Japanese flower arrangement/Chapter 4

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FIRST select your flowers or branches. In time one learns to choose flowers which lend themselves to the three principles of Heaven, Man, and Earth so nearly to begin with that very little bending or pruning is necessary.

When you can yourself choose your own material to work with half the battle is over; but if obliged to use branches or flowers chosen by the uninitiated the task is made difficult.

Select your flowers or branches with as long stems as possible.

Every arrangement must have the three principal parts known as Heaven, Man, and Earth. Any additional branches or sprays are merely supports to these main principles.

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Principal Lines used in Flower Arrangement

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Principal Lines used in Flower Arrangement

The lines of these three principles are described by the Japanese in this way:

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For convenience we will always call these three parts Heaven, Man, and Earth. Every school applies different names to these principles, but to vary them here would only cause confusion, and whatever each school may call them, they all place them in the same position in grouping and give them the same relative heights.

Before commencing the arrangement bear in mind these important rules:

First. The idea that your arrangement is to represent a living plant, not cut flowers.

Second. By form of arrangement to suggest the season of the year.

Third. Suggest the nature of the growth of the plant you are arranging by the proper use of buds, open flowers, and withered leaves.

Fourth. Be sure to keep all the branches or stems together at the base for at least four inches above the surface of the water, to form the parent stalk. This is most important. Branches separated at the base are very badly arranged. The surface of the water in which the flowers are placed represents the surface of the soil from which the group springs; so that here you want to convey the impression of strength and a vigorous origin. For four or five inches the stems or branches must follow the same line. This need not always be a strictly vertical one, but if curved, the curves must be strong and avoid all weak bends and angles. This is a most important rule, for without strength and unity at the base the group loses the effect of a living plant; it loses also strength, character, and style. An arrangement spreading and separating at the base is not Japanese.

Fifth. Branches or leaves must never cross each other in an arrangement.

Sixth. Consider the blossom as a detail of the composition, of little artistic value if disassociated from the parent stalk and from those lines of growth which impart to it its character.

Seventh. Never use even numbers of branches or flowers, always uneven.

Balance and beauty of line without repetition must be the distinguishing feature in these arrangements.

In making your first arrangement of three flowers in an upright vase, select flowers the stems of which are simple and straight without many branching leaves or flowers. The best material for a beginner is pussywillow, for its stems are pliable and of uncomplicated lines. To work with these first for practise will give more satisfactory results than if fuller sprays are attempted.

Work slowly to begin with; but in the end you will find that flowers take no longer to arrange in Japanese style than in any less satisfactory way.

When arranging white and colored flowers together, put white or lightest shade at the top, unless the dark flowers are the longest; then you are obliged to use them as Heaven. But the best form is to have white or delicate shades at the top.

First pick out your Heaven which must always be the longest one and take the central position in the group. Its length should be one and a half times the height of the vase. Man comes second, next in length. It should be half the length of Heaven.

Earth is third and shortest. It should be half the length of Man.

The lengths should be determined before the sprays are bent.

Before these branches can be placed in the receptacle they must all be bent into their proper shapes. The bending is done according to the rules for bending given later.

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Now take the longest branch, from which Heaven is to be made. It must then be bent carefully into this shape, (see cut) or a line as nearly as possible like it. There can be but one Heaven branch. It can never be multiplied.

Hold the branch up before you and look at it carefully to determine which side will serve better for the front. This should be the side the leaves and flowers naturally turn to. After you have bent it to your satisfaction, place it in water, but not in the receptacle the arrangement is to be made in.

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Next take up Man, which should be the first placed in the vase. It will be shorter than Heaven, but follows its lines like this. (See cut.) Hold this branch in your hand together with Heaven, having it directly in front of Heaven and making its lines correspond with those of Heaven for four inches at the base. Above the four inches it can show more independence and branch off farther from Heaven, but must still hold the same lines, only at a distance from it.

Last of all you bend the Earth branch, which like Man takes the lines of Heaven at the base for four inches. Hold Earth in your hand with the other two branches in order to get the base lines exactly right. The Japanese always first compose an arrangement in their hands before placing it in the vase.

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Earth, after following at the base the exact lines of the other two, takes an independent line like this (see cut)—a decidedly lateral tendency that none of the other branches have. It is necessary that this branch should appear very far back of the others. Now you have your flowers ready to put in place. The beginner must follow closely all these rules to be sure of being right before he commences to put the flowers in an upright position in the vase. If you understand well the theory of arranging these three you can arrange any number of flowers in the same way.

