Jeanne Houlton is a master in the Ichiyo School of Ikebana. She plays a prominent role in the Ichiyo School in the United States not only as a teacher but as an assistant to the head of the school (the Iemoto) when he comes to the United States for demonstrations, teaching conferences, and exhibitions. Because of her prominent role in the Ichiyo School of Ikebana, she is presented here.
As a master in the Ichiyo School of Ikebana, Jeanne Houlton’s arrangements are a study in minimalism, balance, graceful lines, space, and proportion. More than a simple decoration, Ikebana arrangements are three-dimensional floral sculptures. “In Ikebana, the idea is less is more,” says Jeanne. “By taking away, a more powerful effect is achieved. Negative space is part of the art. It’s also transient, which is represented in our use of all stages of the plant, from seed to flower to the dried form in death.” Jeanne also points out that western floral design is symmetrical, but Ikebana uses asymmetrical balance.
Ikebana traces its history back to sixth-century Japan when floral offerings were placed on the altar of temples. “When my mother was growing up, after English school, they would learn the Japanese art of flower arranging at Japanese language school,” says Jeanne. “In Japan, starting with the Mejia era, flower arrangement and tea ceremony were taught to all women to become good housewives.”
Ikebana International, a nonprofit cultural organization, was established in 1956 and today has chapters worldwide, including six in Florida. Jeanne is a past president of the Ikebana International St. Petersburg chapter and current program chair. Within Ikebana, there are hundreds of different schools, each with its own ideas of how to create the arrangements. The Ichiyo School, which encourages a modern, personal interpretation and freeform abstract design using both natural and non-natural materials. In 2010, Jeanne had the honor of representing the Ichiyo School and North America as one of the demonstrators at the 10th Ikebana International World Convention in Tokyo. She is currently the president of the Ichiyo Florida chapter.
A fourth-generation American of Japanese ancestry, Jeanne was born and raised in Hawaii. After graduating from the University of Hawaii, she worked for a year as a flight attendant and then moved into fashion merchandising – first as a buyer for junior dresses and sportswear, and later as a buyer and merchandise manager for the largest international fashion retailer in the world. Her specialty was high-end leather designer handbags. “I traveled 70 percent of the time, procuring product in the U.S. and Europe and selling it to customers in the Pacific Rim,” says Jeanne. Her husband, Jerry, worked for the same firm designing the company’s computer software systems.
In 1987, they retired and relocated from San Francisco to Florida, eventually building a home that was designed to accommodate their love of art. Jeanne creates Ikebana, while Jerry creates large hanging mobiles in the style of famous designer Alexander Calder. He’s also passionate about modern art, which hangs on the wall of their living room. Jeanne has dozens of ancient baskets on display from the Philippines.
Retirement gave Jeanne the freedom to begin full-time study of Ikebana. She had first started lessons when she was 23 and still in Hawaii, but the demands of her career grew too much. In retirement, she was able to pick it up again. She is now a teacher or sensei in the Ichiyo School and has been studying with the headmaster (iemoto) of the Ichiyo School in Japan – first Akihiro Kasuya, and now his son Naohiro. For more than two decades, she traveled to wherever the headmaster was demonstrating in order to assist with backstage preparations. She received the flower name Keiyo in the Ichiyo School, one of few people outside of Japan to have this distinction.
In 2000, she began taking students herself. Most live in the Tampa Bay area and have been studying with her for many years. All are very serious in their commitment. At the same time, she has continued to study personally with the headmaster in Japan. “You are a student forever,” says Jeanne. “Ikebana as an art form requires lifetime study.”
The Ichiyo School teaches that the height of the arrangement should mirror the height of the viewer. “Most people are six feet back looking at it; they are not close-up. You want people to connect to the arrangement,” says Jeanne. In addition, she points out that the eye should be directed to a focal point and then travel from left to right around the arrangement, the same concept artists’ use in creating advertising.
Most of the plant material is found in her yard, but Jeanne orders the flowers wholesale. Against one wall in her studio is a large glass-front cooler with a fluorescent light where she keeps her flowers. “Each flower is different in the care it needs, just like people are different,” says Jeanne. When the flowers arrive, she cuts the stems under water and gives them food and light. Cutting plants underwater creates a vacuum to allow the water to rise up the stem, she says, which helps the arrangement last longer. Both flowers and plant material are conditioned with a special preserving material before use; so is the water.
Jeanne also has entire closets filled with containers and vases. Containers are an important part of the arrangement. “Collecting and hunting for the right one is part of the fun,” says Jeanne.
Over the years, Jeanne’s work has been on display at many events and organizations around the world, including locally at the Florida Orchestra Holiday Home Tours, the Morean Art Center, Florida CraftArt, Sunken Gardens and much more. She‘s participated in the prestigious Art in Bloom at the Museum of Fine Arts for the past 20 years, and as a member of the MFA’s Stuart Society, she’s served as Art in Bloom installation chair twice.
