50 years of Ikebana

Photo courtesy of Joan Fairs

Photo courtesy of Joan Fairs

On May 23 at the Alan Emmott Centre in Burnaby, the Vancouver Ikebana Association (VIA) will kick off a celebration of its 50 years in existence with a one-day show by the Japanese Consulate General.

Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, is an art steeped in history in both Japan and Vancouver. According to Judie Glick, president of the VIA, the practice differs from western flower arranging by incorporating a more meditational approach.

“You’re doing more than just flower arranging, you’re looking at the material very selectively and you sort of wait for it to talk to you in some way. So mostly what it does is it opens our eyes to nature and makes you more aware of what’s around you,” says Glick.

Celebrating half a century

The VIA, founded in October 1965, was set up at a time when there was a lot of interest in Japanese culture.

“Every large city in the world has an Ikebana chapter and there’s usually a Japanese consulate in those parts of the world. So many of the original teachers [in Vancouver] were from Japan,” says Glick.

Many Japanese people in Vancouver in the 1960s were encouraged to start Ikebana associations but now there are five different schools that fall under the VIA.

‘Ikebana International,’ the umbrella group that the VIA falls under, has schools in many large cities and puts on large shows throughout the world.

“Because Vancouver has a small population and a small group of Ikebana people, we started our own association,” says Glick.

The group’s constitution – called “The Purpose” – is simple: to promote the awareness and appreciation of Ikebana in B.C. and to encourage its study in individual schools around Vancouver.

With some schools in Japan having operated for 500 years, this particular set of skills has been well established in Japan and is on its way here in Vancouver, with this month’s 50th year celebration of Ikebana.

“At 2 p.m. on the day, there will be a demonstration of what we’re doing to celebrate the unity of the organisation. There will be four teachers using the same materials and doing a demonstration for each school,” says Glick.

Finding the school for you

Flower arrangement at Sangetsu School of Ikebana. | Photo courtesy of Joan Fairs

Flower arrangement at Sangetsu School of Ikebana. | Photo courtesy of Joan Fairs

Glick also says that this shows how important it is to research which sensei you learn under.

“Each school has their own style of arrangement, and with five teachers in Vancouver it is very important to research well when choosing which school you’d like to join. Some work better for a different type of Ikebana, so you have to be careful and find what suits you,” she says.

Finding the materials to use for Ikebana can also be personal.

“You have to seek it out and I think that’s the most important thing that you learn; sometimes you have to go looking for what you want,” says Glick.

According to Glick, one of the main benefits of Ikebana is the awareness it builds of the surrounding environment and the changing of seasons.

“It’s very much related to the seasons and we like things in the spring and fall when they are sort of beginning and ending. It’s our favourite time to get materials. You fall in love with flowers and of course we all appreciate the flowers in Vancouver,” she explains.

But it’s not all about the flowers. The main element in Ikebana flower arranging is the branch material and their lines.

“[Ikebana flower arrangers] are always looking for branch material. They’re always looking and seeing what they can do with it,” Glick says.

Of the upcoming ‘Spring Show,’ Glick says:

“[It is] a celebration of what the Vancouver Ikebana Association has been and we’re looking forward to people’s continued interest in Ikebana.”

Visit www.vancouver-ikebana.ca for more information. A teacher’s directory is available at the show.