Ikebana—the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging—is the newest craze spreading across L.A. and heading east. The name comes from the Japanese “ike,” which means “arrange” and “bana,” which means “flower.” So, it’s a very literal translation of the exact practice. Ikebana started as a form of offering in Buddhism, but today, the trend is appreciated in secular works and revered by floral lovers of all types.
What is Ikebana?
Ikebana isn’t just a fun hobby or a trendy style of flower arranging—it’s an art form all its own and many even liken it to meditation. Designers are supposed to create their arrangements in total silence, which gives them a chance to connect with nature and achieve a state of inner calm and peace.
The result is something of delicate simplicity. Ikebana relies on principles of minimalism, shape and line, form, humanity, aesthetics, and balance.
Ikebana aims to retain and enhance the natural beauty of flowers as they grow in the wild, using nature as a jumping-off point to create something even more beautiful.
“That’s one of the philosophies of Ikebana—to shape nature in a more perfect way, but at the same time to make it look natural,” Karin Higato told the Los Angeles Times. The curator behind the Living Flowers: Ikebana and Contemporary Art exhibit showcased Ikebana at the Japanese American National Museum in 2008.
Ikebana made its way to the west coast of America years ago and has been rising steadily in popularity since the 1950s, when traditional Japanese Ikebana schools started offering classes in California. The artistic style of flower arranging is especially popular in areas with prominent Japanese-American communities, like Torrance.
In recent years, however, Ikebana’s popularity has grown more and more mainstream. The artistic arrangements are a staple at many L.A.-based florists and are popular among professional decorators and hobbyists alike.
The beauty of Ikebana is working its way into weddings, from subtle center pieces to full-on Ikebana-inspired décor.
In Southern California, in particular, the artistic floral décor is becoming a staple on the wedding scene. Local florists, like Angeluck Custom Design in Torrance, have earned rave reviews for their ability to integrate the traditional beauty and elegance of Ikebana into modern wedding décor.
In Los Angeles proper, Haru Florist in Boyle Heights ranks a favorite among shoppers seeking Ikebana arrangements, with customers praising their designs for everything from personal use to studio productions.
Practitioners find joy in the challenge of expressing emotion in an inherently minimalist art form. Sophia Moreno-Bunge, who worked with famed New York City florist Emily Thompson for several years before returning to Los Angeles (her hometown) in 2015 to start her Santa Monica-based studio, Isa Isa, spoke with The New York Times about the craft in 2017.
“I think it’s challenging to see what you can evoke with a small amount of materials,” she said.
Learning the craft
The Ikenobo Ikebana Society of Los Angeles is one of the organization’s largest chapters outside of Japan with more than 300 members.
The chapter says its purpose is “to foster appreciation of Ikenobo Ikebana.” It boasts more than 20 active teachers in the Los Angeles area, who teach classes, give demonstrations, and hold exhibitions in Ikebana throughout the year. With events typically scheduled at least once a month, the Ikenobo Ikebana Society of Los Angeles makes it easy for anyone who loves the aesthetic and meditative quality of Ikebana to learn it themselves.
Ikebana is a perfect hobby for anyone looking to express their creativity in a beautiful way. The act of arranging Ikebana creations is so peaceful it’s almost meditative, making it a perfect outlet for the kind of zenned out people Los Angeles already attracts.