Melbourne Ikebana Festival, 7 and 8 September

Friday 3 December 2021

Ikebana Calendar - December 2021

4 December 2021: Ikebana Introduction Workshop 

11 December 2021: Zoom Ikebana Dojo Level 3.2 (Application Closed)


December 2021: Entries open for the Ikebana Gallery Award 2022.

15 January 2022: Zoom Ikebana Dojo Level 1 - New Term for Online Course

15 January 2022: Ikebana Introduction Workshop 

29 January 2022: Ikebana Introduction Workshop 

2 February 2022: New term starts for our Certificate Courses

5 February 2022: Zoom Ikebana Dojo Level 3.3 (Application Closed)


5 February 2022: Ikebana Introduction Workshop 

19 February 2022: Zoom Ikebana Dojo Level 3.4 (Application Closed)

19 February 2022: Ikebana Introduction Workshop 

30 March - 3 April 2022: Melbourne Flower & Garden Show

5 - 7 April 2022: Art of Bloom, NGV

10 & 11 September 2022: Wa Melbourne Ikebana Festival.

Friday 19 November 2021

Ikebana Workshop Request

Would you like to run an ikebana workshop for your team or your family at your own or our venue?  Please tell us your request using the following form. 

Wednesday 10 November 2021

Wednesday 3 November 2021

Ikebana Calendar - November 2021

6 November 2021: Ikebana Introductory Class

6 November 2021: Ikebana Certificate Courses restart (term 2). 

20 November 2021: Ikebana Introductory Class

27 November 2021: Zoom Ikebana Dojo Level 3.1

11 December 2021: Zoom Ikebana Dojo Level 3.2


December 2021: Entries open for the Ikebana Gallery Award 2022.

February 2022: New term starts for our Certificate Courses

5 February 2022: Zoom Ikebana Dojo Level 3.3

19 February 2022: Zoom Ikebana Dojo Level 3.4

30 March - 3 April 2022: Melbourne Flower & Garden Show

5 - 7 April 2022: Art of Bloom, NGV

10 & 11 September 2022: Wa Melbourne Ikebana Festival. 

Thursday 28 October 2021

Restart Ikebana

Our ikebana courses are restarting. Please join. 

1. Zoom Ikebana Dojo: Online Course - See below for the details

Zoom Ikebana Dojo Level 3 - Course Outline


1. Completion of Ikebana Dojo Level 1 & 2.
2. Equivalent knowledge and experience to our Level 1 & 2 in ikebana.

Please note that Ikebana Dojo Level 3 is not a normal online course and is specifically for advanced students of ikebana. It is designed to be an aid to individual learning rather than a comprehensive learning program. Participants are expected to be proactive and complete homework in every session.     

Ikebana Dojo Level 1 & 2

Our focus in Level 3 is on freestyle ikebana. 

We have learnt about four major ikebana elements and four major ikebana principles in level 1 & 2. In level 1 we learned about four major ikebana elements and four major ikebana principles through making basic free styles. 

Line 1Form 1Space 1Colour 1 

Balance 1Movement 1Contrast 1Pattern 1 

Barrett (2011:43) states about the relationship between elements and principles as follow:

“Design elements may be thought of as the bricks of a building and design principles as the means by which you put elements together to construct a substantive building”.

If we use 1 element and 1 principle to make an ikebana work, we have at least 16 types of combinations.

Space X Balance

Space X Movement

Space X Contrast

Space X Pattern 

Colour X Balance

Colour X Movement

Colour X Contrast

Colour X Pattern

Form X Balance

Form X Movement

Form X Contrast

Form X Pattern

Line X Balance

Line X Movement

Line X Contrast

Line X Pattern

In addition, we sometime use two or more elements in one work. So the possible combinations could be much more. 

Do we need to learn all of them? Isn’t it too confusing to learn them? Don’t worry. 

We have learned the basic styles in level 2. 

Line 2Form 2Space 2Colour 2 

Balance 2Movement 2Contrast 2Pattern 2

Although we have focused on single elements and principles one by one in each lesson, to make an ikebana work you were always combining elements and principles. That is exactly what you did in learning the basic styles at level 2. Successful basic styles inevitably contain and use multiple elements and principles effectively at the same time. 

If your basic styles have achieved harmony successfully, you have actually learnt almost unconsciously which combinations are effective. Making basic styles is a very effective way to learn how to make harmony in ikebana. It’s a pity that so many people underestimate the importance of practicing basic styles.

Design as Means

However, you are going to learn to move away from focusing on the design elements and principles too much at level 3. Learning about design is essential for beginners and always useful for advanced students as well. 

But Ikebana is not about design. Our goal is creating harmony or poetry in ikebana (Shimbo, 2021). Knowing the difference between design and harmony is very important. While the former is visible, the latter is intuitive, beyond analysis. True ikebana comes from meditation and your unconsciousness rather than your analytical thinking.  