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Your kubari having been firmly fixed in the vase as described, the vase is filled about three-quarters full of water. If filled to the brim you spill the water in placing the flowers, so wait until the arrangement is completed, then fill. With the open end of the kubari away from you as in the cut, take Heaven in your hand, place Man in front of it, and into the hollow formed by Heaven place Earth back of Heaven.

While you hold the branches in your hand, take the knife and cut off on a slant all the branches; thus:

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For if your stems are left blunt and round at the ends the kubari will be split apart; or if you slant off each one separately as you finish bending it, you are apt to cut it wrong; for if the branches are not all slanted off on exactly the same side they will fall apart at the base, where they must be joined as one. No amount of twisting and turning will bring them into proper place if they have been cut on opposite sides.

Next put Man in the kubari and pull as far forward into the fork of the kubari as possible. When it stands firmly erect by itself follow it with Heaven, pulling that close to Man, and then Earth goes in last at the back and is pulled close to the other two. The kubari should have been cut just large enough to have these three fill the opening, Man pressing firmly to the end of the forked opening in the kubari and Earth pressed against the back of the vase. Should they not fill the opening, use sticks cut from the ends of the flowers you are using to fill up with. Cut these wedge sticks all about four inches long, slanting each one off at the bottom, and pass them through the kubari into the space back of the flowers until all the opening there is filled up and the flowers are firmly wedged in place.

When you have finished placing the flowers in the vase, sit at a distance and carefully look your arrangement over. First observe the balance of the lines. The top of Heaven must be directly over its base and Earth must balance Man, though not on the same level. If you find Heaven, or the central branch, seems a little out of position after you have placed it in the vase and appears as follows:

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turn the kubari in the vase a little to the right or left as the case may require.

Then see that the stems are all together at the base for about four inches. This is absolutely necessary in order to make the few cut flowers seem one whole and growing plant. The stems, in keeping close together and appearing as one, form the parent stalk and give strength to the whole arrangement. This also is its most Japanese characteristic, the feature wherein the Japanese arrangements
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Three Sprays of Magnolia

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Three Sprays of Camelia with only One Blossom

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Three Chrysanthemums

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Any Three Sprays of Flowers growing in Clusters
may be arranged as these

most differ from those of all other countries. The rest of us only show the tops of plants or just the flower itself in arranging flowers, while the Japanese show the whole growth from where the plant leaves the ground up to its tip.
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To determine the proper distance for which the branches should be kept together to form the parent stalk, until the eye has become trained in recognizing it, hold your hand about the stems as shown in the cut. Then take the line from above the forefinger to the surface of the water.

No two branches must be exactly the same height or point in the same direction. They should all turn upward at their tips to give a sense of aspiration, of the stretching heavenward of the plant's growth.

Next cut off all ill-placed or superfluous twigs, leaves, or flowers. By this is meant where one leaf hides another (cut 1) or where one twig crosses another, as in cut 2. You must have every flower, leaf, and twig so arranged that it shows plainly its

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No. 2

No. 1

own lines, but in no way hides the flowers, foliage, or line of any other part. You must not recklessly at first, cut off foliage or flowers which seem out of place but wait until your flowers are all put in the vase. Then take time in deciding which flower or leaf must be sacrificed. The beauty of the result depends entirely upon the manner in which this cutting is done. When rightly done each flower, twig, and leaf stands out in clear-cut outlines and the arrangement appears full; but if heedlessly done and the wrong parts are sacrificed, it appears poor and scant, although there may be no confusion of line or actual faults. This is a very important part of flower arrangement and only great care and practise will bring about the proper result. It is not so difficult as it at first appears, however.

Every arrangement of flowers should have some buds, some half-open flowers, and some fully open ones. Use the half-opened for Heaven, the full-blown for Man, and the bud for Earth. If you have two full-blown flowers, use one high and the other low and arrange a leaf just above the one in the lower position, half covering it. This is because flowers blooming under leaves are considered In or feminine, and take the lower places.

Do not forget that while it is allowable for branches to bend down toward the earth, at their ends they must be bent up toward Heaven. Tips which cannot be made to bend up must be cut off.

A flower must always have a leaf near it. This is not only to enhance the beauty of the flower, but the leaf acts as a watersucker. Without the aid of a leaf a flower is incapable of getting enough water for its needs and soon withers. This applies where flower and leaf grow on the same stem.

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