As Elaine Sigler’s husband recounts, she met the other love of her life in 2002 when she discovered Ikebana, the ancient Japanese art of flower arrangement, at an exhibition at the Japanese Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. .
Splitting time between Canada and the Sea Oaks in Vero Beach, Sigler has since passionately studied and worked at various levels of this 7th-century spiritual floral art, has its roots in Zen Buddhism and was originally practiced by samurai. Japanese warriors.
Ikebana is a philosophical and Zen way of arranging flowers, with the aim of making the flowers “live” with living, but not permanent, materials. When the flower opens, each stage shows a different beauty.
Of the more than 3,000 different Ikebana schools in the world (most in Japan), the two most popular in the West are the Ohara and Sōgetsu schools.
Sigler says it gravitated to Sōgetsu, the most modern of disciplines.
Explain that Ikebana’s basic design principles must be understood before a successful arrangement can be put together. While different schools have different ideas, there are some constant principles in all of them, the first being the principle of nature. The way the artist sees nature is the way the arrangement happens in reality.
After being overwhelmed by Ikebana’s beauty, Sigler found that this art form helped her relax after a busy day running her own company as a communications consultant, where she worked with nonprofit and government clients. Now retired, she continues to practice Ikebana for the joy and focus she offers.
“In the beginning I broke many branches,” admits Sigler. But over time, with patience and a better understanding of the materials, he says his stress would dissolve as he focused on the creation at hand.
The three main elements of Ikebana – lines, volume (used to add depth and weight to an arrangement) and focal point – are consistent across the various schools. In addition, Ikebana uses positive and negative space, the relationship between the physical elements of the arrangement and the empty space in the empty spaces of the physical elements.
For a beginner, it’s a bit like arranging flowers on steroids – not in the size of the arrangements, although they can be quite large when outdoors, but in the fabric of the art form, which weaves and weaves the curriculum and principles. numerous and rigorous, and brings a spiritual aspect to the craft.
In 1927, Sofu Teshigahara founded the Sōgetsu School, becoming its first lemoto. He felt that flowers become human in Ikebana, that the heart of a person who arranges in Ikebana is directly reflected in that work and Ikebana becomes that person. He also believed that from the moment you choose to express something with a flower in your hand, a world of your own creation begins.
Akane Teshigahara, the current and fourth lemoto (an often inherited title or designated role within the founder’s family), is the granddaughter of Sofu and the daughter of Sofu’s son Hiroshi, who was the third lemoto. The second lemoto was the daughter of Sofu.
Akane Teshigahara adds that the popularity of Sōgetsu Ikebana brings out the freedom of expression in each individual, always new, always beautiful and never limited by preconceptions.
After studying the specific levels of this art form, it took Sigler seven years to qualify as a teacher. With eight levels of teaching certification, she earned the 2nd Grade Jonin Sanyo Teacher Diploma and recently submitted her credentials for 1st Grade Somu.
The title of Sigler’s Sensi (teacher) and a Japanese name of Seiki have been awarded to her by the Sōgetsu School of Ikebana at their Foundation headquarters in Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, where basic skills are taught, celebrated and exhibit.
He says he’s constantly learning new techniques and experimenting with different materials, finding that Vero’s subtropical climate has introduced a wonderful new set of challenges.
His work has been exhibited at both the National Art Gallery and the Museum of Nature in the United States, the Embassy of Japan in Ottawa, Canada’s Museum of Nature and the National Gallery of Canada.
As a participant in the Art in Bloom exhibition at the Vero Beach Museum of Art since 2013, this year he won the Best Use of Texture for his interpretation of Charles Burchfield’s painting, the Best Use of Texture for his interpretation of a Judith bag Leiber in 2019 and the Curator’s Choice Award for an arrangement depicting a painting by John Marin in 2017.
“When you listen to a symphony orchestra, see a dance or a painting, they evoke an emotion,” says Sigler. Similarly, as in the interpretations of Art in Bloom, he says, “it makes you see beyond the painting”.
The actual materials used in an arrangement are generally only two or three plant varieties and can include live and dried plant material as well as non-traditional items such as ribbons, recycled water bottles, metal wires, cellophane, and even the odd hubcap.
The material of the branches, from holly to bamboo branches, often emphasizes the simplicity of the materials; the line of a branch, the color of a single flower, or a new bud, and its contrast with the container.
He adds that painting is occasionally used in an arrangement.
“A black vine can be striking, and a silver painted leaf can create a more elegant arrangement,” says Sigler, who will also incorporate interesting materials he finds, such as a kiwi vine, or a dry leaf from a deer fern or fern. a bird of paradise.
“It is really important to know where the arrangement will be placed and how it will fit into the surrounding environment.”
Sigler, who teaches classes in Vero Beach and Canada, continues to take classes herself to broaden her knowledge of this esoteric art form. She says there is a contingent of Ikebanists in Melbourne, where she continues her studies when she is in Florida.
Sigler’s dedication to Ikebana is most clearly appreciated when learning about the regimented course work and study required to move forward in this art form that takes years to develop, likening Ikebana to travel.
“When you start out you learn the basics, the layout and how to manipulate the materials. As you continue the process, you focus on line, color, mass and space, light and shadow, positive and negative space, as an integral part of an arrangement, “says Sigler.
“As you focus on the materials and their placement in the arrangement, everything else fades away.
People really enjoy it [Ikebana]; it is different from a western style flower arrangement. It’s a way of thinking, it’s a challenge to focus on creating an arrangement [using the raw materials at hand]. “
Sigler says he feels a sense of accomplishment when his classes whet people’s appetites to further explore the art form.
And when she visits a friend for dinner, the necessary bottle of wine or box of chocolates is usually left at home. Instead, she brings an arrangement of Ikebana.
“Bring beauty into your home,” says Sigler.
Photo by Kaila Jones