Updated: Mar 25
The first flowers are starting to show themselves in the yard. The daffodils are ushering at the beginning of spring as we have just turned the clocks forward and celebrated the vernal equinox. I have always loved filling our house with fresh flowers grown in our garden. From the first daffodil in March to the last zinnia still electric with color in the early fall. Flowers are a regular addition to our lives and our home decor. One thing that I love about the variety of flowers that we grow is exploring new and artful ways to arrange them. There is playful creativity involved in flower arranging that mimics the art-making process. I can experiment with form and balance to arrive at a composition. I explore color pairing and texture. Arranging flowers is a perfect way to express yourself and learn more about who you are. Through this exploration into floral design, I discovered Ikebana art. Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. The arrangements are a beautiful and fascinating art form that has inspired me to make clumsy versions of my own at home. Since I live in the northeastern US, my garden does not produce all year. I began linoleum printing ikebana-inspired art prints in our studio to enjoy the beautiful colors and balance of the arrangements even through the winter. Ikebana and flower arranging gave me so many terrific block printing ideas!
What is Ikebana And Where Did It Originate?
Ikebana means “living flowers” in Japanese. The Japanese art of flower arrangement is on the same level as painting or sculpture. The origins of ikebana can be traced back to the 7th century. That is when Buddhism was first introduced to Japan from China. It is customary for Buddhists to place flowers before statues or images of Buddha. Over time the arrangements became more and more elaborate and eventually became ikebana art. I must say that I am very much a beginner and do not even officially study ikebana principles in a school. There are, however, many schools or styles of the art form. Ikenobo is thought to be the first school, founded in 1462. Ichiyo and Ohara schools came later. The Sogetsu School is a newer one and particularly interests me.
Founded in 1927 by Sofu Teshigahara, the Sogetsu School of ikebana is the youngest and most accessible of the many varieties. Sofu recognized ikebana more as a creative art and less a set of rules and forms to be followed. The Sogetsu School allows anyone to enjoy and create ikebana art anywhere, anytime, and with any materials. The main principle in Sogetsu School Ikebana is that “ikebana reflects the person who arranged it”. A wide range of materials is encouraged. The arrangement should be visually appealing and balanced. Stems, blooms, branches, and mosses can all be incorporated. If you are interested in learning more about the Sogetsu School of ikebana you can find online courses and information here. As I mentioned earlier, ikebana arrangements have been a big influence on me and my work. This influence has affected my glass art and my printmaking. I will write about our newest glass objects in a later article. Today I would like to give you a glimpse into the process of how I use linoleum block printmaking to create pieces that are directly inspired by ikebana floral arrangements.
My First Attempt At Sogetsu Ikebana Arrangments
Pictured here is a white cast glass box vase that I created in my studio. The box vases are custom objects that are made to order. If you are interested in purchasing one, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The photo above is from our second bedroom and features the first daffodils from this spring. My intention when creating this arrangement was to keep it simple and accentuate the beauty of the flowers themselves. I intentionally placed the arrangement on light-colored wooden shelves to allow the white glass vase to be a blank canvas for the bright green and yellow of the daffodils. The stems provide a sense of movement that peaks at the blooms and balances the composition. Overall I am pleased with this attempt at ikebana art. The only thing is that when I made this flower arrangement I thought how great it would be if the daffodils did not wither. Daffodils are a symbol of life. I know that life fading is a part of nature, but they always bring me so much joy each spring when they bloom in our yard.
A Daffodil As A Symbol Of Rebirth And Renewal
Daffodils are a symbol of renewal and rebirth and tend to foster feelings of optimism. I have recently written an article about how to use spring symbols in your interior design based on rituals and ceremonies. Flowers were often laid on altars in rituals to the Spring goddess Eostre to celebrate the end of winter. The yellow color of the petals of a daffodil is also a mood booster. It is such a shame that they do not stay bright and colorful for long. I thought about pressing the flowers, but eventually, their color would still fade. After some thought, the solution occurred to me. I could make a lino print of the arrangements!
The Process Of Making a Flower Block Print
When I was in college studying printmaking, I was drawn most to traditional Japanese woodblock prints. Japanese master printmakers such as Tōshi Yoshida, Hokusai, Hiroshige, and Goyō changed my life. I loved the entire linoleum block printmaking process. I begin by considering the relationship between positive and negative space. The next step is the delicate carving away of material with chisels to create an image. The carved block is then carefully inked using a brayer. Finally, the block is handprinted on rice paper using a barren or a spoon. The linoleum printing process has always been meditative for me. The same is in regards to flower arranging. So it only makes sense that I would combine both endeavors in some manner.
The pairing between our minimalist style of linoleum printing and the bright colors of flowers and ikebana arrangements seemed a match made in heaven. I have written an article about our printmaking process before in our blog. Our Sfären series of prints focus on balance and the Swedish concept of lagom, meaning "just right". Today I will give a deeper look into the linoleum printing process using my ikebana-inspired prints as an example.
It is still relatively early in our flower growing season this year. Daffodils, grape hyacinth, and forsythia have been all we have seen in person. As the spring and summer progress, so will our variety. We already have 20 types of flowers started from seed and waiting to be planted later in the spring. Until then many of the prints I have made have been hand-drawn from photographs or my imagination. The images are then transferred onto a linoleum block and carved using chisels.
Carving a linoleum block is one of the most enjoyable activities in my studio. Using different sized chisels to make a variety of marks, which eventually lead to color value and depth, etc. is of endless fascination for me. Every time I start working on a new lino print I think about the previous one and react to it. For example, the vase in this daisy print has a greater degree of value than the vase in our June roses print which came later. Each piece needs to have its unique personality while staying true to the overall body of work. This leads to the next part of the process and arguably the most exciting. Inking the carved block to see the printed image for the first time.
I love how the image springs to life during the process of the ink covering the marks I have made on the block. Mark making, much like drawing, can create activity in the image. Making marks can also be used subtly to focus more on balance in composition, as in our June roses print I mentioned earlier. The use of long bare branches stretching from a black vase paired with a grouping of pink roses allows the minimalist composition to fill the paper and have its own life. The video below shows the printing process revealed for our June roses print. After the image is printed, the piece is allowed to dry overnight, before the flowers are hand-painted using watercolors to get a rich pop of color.
See all of our ikebana and flower-inspired lino prints by visiting our website. I'm excited to see what blooms next in the yard and would love to hear what your favorite flowers are to grow and why. We are always interested in adding to the garden. Also, I hope you enjoyed this look behind the scenes into the making process of these block prints. If you did, let us know so we can do more. You can use the comments section below or email any thoughts or questions you may have to email@example.com. If you enjoyed this article please sign up for our newsletter or subscribe to our site. You can also connect with us on Instagram and Pinterest or Twitter or Linkedin. It would be great to meet you!
Thanks for reading,
Alyssa and Drew