Project 2: Gaia’s Ikebana

Research on Ikebana






Ikebana comes from the root words “ike” which means arrange and the words “bana”which comes from the word “hana” which means flower, hence ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It is also known as “kado” which means the way of the flowers. Ikebana is very much different from western styles of flower arrangement. While western styles of flower arrangement usually takes the form of a bouquet, a mini explosion of flowes, ikebana can be describe as more quet, more subtle and more gentle. Ikebana follows a certain set of principles it tries to bring across and follows a set of rules. Some of the principles I have come across in my research would be as follows :

  • Ikebana is very minimalistic. It tries to bring out the utmost beauty of a single branch. This however does not mean that it’s goal is to bring a finite piece of nature into the homes  but brings the whole concept of nature within its installation. This is also why ikebana usually uses elements found within that season.
  • Ikebana is usually asymmetrical. Ikebana is a form of sculpture using organic materials. The art itself pays very close attention to the negative space within the sculpture and also interacts with the base it sits on.
  • Balance and Harmony. Ikebana plays with contrasting elements to bring harmony within the whole sculpture and make look not like individual components, but as a whole unified.
  • Ikebana is a reflection of the sculpture. As much is it compels the viewer to appreciate nature, it also bring the sculptor into a meditative space and he too is brought to appreciate the materials in his hands. As such, the sculptor’s moods and personalities too affect how the composition will look like.
  • Traditional schools of ikebana usually follow the the basic design of a scalene triangle whitch ich point representing heaven,earth and humanity respectively

Here are some of the ikebana installations that I have found online that I think are truly amazing

Notice how the leafless branch brings about contrast to the whole sculpture. One side now becomes a representation of life of sorts and the other death. The tiny subordinate flowers also brings contrast int the sense that unlike the other two branches which are very solid  , this looks very ethereal and almost not present, due to the flowers being very spread out. The leafless branch also brings about balance by extending the reaches of the installation outwards and in that way it extends it space. By reaching outwards, it prevents the arrangement from looking too cluttered and introduces a new sense of negative space into the sculpture.

Here the leafless brown branch that stretches up into the sky increases the height of the composition and add added negative space to play with. It also provided contrast to the yellow flowers that are drooping downwards, giving the whole structure a nice balance.

For my research on Ikebana, I tried to find out how ikebana is done and I came across this old video that teaches the Moribana style of ikebana.

In the video

In the video, I learnt about the different angles that the branches are placed for the moribana style.









And the different ways to prop the elements up. Stems from flowers are usually stuck right in the needles of the kenzan while a heavy branch is eaither split in the middle and stuck in or stuck in between the needles of the kenzan. For a standing vase that does not use a kenzan. A heavy branch is split in the middle and propped up with another branch. This way, the angle can also be easily arranged.

But most importantly I realised that ikebana also follows the design principles of having a D, S.D and S.O , in the form of the Shin(Dominant), the Soe (Sub dominant) and the Hikae (Subordinate). These branches also have rules that dictate their lengths.

The Shin branch is usually the (depth of the container + the height of the container) x 1.5

And from there,

The Soe branch is 3/4 of the Shin branch and the Hikae branch is 3/4 of the Soe branch. The subordinate branches that embellish the whole design also follow rules that dictate its height.

Secondly, the branches also interact with the container that it is in. The branches are arranged differently if it were to be placed in a shallow branches  or a deep vase.

In my research I also came across the different methods of bending the branches. Honestly, I think being able to arrange and bend the branches into the shape that you want it to is truly amazing. A thick branch is slowly bend with the index finger supporting the point of bend to prevent the branch from snapping.

I tried this myself with varying degrees of success.

Curled branch test 1

Here however , I used the hairdryer ( actually the industrial one inside the workshop room but I am not too sure what it is called)

To bend the branches into the shape that I want it to. This way the branches burn a little changing its colour but the thinner branches easily bends in the way you want it too.

Curl branch test 2

Generally, for branch bending, I realised that you need a lot of patience. Get even a little annoyed and the branch will snap. It really forces you into a meditative state. Even thought the branch is dead, you can’t force it into the direction you want, it is more like coaxing the branch to bend your way with sweet words and soothing hands.

And that is the end of my ikebana research. I am one with nature now

Gastronomy research

For my research on gastronomy I went through 3 different styles. The art of plating, molecular gastronomy and Kaiseki.





Plating :

If it is one thing I learnt from plating is that negative space is very important within the plate itself. 

Here the negative space still looks as part of the whole dish and does not disassociates itself. It provides a nice balance to the whole composition as the  negative space is about equal volume to the main dish. And most of all, the negative space allows your eyes to rest, it prevents the main dish from looking too cluttered. The negative space and the swirls of the elements also creates movement within the plate creating a more dynamic structure

Of course, design principals such as balance, colour compositon, proportions and height all come into play here still.

Most importantly, the choice of the bowl and the plate is very important to the design.

