F Shoso Shimbo
Melbourne Ikebana Festival, 10 and 11 Sep 2022ikebanafestival.com

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Ikebana Performance with Paul Grabowsky

Postponed to Saturday 10 September 2022 

Ikebana Performance & Contemporary Art

Shoso Shimbo

Ikebana. One of the most important premises in the modernist art movements was to depict objects as they really are rather than the way we see them. Cubism and Abstract Art were early attempts to create a new order in the twentieth-century art.

A similar but more meditative view was expressed in Senno Kuden (1542), one of the early texts on ikebana. Senno stated that ikebana should be created based on “omokage” of such materials as flowers and leaves. Omokage is not the image we see but is more the conceptual essence of the materials. Just like some Cubist artists moved their focus from visual representation to conceptual representation, ikebana artists move beyond the visual aspect of the flowers and seek to grasp their essence through meditation.

Senno also said that ikebana as a product represents “onozukara naru sugata”, the essence of the universe. Just like Abstract Art can be seen to represent virtues such as order, purity, simplicity and spirituality, ikebana stands for essence of the universe, which I call Wa: Fluid Harmony in my performance. Ikebana in this sense is abstract assemblage rather than floral decoration.

Ikebana Performance. Inspired by Abstract Expressionism, artists such as Georges Mathieu and Kazoo Shiraga used performance to show that the artist’s creative act is equally important to the artwork produced.

Ikebana performance similarly aims to shift attention from the final piece of art to the artist’s actions. However, the process of creation is not based on a fixed plan. Art exists in real space and real time and Grabowsky’s music becomes part of the materials as Shoso brings the piece together. The live music constantly transforms the whole composition of the work. Such transformation shares an aspect of chess that fascinated both Marcel Duchamp and Lewis Carroll. The emerging work is a dynamic matrix, an interplay of symmetries and asymmetries in harmony with the music.


Monday, 12 July 2021

Saturday, 12 June 2021

How to Learn Ikebana

How to Learn Ikebana:

For New Ikebana Teachers & Participants in 

Zoom Ikebana Dojo Level 3

Shoso Shimbo, PhD

I would like to talk about the learning model that I follow in teaching ikebana for advanced students in my courses and in Zoom Ikebana Dojo. Knowing this model may help those who wish to become a professional ikebana artist but are not sure which path to take. 

However, this may not be the right model for everyone. In particular we have to be more flexible for beginners and for those who want to do ikebana as a hobby. 

I wanted to write this because I have noticed that there is some misunderstanding about leaning ikebana outside Japan. I think practising ikebana should be like practising Yoga. Most people seem to be doing Yoga for their own well-being, not for external rewards such as fame or money. It’s fine to do ikebana for extrinsic motivation, but the danger is in missing the essence of ikebana.

Poetic / Non-poetic Ikebana

There are two types of ikebana: poetic ikebana and non-poetic ikebana. Poetic ikebana is harmonious in design. It looks lively. We can feel harmony between nature and artist, rather than an artist’s self-expression or the expression of ego. Poetic ikebana is the product of deep meditation. It is also a product of long and sustained practice.    

Non-poetic ikebana can be seen everywhere. The works look like they have been made very quickly. They often look unnatural and lack a sense of living energy. Sometimes they may look pretty and smart, but something fundamental is missing – a bit like fast food.  

Frustration in Learning Ikebana 

If you can tell the difference between poetic and non-poetic ikebana, that is great. You have made a very good progress in learning ikebana. If you feel that your work is not poetic, that can be very frustrating. But that can be a great starting point, if you handle it wisely. You may want to re-evaluate your learning process, and start to create your own “way of flower” to become a better artist and better teacher. You would never wish to become a fake ikebana master. 

It seems that some people cannot recognise the difference between poetic and non-poetic ikebana. They seem to be satisfied with making non-poetic ikebana. Probably they don’t feel any frustration. There is nothing wrong with that. In some cases, especially outside Japan, they can be successful in many other ways. They may have many students, a lot of recognition, fame, and awards. But without poetry, something will always be missing.

Learning Model: Learn Ikebana with its Foundation

If you want to make poetic ikebana, however, you have to understand the learning model that takes you there. 

Learning ikebana is not like learning some school subjects. Completing the course is generally not enough. The important thing is to really understand ikebana and its creative foundation. This is not written in any textbook. It’s something we all have to discover for ourselves through practice and observation.

Learning the foundation of ikebana is different from learning to comprehend design principles or acquiring special techniques. In Zoom Ikebana Dojo you learn four ikebana elements and four ikebana principles. They are learning at conscious level. Of course they are useful, but what you really need is an intrinsic understanding of how they can help to create poetry in your work. 

Two Types of Learning

In short, two types of learning are required in ikebana: learning at a conscious level and learning at an unconscious level. It is the latter that makes your work poetic. 

