[Research] Project 2: Gaia’s Ikebana

In this project, we explored dynamic compositions through the medium of food and the Japanese art of floral arrangement, Ikebana, in accordance to a season we were assigned to. For my case, I had to portray the season of summer.

Season of Summer

Since my model had to embody the season of summer, I took some time to brainstorm objects (namely food), moods, and colours that are usually associated with Summer.

Mindmap on Summer
Mindmap on Summer food

After doing so, I took objects I could work with and categorised them further into three groups: State Fairs, The Beach, and Picnics. I then proceeded to gather more images to create mood boards to help me establish the mood, colour palettes, and decorations I could use for my model.

Mood board for state fairs

State fairs are a common occurrence in America, especially during Summer. Objects and moods typically associated with these fairs include bright lights, stripes of vibrant colours, deep-fried junk food, and finger food (whatever is portable).

Mood board for the beach

In a more tropical setting, beaches are commonly visited during Summer. Objects and moods commonly associated with beaches include fruity cocktails, popsicles, tropical fruits (most notably watermelons and pineapples), and colour palettes that consist of pink and green.

Mood board for picnics

Picnics are also another common Summer activity. Objects and moods commonly associated with picnics include more high-end and nutritionally-packed dishes (e.g. sandwiches, granola, salads, and mueslis), platters of cold cuts and cheeses, picnic mats, grassy areas, and more earthy tones (in contrast to the vibrant colour palettes in beaches and state fairs).

I. Colour Palettes
Colour palettes for summer
All palettes taken from www.colourlovers.com
III. Takeaways

After brainstorming and researching more about associations with Summer, I decided to have my model portray a picnic. I intend to have the volumes (cone, cylinder, and sphere) to represent a common dish at picnics with a colour palette that reflects the earthy tones of a picnic.

  • Earthy tones
  • Calming mood
  • More nutritional food, health-conscious dishes
  • More greenery, less florals
  • Picnic mats, fans, and baskets

 Food & Taste

Since we had to experiment with food as a medium, I decided to first learn more about culinary approaches in combining different foods.

Chart on flavour profiles

Taste in food traditionally comprises of sweet, savoury, bitter, sour, and umami.  However, these tastes can be further broken down into “flavour profiles”, some of the main components including:

Description Examples
Low notes Deep lingering flavours in foods that form the base, or backdrop, for other flavours. Mushrooms, seared meat, beans
Mid notes Flavours that are much more subtle. They are not as immediately identifiable in the sense that they do not hang around as long as the low and high notes. Raw chicken and vegetables (food that often tastes bland without the presence of other flavours)
High notes Flavours that are “show stoppers”. Splash of citrus, handful of fresh herbs, minced hot peppers

Combining these notes helps to achieve a sense of “roundness” or “fullness”, as their main function is to bring other flavours out; we do not normally taste them individually. 

In addition to combining different flavour profiles, chefs also adopt layering as a technique to “marry a variety of flavours”, thereby “creat[ing] dimensionality, structure, and redefined variation on the plate”. When creating layers in a dish, it is important to keep in mind the functions of different types of ingredients.

Aromatics Often used as a starting point for most dishes, aromatics lay the foundation of flavour. An example being the use of ginger, garlic, and scallions in Chinese cuisine.
Fats The type of fats used in a dish categorises the dish into a type of cuisine. An example being ghee mainly used in Indian cuisine.
Liquids Liquids can be used as both a cooking medium and seasoning. They also have the capacity to impact a dish’s flavour, especially with alcohol-laced flavouring like wine, vodka, and beer.
Dairy items Dairy items add flavour and can be used as thickening agents.
Acidic flavours Acidic flavour attributes can aid in creating colour, flavours, and different levels of acidity. They can also help in creating more balanced dishes by being contrasted against sweeteners.
II. The Art of Plating
By chef David Kinch

Combining food profiles is then further enhanced through representation, or plating. Applying different design principles and techniques, all whilst keeping to a set of guidelines, can help in bringing out the flavours and visuals of the dish. Some of these guidelines include:

1. Choose the perfect plate
Choosing a plate is key to attractive food presentation. This can be done by thinking of the plate as a canvas and the food as a medium. When choosing, it is important to consider the plate’s size, keeping it big enough to allow the food to stand out and small enough so that the portion does not look too small. The plate colour is also an important aspect; white plates generally create high contrast and provides a neutral background for colourful creations. The plate then can be used as a frame to apply the rule of thirds – white space can be utilised in pinpointing the focal point of your dish.

