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Hiding the Kenzan

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few.

-- Shunryu Suzuki

I was a little awestruck when I began practicing the art of ikebana. Even the simplest tip seemed a revelation. Today, after more than10 years of study, some seem so elemental, I'm almost embarrassed to share them here.

Then, I'm reminded of beginner’s mind -- Shoshin, as it's called in Zen Buddhism -- that state of openness and wonder we experience when embarking on a new endeavor or adventure. There's a lack a preconceptions. Everything is novel and exciting.

Simple does not mean simple-minded!

That became my motivation when I considered hiding the kenzan as the subject for this post. Camouflaging your kenzan is a must. It’s not as easy as it might seem since, from every viewpoint and at every angle, the viewer must see the arrangement as arising out of the water as if alive.

Japanese ikebana with Alstroemeria and  Western Ash.
Water and space...

But first, a little kenzan story.... A student came to me looking for particular style of vase with an affixed kenzan. You've seen them, attractive vessels of ceramic or wood with a small hole on top into which a kenzan has been permanently fitted. I responded that, as a matter of principle and as an ikebana instructor, I don't carry vases at IkebanaDreaming that have a static kenzan. Where would be the fun in that?

Japanese Ikebana with Alstroemeria and Western Ash.
Center of attention...

What's intrinsically satisfying about a kenzan is that is can be moved. Imagine making an arrangement. Now, consider sliding the kenzan holding that arrangement around in the vase, from side to side, from front to back, perhaps parked

directly at center.

Japanese Ikebana with Alstroemeria and Western Ash.

This allows for endless different perspectives, moods and amusement. It also invites water and space to play a role in your arrangement. Nature is ever changing and so is ikebana!

Why confine yourself needlessly?

Now for a couple of tips:

1) Don’t think of the jushi (supplemental material) as simply a snug, form-fitting comforter. Almost without exception, beginners will cut stems too short, resulting in leaves that drag in the water and a low, flat profile. I blame this on photography. We all love to look at pictures of ikebana, but arrangements are notoriously difficult to accurately convey. Flowers and greenery will almost always appear shorter than they are.

Instead, choose a few longer stems, allowing them to extend beyond the lip of the vase, or across the water, emphasizing expanse. This will do a far better job of eliminating the kenzan from view.

2) Paint the kenzan to match your vase. (Disclaimer: Not universally sensei-approved in every school of ikebana.) Talk about simplicity! What could be easier or more effective? Keep several kenzan of various shapes and sizes in your tool box for different vases. Please inquire at IkebanaDreaming if you need a specific size or shape.

Sometimes, the simplest information can change your world. If you're a beginner, enjoy the wonder. If you're an expert, discover it again!

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albert t.
albert t.
Aug 21, 2020

excellent information, better insight

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