Learning ikebana is similar to learning Zen meditation. In Zen sometimes Koan, questions are used such as: Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand clapping? My interpretation is that thinking about the Koan intellectually at conscious level helps deepens our meditation at unconscious level. The Koan is an aid, or a supplement to cultivate unconscious learning, which is the true goal of Zen. The details of the Koan are not so important. 

Learning about ikebana elements and principles or some techniques are all like Koan. They are great aids to deepen your meditation and cultivate your creative foundation at an unconscious level, which should be the focus of learning ikebana. 

Ikebana as Meditation

In essence, learning ikebana means learning meditation. The focus should be on the process rather than product. 

However, many ikebana courses allow you to become an advanced student without really experiencing meditation in the process of creation. Nevertheless, understanding and having the meditative experience is crucial, especially in order for advanced students to develop further and acquire the ability to create poetry in ikebana.


There is no quick fix or special training to master ikebana, because those external resources may help you develop skills through conscious learning, but you are the only person who can apply those skills to your own work, the unconscious learning.

Whether you can acquire the unconscious learning depends on your will and attitude, not on your artistic talents. You have to decide to spend time to acquire techniques to control your mind so that you can meditate with the right attitude, in silence and solitude.

When I asked about the quickest way to master ikebana, Mr Katayama simply replied, “practice, practice and practice”. Nothing special. All you need is patience. Time as well as intensity of training is required. Intensity means deep meditation, loving flowers or interacting with the life of flowers. 

Effective Learning Methods

A simple exercise is to make one work (can be a basic style) spending at least one hour by yourself. You have to do this in silence. If you feel at the end of the exercise that you spent only 5 minutes or so, that is a good sign. Comments on your work from a teacher would be more meaningful after such an exercise.     

Another effective learning method is teaching ikebana. Once you obtained a teaching diploma, seek opportunities to teach. You don’t need to wait until you become confident in your meditation (process) and in your work (product). 

It takes for a while to learn how to meditate with flowers, and it is a very slow, gradual and sometime fragile learning process, even if you practice ikebana everyday. It is fragile because it is easily disrupted by our negative mental states.

In fact, making an ikebana work a day is a particularly effective training. It is simple and easy to do. If you decide to do that, however, you will soon find it so hard to continue. It may sound like an easy investment for a big reward, but it is actually the road less traveled.

Nevertheless, making an ikebana a day will eventually become an effortless and joyful daily habit one day. One useful tip is to prepare materials the day before so that you can think about what to make unconsciously overnight. You will realise at a certain time that you can transform your state of consciousness to that of deep meditation as soon as you touch your flowers. Then you can start to see poetry in your ikebana, and ikebana is finally a part of your life.

Quick Ikebana           

It is true that some masters make impressive works very quickly in 5 or 6 minutes. Some of them may seem so simple and easy to make. You may think there must be some secrets or magical techniques that you can learn quickly. 

I have worked with Mr Kawana. To perform a one hour demonstration, he spent all day for the preparation on the day before. You are not looking at the ikebana created in 5 min, but the products of a hours of meditation and many years training.  

Quick ikebana is a byproduct of a long term training and meditation, the foundation of creativity. If you have acquired the foundation, you might be able to make a quick yet poetic ikebana. 

But making a quick work should not be a priority for your daily training. Don’t aim to make a shallow pretty work quickly. Ikebana work made without meditation is so obvious and has no poetry. Aim to make a beautiful poetic work that reflects your deep meditation. 

Teacher’s Role

No teacher would give answers to the students before they finish their homework. In ikebana doing homework means making ikebana works, including the process of meditation. The answer in ikebana comes from the students, not from the teacher. There is no perfect or right answer for everyone. A teacher’s role is to help students find their own right answers in their development.   

When I invited Mr Katayama to one of the Zoom Ikebana Dojo sessions, he showed wonderful examples on how to advise students. When I looked at a students work, I noticed at least three points to improve, and wondered what he would do. After pointing out a few positive aspects of the work, he said, “your mass is not massed enough”. That was one of the points I had noticed, and I realised that it was the one and only “right answer” for the student at her stage of development. Any other advice would be unnecessary at that point. There’s no need to hurry. We are not competing with others, but we are trying to deepen our own meditation. Mr Katayama is a master in teaching ikebana and I have a lot to learn from him. Our learning journey is never over.


Some Western sociologists argue that culture is a field of contest like the economic world, in which interested actors compete to accumulate various types of resources or capital. In culture, actors compete to appropriate cultural capital goods that are socially defined as distinctive and hence lend individuals an aura of superiority. 

I admit that learning ikebana has an aspect of the cultural struggle for distinction. We may enjoy it to some extent. If you practice ikebana just to win the struggle for fame or money, however, you may miss the true joy of ikebana. The source of the joy lies only inside you, not outside.

The true master’s concern is whether they can do their best in each work every day, not their reputation or what status they can gain. That’s why they are always humble and polite. You never see arrogant or rude masters in Japan.    

