found myself being drawn to images online of floral arrangements that were very minimal and soon learnt that they were ikebana arrangements. So I emailed around and found the Ohara chapter in Cape Town and started attending classes.
Why do you love ikebana?
During my first ikebana lesson, I learnt that ikebana began with Buddhist monks collecting broken branches after a storm to arrange at the altar. The emphasis on individual branches and single stems resonates with me as it contrasts the western style flower arrangements that I had known which demanded drama through abundance. Ikebana asks you to observe and appreciate every stage and part of a plant, from unopened buds to twirly roots and dying leaves. I love this the most.
What’s the best advice you’ve received through your ikebana studies?
If you’re struggling with an arrangement and it doesn’t feel right, go back to how the plant grows and this should influence the lines in your arrangement.
Are there any artists who you look up to or inspire you most?
Kenta Saitou, Watarai Toru, Michitake Hirose are my favourite artists on instagram and then I would say Toshiro Kawase is definitely one of the most inspiring artists for me.
Where do you source your materials & containers?
I think the arrangements I like the most have always come from materials or containers that I’ve stumbled across by chance.
How would you describe your style of ikebana?
Sentimental? I like making arrangements that I can then describe something along the lines of, “this tea bowl is by my favourite South African potter, I picked this Japanese anemone from the side of the road and the stick is from my compost heap”.
Do you have a favourite material, or season?
Each season is exciting in its own way as it always brings unique elements that are inspiring just because they’ve appeared. Currently I’m really enjoying autumnal vegetable, nasturtiums and Japanese anemones.
What is the advice you would give to someone who is studying or teaching ikebana?
Learning about ikebana is a long term practice and not something that you gain a certificate from after a 6-week crash course.
Do you have any good ikebana secrets / tips to share?
Pay attention to how plants grow.
What is ahead in your ikebana future?
I’d previously attended 3 years of classes with the Ohara chapter in Cape Town and have found a Sogestu group in Edinburgh, where I am currently based. So I’d really love to attend more Sogestu classes once it is safe to do so.
Ikebana student, Ohara chapter, Cape Town