An (Un)connected Weekend with Kado

Last weekend I chose to wake up at the same time I do during the week to take the F train to the Shambhala Buddhist Center to train with Marcia Shibato who is “is one of the strongest inspirations behind the resurging practice of Kado, the contemplative art of flowers and branches.” In fact, during the course of the weekend, “students learn to create flower arrangements, and experience Kado as a creative and meditative dance with nature, space, and perception. Like meditation, Kado teaches us to really look at what is before us.”

Somehow this is what did happened and, at the same time, what was would have been more likely to happen, if I already subscribed to Buddism, meditation and other specifically related spiritual practices. Which I don’t. That’s not to say I don’t respect Buddhism, and I do understand why, when learning the discipline of Kado, why each day began with 30 minutes of meditiation (like I say – It’s all relative), I just know that organized religion is not for me*.

Ok, just wanted to file a disclaimer of sorts. Shall we begin?

[First off, my teacher, Marcia Shibato, was wonderful. Very patient and totally not-caring that I was the only non-Buddhist there. She got a kick out of my western floral design training and said that’s how she was first trained also. She then told me that there are plenty of ways to incorporate my urge for “less is more” into western design: “Turn the flowers to the light” and “use the space as an object.” I feel validated!]

Kado (or, Ikebana) starts with very basic principles and techniques, and evolves from there. There are rules, and there are no rules. For example, in the Basic Upright arrangements (both Left and Right) that I learned, you start with the “heaven” branch (which is the length of the container you’re using plus half), the “earth” plant (half the length of heaven) and the “man” branch (2/3 – 3/4 the length of heaven) – or you can use your own judgement based on the materials you’re using, the container, the environment you’re working/showing in and make heaven as big/small as you want (with the others following suit).

Either way, each branch has a specific place, and angle in respect to the “sun line.” This is basically imagining that the sun is directly above the “viewing area” (see, Basic Upright has only one direction from which to view it, which, believe me, makes it easier), and that the major branches are responding to the light it gives.

In Kado, you welcome the space around the flowers, instead of filling it like in western design. Anyone who knows me and my graphic design style knows how much I love white space, so this was perfect! However, you do need to form connections between heaven, earth and man using “helper” materials, usually of the “soft” flower variety (as opposed to the “hard” wood material of heaven and man). This is where it gets tricky – you don’t want to make it heavy, but you do want to add weight.

The container I mentioned above is actually called a suiban, and is specifically for Kado. The shape I used both days was a basic rectangular shape (please, all the other details were confusing enough!), but I saw a variety of other more beautifully geometric shapes. The plants stand up the way you want, because you place a kenzan (common slang – pin frog) into the suiban to poke the stems into. While you’re working, there is just enough water in the suiban to cover half of the pins in the kenzan, but once you’re finished, you add a final amount of water based on what season it is (self-explanatory: also includes based on how hot/cold your apt is).

Now for some pics:

The first row are the left and right Basic Upright arrangements I did. The first photo is more to show my little work area (yes, we sat on cushions and used low tables) and the next two photos are shot from the correct viewing angle. [Sorry about the one photo looking like crap – for some reason I brought my old camera in that day and it is pretty much broken at this point.]

The next two rows are arrangemnts by others in the class, including the teachers. I won’t tell you which were hers, since the whole refreshing point of Kado (when compared with western style) is that while you may be using the same materials, the end result is not supposed to look exactly the same.

At the start of the last two rows is an “abstract” arrangement I did the second day. We were told to pick an emotion and, forgetting all principles we had learned so far, creat an arrangement in any way we wanted. The emotion I chose at first was “hesitation” but during the 45 minutes we worked, it changed into “vulnerability.” A very interesting excercise – One doesn’t usually think “free form” when it comes to floral design. Reminds me of a certain elusive flower artist…

The rest of the photos show some at-home arrangements I did with the leftover flowers from class. Since Advanced Floral Design also ended (that post coming soon!), I’ll have to wait until Dumbo gentrifies some more before I can buy some quality flowers in my neighborhood.

Phew! Ok, my computer is only adding to the disgusting heat in my apt, so until next time…

*For those who are wondering if I’m an atheist – no. I was raised lazy-Jewish and with a deep respect for Nature. Last year I discovered The Path of the Feather and haven’t looked back since.


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