2. Placing Ingredients
When plating a dish, picture a clock in mind; proteins should be placed between 3 and 9, starch or carbohydrates between 9 and 12, and vegetables from 12 and 3. Moist ingredients are typically used as a base and are anchored by placing other foods on top of them. Odd amounts are also served, usually regarded as creating more visual appeal. Also, prevent overcrowding in a dish – keep it simple by keeping the focus on one ingredient. Finding a focal point also helps to ensure that accompanying ingredients will play a complementary and supporting role instead.

3. Pay attention to the details
In addition to experimenting with texture, try to create colour and contrast; beautiful backgrounds can be created by adding green vegetables with accent points brought about by brightly-coloured fruits. Pairing ingredients with complementary colours typically enhances visual appeal. Furthermore, create height by balancing out taller ingredients by leaning long, flat items against them.

4. Design and create with sauces
Reiterating the aforementioned purpose of liquids having the capacity of impacting a dish’s flavour, accent dots can be created on one side of the plate (while considering the rule of thirds), or by lightly drizzling sauce over the main ingredients.

5. Use garnishes purposefully
When using garnishes, make sure to use edible garnishes that relate to the dish, as well as possessing the ability to enhance and complement the flavours as opposed to distracting from them. Also, never heap garnishes in one corner – disperse them thoughtfully in order to add colour and texture.

II.I. Dinara Kasko
Works of Dinara Kasko

Dinara Kasko is a Ukrainian pastry chef who is most notable for applying architectural concepts in her desserts. A graduate from Kharkov University Architecture School, Karsko worked both as a designer-visualiser and part-time photographer. She decided to then take pursue her dreams of being a pastry chef, inspired by her architectural past.

Her approaches include treating cakes and treats as if they were scale-models of buildings; her cakes resembling “diagrammatic models of contemporary architecture but rather than building with steel, concrete, or glass, the material palette for her buildings consist of meringue, gelatin, and chocolate”.

Through her works, Kasko aims to “connect ‘patisserie and architecture’ through geometric forms and careful compositions”.

III. Learning Points
  • The presence of Dominant, Subdominant, and Subordinate factors in flavour profiles (low notes as Dominant, mid notes as Subdominant, and high notes as Subordinate). Taking flavour profiles into consideration, in addition to shapes of the volumes, can help me to take experimentation one step further.
  • Techniques of layering and the functions of different kinds of food.
  • Guidelines to keep in mind when plating; importance of colour and contrast, varying in textures, and methods of placing ingredients.


I. What is Ikebana?
Ikebana: Japanese art of floral arrangement

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It is a disciplined art form where “the arrangement is a living thing where nature and humanity are brought together”, and is “steeped in the philosophy of developing a closeness with nature”.

Derived from the Japanese love of nature, where there is “a strong bond of intimacy” with natural surroundings – “even in contemporary concrete-and-asphalt urban complexes” – Ikebana is an art form that is centred on “suggesting the whole of nature”, “creating a link between the indoors and outdoors”. It is also perceived as an outlet to help one “live in the moment” and to “appreciate things in nature that previously had seemed insignificant”.

II. Features & Styles

Similar to the characteristics associated with traditional Japanese paintings, gardens, architecture, and design, Ikebana follows certain guidelines and rules of construction. When practising Ikebana, it is also important to keep in mind that nature is always changing, where the objects displayed would change to reflect the season.

Some of the more prominent Ikebana styles include:

Style Overview Design
Kuge Buddhist floral offerings placed on temple altars Consisted of three main stems gathered closely at the base and rose from the water as one
Rikka Began to be displayed in the homes of the aristocracy; its purpose changed to that of a decoration of the home, therefore design became an important factor

Each stem has a symbolic meaning drawn from both religion and landscape art

Arrangement became a kind of microcosm representing the entire universe

“Standing arrangement”

Tall, formal arrangements

Grand and imposing

Arranged ways of nature

Chabana Prominent during popularity of tea drinking and ceremonies

A more informal style

Often uses a single seasonal flower or branch to capture the essence of the material

Rustic simplicity and minimalism

Nageire Popular with merchant class and general public

Means literally “to throw in”

No set rules for the arrangement, could be used to decorate any space

Freestyle form usually done in a tall vase

Emphasis on the natural form of the flowers

Shoka Popular with the rising merchant class

A style that was easier to learn as compared to Rikka

Easy to carry out

Derived from three principal stems of Rikka; branches represented heaven (ten), earth (chi), man (jin)

The branches formed an asymmetrical triangular shape

Used fewer materials (showing influence of Nageire)

Moribana One of the most popular styles

“Piling up of flowers”

