23 May 2023

A Step-by-Step Guide For Ikebana Beginners - Part 3

Saving the most challenging for last, in Part-3 of our ikebana lesson blog, we introduce two arrangements using large Kutani ware vases. These vases are beautifully designed and crafted in a stylish shape, but these elements are what make them tricky to use for an Ikebana arrangement. 

Please enjoy the interesting methods and pointers used for making an ikebana arrangement in a large vase. 


  • Ikebana Arranging with a Large Vase
  • Red Fuji and Crane Kutani Ware Flower Vase
  • Moonlit Night Gold Shigaraki Ware Flower Vase
  • Feeling Tradition

Ikebana Arranging with a Large Vase

Before our lesson, Matsuki sensei had explained that a large vase with a small opening was the most difficult to use. Setting branches on an angle can be daunting as you cannot put both hands inside the vase to position the stem or branch. 

Here is a very helpful technique Matsuki sensei taught us to secure the position of a long stem or branch in a vase called "Oridome." She demonstrated using a glass pitcher so that we could better understand this method.

When placed in a vase, as depicted in the photograph, a branch may be tilted slightly; however, it cannot be hung out from the rim of a vase at a more horizontal angle.

To slant a long branch in a large vase, you first need to slightly bend the end of the branch (the point you bend the branch will depend on the angle you want to achieve). 

Then, immerse the bent branch in the vase and then adjust the angle of the branch. For a flatter angle, the bent section of the branch will be placed in the upper section of the vase. 

Another point to keep in mind is that leaves and flowers should always be facing upwards as seen with these leaves. 

Red Fuji And Crane Kutani Ware Vase

Saori-san bravely took on the big challenge of arranging flowers in the large Red Fuji and Crane Kutani Ware Vase. 
For these arrangements, we will take you through each detailed step. 

Saori-san chose the stunning Kutani vase with the robust red Mt. Fuji. 

First, she set bright green Japanese clethra branches. Setting the largest element in an arrangement first is an important point to remember.
She first removed all the unnecessary leaves and small twigs. 

Asking for advice on how to add the orange daylilies. Matsuki sensei showed her some options on where the flower could be placed. Trying different positions before cutting the flower is a safe way to prevent overcutting. 

A snip here and there, Matsuki sensei helped in trimming small twigs from the branch. Making a clean and natural curve with branches and stems is quite a task for a beginner. Watching our sensei quickly trim off leaves and small branches was amazing. With no hesitance, her scissors gracefully shaped the composition of the arrangement. 

To complete the arrangement, Saori-san added a branch with neatly lined leaves. Deciding the height of a component was a challenge throughout our lesson. A recommended guideline for height is that the tallest element should be about twice the height of the vase. 

This branch was cut very short to add volume to the bottom of the arrangement close to the opening of the vase. 

See this lovely arrangement showcasing bright greenery of early summer with hints of orange. 

Saori-san humbly said that Matsuki sensei contributed to the completion of this piece, but her choice of materials and creative eye to hang the branch boldly to the right deserves high praise. 

Moonlit Night Gold Shigaraki Ware Flower Vase

Yoshiko-san chose the rustic Shigaraki vase. The monotone gradation of this Shigaraki ware vase was the perfect canvas for bright-colored floral materials. 
And Yoshiko-san's choice of willow tree branches and sunflowers was perfect for this vase.

Her first step was to strip the branches of its leaves. For ikebana, only the branches are used for willow branches. The unique curves of the branches take centerstage for this arrangement. 

Seeing Yoshiko-san having a tough time setting the willow branch with its long curvy twigs, Matsuki sensei showed us another method to secure thick branches in a vase. 

1) Cut a piece of a thick branch to the length of the widest section of the vase. Then split the end of the branch you plan to set in the vase in two by cutting the end slightly. Then, place the cut twig in the slit made at the end of the branch. This will work as a stopper in the vase and help secure its position. 

 2) Split the end of the branch you plan to set in the vase in two by cutting the end slightly.  

 3) Then, place the cut twig in the slit made at the end of the branch. This will work as a stopper in the vase and help secure its position. 

Next, Yoshiko-san added the sunflowers. The willow branches had already added height to the arrangement, so Yoshiko-san set the sunflowers near the rim of the vase. 

The final touch was green polypodium leaves.  

Matsuki sensei set one more tall sunflower. And here is Yoshiko-san's masterpiece!

Looking a tad bit weary yet fully content, Yoshiko-san remarked, "It’s amazing how adding a single flower naturally drew attention to the branching of the willow. There was so much to learn making this arrangement."

Ikebana is an art that embraces the simple grace of nature. Yoshiko-san's ikebana arrangement tastefully complemented the modest beauty of the Shigaraki vase with its clean lines and cheerful yellow color.

Feeling Tradition 

Honestly speaking, ikebana flower arrangement was much more difficult than we had expected. But learning ikebana from Matsuki sensei was an eye-opening experience for all of us. We thank Matsuki sensei for teaching us the basics of ikebana in such a short amount of time and helping us reconnect with our culture. In closing, she expressed that the essence of ikebana lies in finding joy while making an arrangement.  

Several days after our lesson, I picked some flowers from my garden and made an arrangement at the office (with a little help from my colleague). I checked the curvature of each flower, imagined how the colors would match and carefully cut each branch. 

Although I wasn't quite sure if I had covered all the points from my ikebana lesson, beginning my morning with 15 minutes of crafting my own arrangement was a great way to start off the day.

Whether it be with a small flower from your garden or a bouquet from the florist, we hope you try decorating your home with an ikebana flower arrangement.