Molecular Gastronomy:

For molecular gastronomy I felt that it was playing around with the image of the food that we are presented with and the taste of the food itself. It tries to make the image disassociated from the taste of the food. And they do this usually by deconstructing the food to make it look like something else.Similar to what surrealist Rene Magritte does with image and the meaning of the image.So for example, jam and fruits appear in the form of small pallets and chicken for example appear in the form of whip cream. We do not expect to the food we are presented it to taste like the food we are familiar with and  this juxtaposition, is half the fun in molecular gastronomy.

For molecular gastronomy, I feel that negative space plays a lesser role within the composition. What take sits place is shape of the elements within the composition. There are repeated shapes to create a theme for example globs of liquid food with small round pallets. And these are then contrasted and balanced with small additions of leaves.


Kaiseki is a form of high fine dining in japan which originated from monastic monks. It is a series of small dishes that is usually accompanied with sake.

From Kaiseki I learnt firstly, the visual elements play an important role within the composition. In kaiseki, the food is first appreciated visually. So in a sense it is a feast for the eyes as well as for the palate. Here colour composition and arrangement plays a huge role

Food sculpting also plays a really important role in the art of kaiseki. This helps with the visual aspect.

Here I tried sculpting the cucumber into a flower cone of sorts to fulfill the criteria of having a cone in the final sculpture. I have to say that cutting cucumber is not as easy as it looks and a pen knife is definitely not suitable for culinary arts. However that being said, I think it is passable in terms of visual appeal.

Here i carved part of the cucumber into a flower. Now this was a feat that I was actually part off. Once again it is as easy as it seems and the final work itself is not perfect, it is being held by pins all over but I still think I did a pretty decent job.


Next is the flow of the food. Not all the food should be savory and bombastic.  There has to be a balance and flow. Some food has to be cold, some warm some sweet, to bring balance.

Lastly, Kaiseki like Ikebana celebrates the season. Only local food of that season are used to let the patron appreciate the present. The types of bowls matter too. Different bowls of different colours are used to match the food in different seasons. A more warmer earth toned bowl would be used for example for summer dishes while a white porcelain bowl would be used for winter.


It is truly amazing how principles of design play a huge role in many different forms of art such as flower arrangement and even the art of food. For food, I find it to be even more challenging as you would also have to juggle the taste factor. Do you introduce a food element just for the sake of colour balance? What if it does not suit the taste of the entire composition even though the colour is perfect. With that I shall take a food break as researching on gastronomy has made me really hungry.

Seasons Research

The season I picked out was Summer

For summer I didn’t really wanna restrict myself to just ice cream and watermelon as those are two very stereotypical ideas of summer. I tried researching and looking into other fruits, vegetables and food that are associated with summer. I also looked into flowers that bloom during the season

For my research on seasons, I looked also into Kigo which are Japanese seasonal words and from here I found out that summer can be split into 3 parts. Early Summer, Mid Summer and Late Summer.

With this I sort of have an idea of the elements that I want to put within the sculpture and the story I want to tell. Now all that is left is the form itself.

Sketch models with curvilinear forms

Sketch 1:

Sketch Model 1, Front View

For my first sketch model, I played mainly with precarious balance. I wanted to make the cone and the cylinder look like it was frozen in time falling yet look unnaturally stable due to the 3 point contact and the cone and the sphere looking like it is supporting the cylinder.

Sketch 1 back view

I really tried to make each element viewable from all angles to make it an interesting sculpture such that there isn’t really a sense of front and back so that the sculpture can be appreciated from all angles.

Sketch 1 Top View
Sketch 1 Side View 1 (thankfully, the sphere can still be seen)

I  really like how the precarious balance is very obvious within this side view.

Sketch 1 Side View 2

However even then, the S.o is obstructed when viewing the sculpture from one of its side views




The cone however was slightly to small to be a decent Dominant within the structure. At the moment,the cone was half the height of the cylinder.

Sketch Model 1, 2D analysis

Hence i added a bit to the height of the cylinder such that the cone was about 1/3rds the height of the cylinder to play with the rule of thirds.

Sketch 2:

Sketch 2 Front View

For sketch 2 I made the sculpture look more unstable despite there having more independent balance in this composition. The cylinder (flat disk) Looks like it is ready to fall, despite the angle tilt being lesser than 45°. This is due in part due to the flatness and the size of the disk in relation to the other elements. The cone on the other hand although it technically on precarious balance as the apex is tilted at a angle greater than 45°, it still looks stable due to its broad base almost touching the ground.

Sketch 2 Back View

Here I also tried to make all the elements seen from all angles to create a dynamic structure that can be appreciated from all angles.


Sketch 2 Side View
Sketch 2 Top View





Sketch 2 Side View 2

However, one side still falls short with the  cylinder blocking the rest of the elements. Maybe if I had wedged the sphere in , now at least two elements will be seen.



The sphere however was too large to be an S.o and hence had to be reduced in size.

Sketch 2, 2D analysis

And thus it resulted in ,

Sketch 2.2 Front View
Sketch 2.2 Backview


now the S.o is much more obvious as an S.o however, now,

Sketch 2.2 Side View

The S.o becomes barely visible from the side view and I can’t possibly wedge the sphere into the cylinder now as then the sphere’s visual presence would be so small that it becomes insignificant.