Broad expanse of natural-looking shapes and a mound of beautiful flowers

Type of Moribana is dependent on angle of primary, secondary, ornamental stems

Much freer approach, but still emphasised uneven numbers and asymmetry in arrangements

Upright, slanting, water-reflecting

Uses a shallow container and kenzan

Jiyuka Encourages contemporary artistic expression

Non-plant elements may play a role in abstract Jiyuka compositions

Creative design, not confined to flowers

Naturalistic and abstract styles differ in the flowers and plants used and represented in compositions

Naturalistic: Underlines natural beauty of the floral materials

Abstract: Highlights design qualities of flowers and leaves

II. I. Moribana Style
Moribana style

A defining feature of the Moribana style includes arranging the materials “as if they are piled up in low flat containers with a wide surface area of water”. Other characteristics that distinguish Moribana include its use of three principal stems – the Subject, the Secondary, and the Object (as well as intermediaries as Filler stems), and its three main styles – the Upright Style, Slanting Style, and Water-Reflecting Style.

Upright Style Defined by a standard floral style with principal stems positioned in a manner to evoke a sense of movement, bringing forth a composition of formal and graceful beauty
Slanting Style A floral form that expresses the beauty of branches and grasses that grow slanting down, evoking a greater sense of movement (as compared to the Upright Style)
Water-Reflecting Style  The Subject is placed to slant over the container, allowing its reflection to be casted on the surface of the water

The Subject, the Secondary, and the Object are arranged in such a way that the wide surface of the water is visible

The floral style is rich in subjective and expressive possibilities

Moribana can be further divided into two sub-styles: Colour Scheme Moribana and Landscape Moribana, with two main methods: the Realistic Method and the Traditional Method.

Colour Scheme Moribana: Expresses beauty of colour

The Colour Scheme Moribana aims to achieve the beauty of harmony along with a contrast of materials. This particular style values the importance of colour harmony and contrast where the Object is to use specific techniques to give full play to growth patterns and the individual characteristics of the materials.

This is mainly carried out through the Colour Method or the Traditional Method.

Colour Method A technique with free choice of materials by which to express the beauty of colour through the colours, shapes, and textures of various plants
Traditional Method The beauty of colour is brought out based on set rules for the materials and method of arrangement. This particular style values the importance of colour harmony and contrast where the Object is to use specific techniques to give full play to growth patterns and the individual characteristics of the materials

Its chief aim is not the expression of scenic beauty, but the correct expression of floral styles


Landscape Moribana: Beauty of natural scenery is represented

Landscape Moribana encompasses natural landscapes represented within the limited confines of flower containers. It can be divided into three views:

Far View Takes tall trees as main subject
Middle View  Focus moves closer to scenes of dense growth with smaller trees becoming the major theme and low shrubs used as chief materials
Near View Point of view moves in even closer to flowers and grasses blooming at the base of trees and other scenes portrayed as if they actually exist before one’s eyes


Traditional Method A technique to express beauty of scenery using limited materials, with arranging methods prescribed for these materials while observing their natural growth
Realistic Method A technique to express scenic beauty by understanding natural growth, environment and seasonal aspect of the material, and is done by mixing in the subjectivity and impressions of the arranger


II. II. Jiyuka Style
Jiyuka style

The Jiyuka Style, on the other hand, mainly comprises of free style where there is no set pattern or form. This gives way to the “expressiveness of arrangement”, which “emphasises the creativity of personal expression inspired by the main features of plants and flowers”.

III. Principles of Ikebana

Practitioners of Ikebana usually form arrangements that establish beauty in the form of “colour combinations, natural shapes, and graceful lines”. With considerable technical skill, arrangers also combine materials to “create a kind of beauty that cannot be found in nature”.

Some of the primary aspects that Ikebana features include:

Materiality Living branches, leaves, grasses, withered leaves, fruits, moss, seed pods, buds and blossoms are used

Arrangers tend to use several different types of plants in a single arrangement; even when a single type of flower is used, attempts are made to bring out its full implications as a symbol of nature

Asymmetry Uses empty space as essential feature of composition

Space is utilised in such a way that it is not meant to be filled but created and preserved through the arrangements

Harmony Harmony is achieved through the materials, container, and setting used

Elements such as minimalism, shape and line, form, humanity, and aesthetics should also complement one another

iV. Learning Points
  • Different styles of Ikebana and the features that distinguish between them
  • Influence of the environment and nature in Ikebana
  • Moribana style and the methods and techniques used
  • Jiyuka style and the methods and techniques used
  • Design principles to apply when practising Ikebana  


Link to final:


I. Combining Foods






A Study of Flavor Profiles


II. Ikebana


Ikebana: The Art of Flower Arranging








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