That feature may be a fundamental difference between ikebana and other flower arrangements including Western flower arrangements. It seems that a goal of Western flower arrangements is beauty in design. Their focus seems to be the design and techniques that the artists applied on natural materials. Their interest is in what a person does, i.e., person rather than nature. 

On the contrary, design is not a goal but means in ikebana to achieve its goal, symbolic representation of nature. Our interest is not in the marks artists made on natural materials but in what artists perceived in them, i.e. nature rather than person. Good designs and techniques may help convey their intuitive perception of essence of life, which is at the same time the essence of ikebana, harmony or poetry. But design alone is not suffice to capture the essence of ikebana. 

Therefore, you cannot learn ikebana like you learn Western flower arrangement. A different attitude is required. The ikebana workshops focusing on designs or techniques may be useful, but they can be meaningless if they ignore the true goal of ikebana.         

Goals of Level 3

Our goal is not making “your ikebana” or “you in ikebana”. We have seen so many works of self-expression using flowers. In many cases the flowers in those works don’t look alive. It seems that in those works flowers are treated as dead not as living. Artificial flowers would be better suited for such works. If flowers are used just as colours or design elements, it is impossible to express life in nature, which is the essence of ikebana. 

In fact, at level 3 we would like you to shift your focus from design elements and principles to harmony, from visible to invisible, from conscious analytic thinking to unconscious deep feeling. A key is to be absorbed in the process of making.

Why do we encourage you to forget thinking about design elements and principles?

Because if you are thinking about designs, there is separation between you and your work as a result of your thinking on design. You as a subject recognise your work as an object. That prevents you from going further. Try to remove such a division and become one with your work so that you can recognise more than designs in your materials and your work. 

Suido Yamane (1893 - 1966), one of the most significant ikebana masters in modern Japan, talked about giving up our small self (probably he means analytical conscious ego) and living in our large self (probably similar to the Self in Jungian psychology) (Yamane, 1967: 98).

“Ikebana artists can transform their state of mind freely by becoming selfless (becoming free from any restricted notions), and by accepting others (sacred love or Buddha’s mercy represented in flowers and branches or great love or the source of life in the universe). You can create true ikebana only through giving up your small self and living in your large self. In a sense the way of flower is a way of enlightenment”. 

As mentioned, our goal is not self-expressions using flowers. To be more precisely, we are not interested in the expression of your small selves.   

Traditionally Japanese masters often taught us to talk to our flowers in making ikebana. In other words, love your materials and enjoy making ikebana. That may be the first step to letting your small self go. 

Topics in Level 3

As our goals are rather special, we have to use unique strategies to achieve them. It is participants responsibility to fully understand the course and use it effectively in their personal development as an ikebana artist.  

Our level 3 consists of two core programs, Line & Form, which are the more fundamental in creating ikebana among the four major elements. It is very useful to learn to see lines or forms in natural materials at the start of making ikebana.  

Level 3 Line covers the following four topics. 

Line X Balance

Line X Movement

Line X Contrast

Line X Pattern

Level 3 Form covers the following four topics. 

Form X Balance

Form X Movement

Form X Contrast

Form X Pattern

Three Step Learning Model

While we focus on the combination of one element and one principle to begin with, you will need to think about all elements and principles in the process of making ikebana, and at the same time you are expected to forget all about designs when you finish making it. 

That is our 3 step learning model in Level 3: start with a small aspect of design, think of all aspects of design and forget all about design. This is the recommended process of learning you have to manage each time by yourself.    

At the end of the course we hope you will be able to enjoy ikebana more than ever, and that you will feel that you can make harmonious ikebana works with any materials anytime. 


Barrett T. (2011). Making art: Form and meaning, NY: McGraw Hill.

Shimbo, S. (2021). Ikebana: Flower Arrangement in Search of Poetry, Garland Magazine. 

Yamane, S. (1967). Message for those who live for flowers, Tokyo: Chuo Koron Bijutsu Shuppan.

How to Apply/Participate

1. a. If you have completed our Level 1 & 2, simply book from our booking page
b. If you have not completed our Level 1 & 2, send ( 2 images of your recent works, one basic style and one free style (0.5 Meg or less).

It may be more helpful for you to do our level 2 first if your basic styles are not as perfect as you wish. If accepted, please book from our booking page.

2. Join the course.
3. Refer to our Task in our website. Level 3.1 Task: Line X Balance will be published shortly. 
4. Make your own work.
5. Join our Zoom session to receive feedback. 
© Shoso Shimbo 2021

Saturday 23 October 2021

Tuesday 5 October 2021

Wednesday 8 September 2021

New Article: Flower Arrangement in Search of Poetry

Free: Shoso's new article has been published in Garland Magazine, Issue #24

Free: Shoso's talk on Freestyle Ikebana on 12 September 2021. 

Tuesday 7 September 2021

Tuesday 13 July 2021

Ikebana Performance with Paul Grabowsky

Postponed to Saturday 10 September 2022: The Details

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.