What ikebana needs is those who understand the way of the flower, and importance of self-cultivation through meditation. I hope many ikebana teachers will aim to make poetic ikebana and to become a better artist. 


Friday, 21 May 2021

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Send us your request - Online Ikebana Exhibition

Online Exhibition - 花信 Hanadayori: Ikebana by Request

What kind of ikebana would you like to see? 

Melbourne Ikebana Festival would like to offer the opportunity to request a personal flower message created by Ikebana practitioners in Japan and other parts of the world. They will make an arrangement for you and the image of your work, along with the request that you made, will go into an online exhibition.

Please send us your request, and we'll look for ikebana masters and practitioners to make a special arrangement in response to your request for free. You will be able to see the image at our online exhibition.

This unique project connects ikebana artists with an audience but also we hope to bring some healing through flowers in these difficult times. If you need a bit of stress relief, here's the perfect opportunity to take a peek inside the world of ikebana and let the beauty of flowers into your lives.

Who can request? 

What kind of request can I make? 
Any request you can think of. Tell us why you would like to see your choice - that will help the ikebana artist to make an arrangement that really responds to your request. Here are some samples:
  • Ikebana using more than 4 colours - my life has been really dull lately
  • Ikebana without flowers - I'm practising ikebana but I struggle with using other materials and I need some inspiration
  • Ikebana for my girl friend who loves white flowers
  • Tiny ikebana for our tiny bathroom

How can I make request? 
Fill in the contact form on our website by 10 June 2021.  
  1. Your Name (first name only) 
  2. Age
  3. City/Country
  4. What kind of ikebana would you like to see?
  5. Any personal story or reason for your request? The more detail you provide, the more the artist has to work with.

Who is going to make an ikebana work for me?  
International masters, Ikebana Gallery Awards winners & Wa Melbourne Ikebana Festival exhibitors. Our special exhibitors include Mr Katayama (Sogetsu)Mr Yatagai (ex Ikenoboys), Ms Yumi Yamane (Shinsei School Iemoto) , Mr Oshun Tsukagoshi (Ikebana Shofu, Fuku Iemoto: Hanaike Battle Winner) & more. We aim to involve about 50 artists. 

Can I join this project as an Ikebana artist?

Yes. If you are an ikebana artist and would like to join this project, please apply by sending us an Expression of Interest by 10 June 2021. We welcome applications from those who intended to exhibit at Wa Ikebana Exhibition, but could not do so for various reasons. 

What happens next? 
We will select about 50 requests and pass them to our artists. We plan to publish ikebana works with your requests on our website & YouTube from 4 September 2021. You can send your thank you message to the artists on YouTube.   

Online Exhibition - 花信 Hanadayori: Ikebana by Request

Wa Melbourne Ikebana Festival 
Rosina, Abbotsford Convent, 11&12 September 2021


Monday, 3 May 2021

Ikebana for Mother's Day

Give an Ikebana Workshop Voucher for Mother's Day. Order by 7 May 2021. 

Price: A$100 for 2 people 
Contents: All inclusive 1 hour workshop. Details.  
If you want to buy a single ticket, please use our booking system

How to order 
1. Send $100 using the following link. Type $100.00 and follow the instruction. 
2. You will receive a digital voucher by email. Print it or forward it to your special person. 

How to use our voucher 
1. Check the available dates in our website. We run introductory workshops regularly. 
2. Send an email to book (shososhimbo@gmail.com). 
Include the date you want to attend, the names of participants and the name of the person who bought the voucher. 
3. You will receive confirmation of your booking. 
4. Join the workshop on the day. 

1. Our voucher is valid for one year after the date of purchase. 
2. Do not use our booking system using our voucher. Please book by email. 
3. You can cancel your booking for free until 48 hours prior to your booked session.  


Sunday, 2 May 2021

Ikebana Calendar - May 2021

1 May 2021:  Ikebana Introductory Class. One hour all inclusive ikebana workshop for beginners.

1 May 2021Call for Requests
Hanadayori 花信: Ikebana by Request - Online Exhibition
What kind of ikebana would you like to see? We will ask ikebana masters and practitioners around the world to make a special arrangement in response to requests and exhibit them at our online exhibition.

5 & 8 May 2021: Term 2 starts (our ikebana certificates courses). 

7 May 2021: Mother’s Day Flower & Perfume Workshop. Create your own perfume, and give it in a flower box you made. Tickets selling fast. 

15 May 2021:  Ikebana Introductory Class.

31 May 2021: Deadline for Call for Requests

Hanadayori 花信: Ikebana by Request - Online Exhibition

5 June 2021: Ikebana Introductory Class.

19 June 2021: Ikebana Introductory Class.

24 - 30 June 2021: Forth (and final) entry period for the Ikebana Gallery Award 2021.

17 July 2021: Ikebana Introductory Class.

31 July 2021: Ikebana Introductory Class.

11&12 September 2021: Wa Melbourne Ikebana Festival. https://bit.ly/MelbourneIkebana