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‘A conversation with nature’: La Jolla library hosts ikebana flower arranging exhibition

Works of ikebana flower arranging that were on display at the La Jolla/Riford Library on Oct. 21-22.
Works of ikebana flower arranging that were on display at the La Jolla/Riford Library on Oct. 21-22.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Showing the “art therapy” that connected the students of the San Diego Sakura Chapter of the Ohara School of Ikebana to nature and each other, the La Jolla/Riford Library hosted an exhibition of flower arrangements by the students on Oct. 21 and 22. The showing was the first one since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Master teacher and founder Jingyi Zhang, who goes by Jackie, explained the presentation was the annual exhibition for the local chapter, which has been active in La Jolla since 2011 by way of demonstrations and classes at the La Jolla library.

Master teacher and chapter founder Jingyi Zhang stands by an arrangement she made for the annual exhibition.
Master teacher and chapter founder Jingyi Zhang stands by an arrangement she made for the annual exhibition.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

According to the San Diego Sakura Chapter, ikebana is a Japanese form of flower arranging that dates back over 600 years. “It developed from the Buddhist ritual of offering flowers to the spirit of the dead,” the organization stated on promotional material. “Ikebana uses all materials, both fresh and dried … and an arrangement typically uses only limited materials, which requires the arranger to have advanced technical skills in the Japanese aesthetic of empty space and asymmetry.”

The local chapter blends the classical and modern schools of thought into the arrangements they make. “Ikebana schools are present around the world, but the Ohara School in San Diego is very strong because we have several generations that participate,” Zhang said. “We practice ikebana and evolve this art.”

Works of ikebana flower arranging that were on display at the La Jolla/Riford Library on Oct. 21-22.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Calling ikebana “art therapy,” she added that students “immerse themselves in the art, from starting the design to completing it. You have a conversation with nature, we bring nature into a small space and that brings energy into your body. When you finish the arrangement, you get that energy and you feel every stress disappear, and when you see the arrangements that others have done and look at them, there is a moment of wow that you want to share with other people.”

The mantra of the school is “to share, to create and to promote” ikebana.

Current chapter president Tracy Guo said she has been practicing for 17 years and “the more I learned, the more I fell in love” and that she cannot imagine her life without ikebana.

Current San Diego Sakura Chapter of the Ohara School of Ikebana president Tracy Guo with her arrangement.
Current San Diego Sakura Chapter of the Ohara School of Ikebana president Tracy Guo with her arrangement.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Unlike other types of arrangements that focus solely on the flower, ikebana uses the whole plant, which Guo said helps her connect with nature.

“We use all the parts of the plant, not just the flower, but the grass and leaves and we enjoy them,” she said. “I feel like I appreciate nature better because of this. Before I might just notice the flower, but now I see the whole plant. I see it as a gift that Mother Nature gives us. Before, I didn’t appreciate that. I also make friends here, because our culture is to share joy.”

The San Diego Sakura Chapter of the Ohara School of Ikebana will host classes at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 5, 12 and 19 will have a holiday workshop at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, all at the La Jolla Riford/Library, 7555 Draper Ave. ◆