For my final sculpture I will be using sketch model one as I feel that it presents a more dynamic sculpture and I really like how it captures the precarious balance like a frozen moment in time.

Now that I have the form of the sculpture down and the elements I want to include , I am ready(should be) to create the final sculpture.

Final sculpture

Final Sculpture front view

Here, the branch and the Arizona Green tea can (cylinder) acts as the Dominant element, the Cotton Candy (substituted with the pink rabbit as the cotton candy melted, also it is the something extra int he composition) and the cucumber acts as the Sub-dominant and the cherry here acts as the subodinate.

For the final sculpture, I played with contrast and balance within the composition. I also tried to limit myself to only 5 elements within the composition as I wanted to go for the minimalist look.( It took every willpower I had to not garnish the composition with the flowers of summer).

First of all, I used the branch to create a negative space that is about of equal volume as the cluster of volumes on the left to create balance.

I also used a leafless branch one to contrast with the flowering branch on the Arizona green tea can and also the provide colour balance with its deep brown colour to contrast with the bright colours on the left.

The colours within the food elements were also picked to balance each other out. The darker green of the cucumber is meant to supplement the soft turquoise green of the can. The pink of the cotton candy which is a complimentary colour to the turqoise is also supplemented with the bright red cherry.

I have also coverd some parts( not too much) of the tree branch with gold foil to replicate the art of kintsugi(golden repair) in Japan. The branch here is dead, but I feel that it represents a huge part of nature and even though dead it is still beautiful and can be still coaxed to form beautiful curves.

The gold leafing is also added to be able to appreciate the sculpture in dim light. With the dim fairy lights, the gold leaf would create subtle glitters that would create added movement. This is also to add to the story within the sculpture.

I also reversed the cucumber (which I had sculpted into a flower) to the other side to create a more dynamic structure. Initially in my sketch, the base of the cone (the flower) would face on the same side of the sphere(the cherry). However, that I felt make the structure have a front face and a back face. By reversing the cone, this balances the composition and now it can be appreciated from all angles.

Final Sculpture “back view”
Final Sculpture Top View

From the side views, I also made sure that there were some story elements.

Final Sculpture Side View 1

Here the branch tendrils look like its coming from the flower and is trying to envelope the structure.

Final Sculpture Side View 2

From this angle, I made sure that the branch frames the food elements and it looks like its sprouting rapidly from the rice field trying to wrap itself around the food. The food we see here are from nature and it returns to nature.

Next I tried to add elements of gastronomy and Kaiseki. The food elements are arranged to reflect how you would eat a meal.

Food Flow

You start with eating a small portion of rice and then slowly eat the other ingredients with the rice like the cucumber. In between the meal, you would take sips of green tea. After finishing the main course, you would move on to the dessert comprising of fruits and candy , something sweet to contrast the savory meal.

Lastly, all the elements within the composition are related to summer and represents a part of summer. The rice and the green tea are harvested in early summer. The cherry and cucumber are food that are in season during summer. The cucumber is also an ingredient used to lower the body temperature during warm days. The cotton candy represents the summer festivals that happen throughout summer. The

Together they tell a story.


It is summer, the rice fields and green tea fields are buzzing with busy farmers harvesting their yield. In contrast, the students are lazing about after a whole semester of school. They escape from the heat and eat cool foods such as ice cream, watermelon and cucumbers survive the blazing sun.

Final Sculpture front view

But not all the days are lazy. There is fun and excitement. There is play with the festivals to enjoy with friends  and maybe even some hints of the summer romance (represented by the bright red cherry. And as the days rapidly go by , summer comes to an end and autumn is rapidly approaching ( Late summer represented by the leafless branch), you start to reflect during those long nights. In the warm glow of the light and heat you remember all the experiences you have had.

And you start to realise that you have changed, you have grown.

Once again another summer has passed.

Reflections and Challenges

  • One huge challenge would definitely be working with food. For one thing it is a very messy job and the next thing is that it goes rotten very easily. The trick here is to work fast and try to think about how you would preserve it.
  • Another challenge was trying to balance all the different elements. Using curvilinear volumes, the elements of gastronomy and ikebana all in one sculpture, it definitely felt like too much when working on the project itself, however in retrospect it was pretty fun
  • The food elements in my sculpture were all meant to represent something however, they did not come together into a dish. I think I could have chosen my composition such that it looks like a whole meal rather than individual ingredients.
  • The sphere also could have had better interaction with the cone and the  cylinder. This way it really looks like one whole
  • I could also have added more branches to envelope the food structure (although I really tried to stick to the just 5 elements to look minimalistic) so that there is better interaction between the branch and the food.
  • Lastly, I think I could have played with similar shapes(circles are easy) to create a unifying theme. The cotton candy could have been made more into a sphere and the branch could have been curved more such that it looks more like a circle. This way, with the cherry, you would see concentric circles within the sculpture.

With that, thank you for your time and have a nice day.

The End


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