The Fifty Principles of Sogetsu
by Sofu Teshigahara
The Fifty Principles of Sogetsu is a list of fifty most essential and fundamental points in learning Sogetsu Ikebana. You do not have to learn all of them by heart, but refer to them now and again.
- Beautiful flowers do not always make beautiful ikebana.
- True ikebana is not isolated from the times or our lives.
- The Spirit of ikebana applies to all periods while the style of works may change over time.
- Emphasize one flower, one branch. Create the arrangement as an essence of Nature.
Spirit of Practice
- Communicate with the flowers as you work with them.
- Do not be over-concerned about the result at the beginning of your studies.
- Be genuine, serene, and attentive at the practice.
- Kakei styles are a collection of useful experiences.
- Variation styles are based on the basic styles.
- Free creation is born out of practice of basic and variation styles.
- The Shushi (main stems) constitute the structure, while the Jushi (subordindate stems) flesh out the structure.
- Order of practice; from Moribana to Nageire. Use branch materials for the Shin and Soe and stemmed flowers for the Hikae.
- The basic upright and slanting styles are the basis for all the Kakei styles.
- Variation No. 1 ikebana extends from front to back.
- The main branches switch positions in Variation No. 2.
- Variation No. 3 is to be viewed from three sides.
- Variation No. 4 is a style without the Soe.
- In Variation No. 5, the main stems are divided into two units.
- Variation No. 6 is to be viewed from all angles.
- Variation No. 7 floats on water, spreads, or is placed on a tabletop.
- Variation No. 8 is the combination of all Kakei styles.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Practice
- The most attentive and talented people take elaborate trouble with the preparation and the after-care.
- Use flowers sparingly but generously when necessary.
- Learn to fix all the branches in place, being mindful of both sides of the leaves, and create some tension at the base of the arrangement.
- In class, the Hikae is more often corrected than the Shin or Soe.
- When arranging, take a view of the work from a couple of paces away.
- Whether the number of branches is odd or even is not so important as is the tone and harmony of the arrangement.
- Make yourself as experienced in arranging Nageire as in Moribana.
- Study arrangements that can be made without containers. Study dried and colored materials as well.
- Learn the spirit of artless art. Create a work with bones, flesh and skin, understanding the different levels of formality, Shin, Gyo and So, or formal, informal and casual.
- Ikebana may be comparable to painting, music or sculpture.
- Green bamboo tubes and simple rustic jars also make the best containers.
- Select a container that accentuates the beauty of the ikebana arranged in it.
Rules of Display
- The harmony of flowers and containers should fill the entire space.
- Home is not the only setting for ikebana. Consider places more personal as well as public.
- In addition to the colors of flowers, pay attention to containers, pedestals, walls and lights.
- Complete ikebana from a viewer’s standpoint.
- Everything should be taken into account: the pedestals, place boards, covering sand and gravel, and the combination of items in the setting.
- Ikebana must appear as if it is a product of the environment in which it is displayed.
- Flowers for celebration – famous flowers, evergreens, red and white, silver and gold, fruit-bearing branches, and so on.
Preservation of the Fresh Materials
- Exposing flowers to wind is even more damaging than keeping them out of water.
- Wilting flowers should be cut under water before being arranged.
- Water should be preserved in all fresh materials. Basic techniques of preserving water in the materials include: cutting under water, soaking in hot water, singeing, dipping in salt or vinegar, and using a syringe to pump in water.
Essence of Creativity
- Be sure to make definitive points of emphasis and avoid redundancy in the arrangement.
- If the flowers are the main feature, the container should be subordindte to the flowers. Likewise, if the container is the main focus, then the flowers should be secondary to it.
- Dull ikebana lacks dynamics of rhythm, density, and intensity.
- Make continuous efforts to find the materials, containers, and place for display.
- Remember there are always new, surprising themes and approaches to arranging ikebana.
- The four principles of ikebana are a fresh approach, movement, balance and harmony. The three elements are line, color and mass.
- Cultivate an eye for appreciation and a hand for creation. A sense of balance is essential. This can only be achieved through constant practice.