The process of carefully arranging flowers and branches into a beautiful work of art is called Ikebana. The practice started hundreds of years ago by monks who created the stunning arrangements for altar offerings. Over the years several different schools of ikebana developed and it became more common for the general public to make arrangements as well. More modernly, anyone can learn this ancient Japanese art form today at one of the many workshops held by Ikebana International.
"We call it a meditative art. You know, you kind of let the flowers speak to you," said Lauren Paul, one of the instructors at the Detroit Chapter of Ikebana International.
The Detroit chapter meets in Southfield at the Unitarian Universalist Church once a month. They hold workshops where you too can learn how to make these sculptural flower arrangements.
While it may seem intimidating at first, they walk you through the arrangement step by step. There are also some general principles that all the arrangements seem to follow. They focus on lines, the empty space, asymmetry, and balance. They will frequently use odd numbers of ingredients so the arrangements, by default, cannot be symmetrical.
"Everybody starts as a beginner," says Paul. "Pay attention to what others are doing."
"Jump in even if it looks like it might be intimidating because... you never stop learning," said relative newcomer to Ikebana, Debbie Lin.
You generally start off with a large shallow bowl, and something called a kenzan, which is a circular object with spike all over the top. You use the spikes to impale the flowers so they can stand up on end in any direction you want.
"Kenzan in Japaneese means sword mountain," explains Paul.
Luckily, if you get stuck along the way, there are plenty of people to help you out.
"Our motto is friends through flowers," says Leslie Rosinski, another instructor with Ikebana International. "Our group comes together and is like, 'Ooh, I found this in my garden,' and it's like 'oh, do you have some?' And they share it."
It is, however, up to and what you think looks good. By the end of the workshop, you will have a gorgeous, living piece of art.
Ikebana International has chapters in Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Lansing. The Detroit Chapter meets at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Workshops there cost $10 to participate. Their next workshop is on May 8th.
The Detroit Chapter is also hosting a special event on May 16th at 11:30 am at the Northwestern Unitarian Universalist Church in Southfield, Michigan. The special event will include ikebana and kimono dressing demonstrations as well as door prizes and light refreshments. Admission is $10. For more information search "Ikebana Detroit."