When taking lessons within the Ichiyo School of Ikebana, one learns to make arrangements for special occasions such as exhibitions, demonstrations, and for events in one's life. This post will show arrangements made for a memorial exhibition for a member of the Ikebana International Rochester Chapter who had recently passed away. A virtual exhibition was put on their website honoring this member--Fudeko Maruyama.
The above arrangement was made by Ann Nash who used materials from her garden. She and her husband are accomplished gardeners and she has learned how to use materials from her garden which are materials that many wholesale and retail florists don't sell. She is using an Ichiyo School of Ikebana style basket which Ichiyo students learn how to use in arrangements. The piece of wood under this basket arrangement is a shikimono. More will be explained about what a shikimono is in the write up below.
This second arrangement is by Gail Newman my teacher who primarily gives me lessons during the warmer months of the year. As in the first arrangement where the materials were taken from Ms. Nash's yard, Gail also has used green material she has collected at her home or close by. Flowers are harder to come by depending what is in bloom and sometimes the only flower options are what is available in the grocer stores. Sometimes the only materials an ikebana student can use are what he or she can found around their home. Ikebana students learn to use the most unexpected materials.
In this last arrangement by Karen Napoli, we see the use of a shikimono--a mat that is placed under the arrangement to help define the arrangements space. Creatively, this shikimono is a mirror which reflects the arrangement toward the viewer which adds to the original arrangement's size and attractiveness. It is a very light arrangement which can be a particularly attractive aspect of some ikebana arrangements. Ms. Napoli is my ikebana teacher when Ms. Newman is in Florida. Maybe you can see some of their influence on my arrangements. Ms. Napoli is also an accomplished gardener. These two--being a gardener and ikebana student--go hand in hand. Having one's own garden which grows materials on can use in an arrangement can help save money.
The Ichiyo School of Ikebana uses certain containers which are mostly used by that school. The semicircular container shown above was created by the Ohara School of Ikebana and mostly used by that school. However, Ichiyo School students may use containers used mostly by other schools for their Ichiyo arrangements as long as the arrangement retains the characteristics of the Ichiyo School.
When a student of chooses a specific school of ikebana to study under, it is important for that student to generally prefer that school's style. However, one of the great things about the study of ikebana is how each student can be beneficially influenced by other schools practice of ikebana. And this is the situation we have here in the Buffalo area.
The Ichiyo School of Ikebana was started in 1937 by a brother and sister--Meikof and Ichiyo Kasuya. They sought to create an original ikebana what was suitable for the modern lifestyle. What was started as a small endeavor now has grown to include chapters and practitioners all across the world.
The first headmaster of the school was Ichiyo Kasuya. Eventually, her brother (Meikof Kasuya) took over as the second headmaster. He helped with establishing the school and with publishing of books displaying the Ichiyo type of ikebana as it continued to grow under his influence.
But as time continued on, he passed on leadership of the school to their son--the third headmaster--Akihiro Kasuya. Each headmaster brought their own creativity to the school and Akihiro Kasuya was no different. Even though his style was a bit different from his parents it still had the Ichiyo School of Ikebana flavor. He tirelessly help spread further the Ichiyo style of ikebana across the world to many countries. I had the great privilege to work with him for stage-sized demonstrations in various parts of the United States as the headliner to many several conferences. He amazed me at the ease at which he could create the most beautiful arrangements from the very small to the very large. He was always kind and an innovator bringing many new ideas to this modern form of ikebana.
Unfortunately, due to illness, he died on January 31st of 2019. He passed on the leadership of Ichiyo School of Ikebana to his second son--Naohiro Kasuya in an installation as the fourth headmaster on January 20th of 2019 who now brings his own unique freshness to the art.
As well as teaching ikebana, Naohiro Kasuya has been displaying his works at solo and a wide range of exhibitions. He gives ikebana instructions and artistic support for movies and TV programs. He is also passionately involved in collaborative works with artists of different fields. He conducts "Ikebana LIve" and workshops not only in Japan but also overseas such as in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, India, South Africa and the Ukraine, including an ikebana demonstration at the New York Metropolitan Museum. He August, 2018, he demonstrated at the Ikebana International Ninth European Regional Conference at Bruges, Belgium. Presently, he holds positions in the Japan Ikebana Art Association as a standing committee member and as an associate board member of the Ikebana Association.
He brings his own innovation as seen by the pictures shown above. Presently, he also regularly conducts video workshops via Zoom for practitioners all across the world. As soon as the COVID restrictions end, he will be back at traveling the world to spread this wonderful art. We are all looking forward to learning from him as he develops ikebana--the Ichiyo style--even more.
In the Ichiyo School of Ikebana, there are different levels of achievement. The highest level is that of Iemoto. Presently in the Ichiyo School of Ikebana, this position is held by Naohiro Kasuya--the fourth headmaster of the school. In the United States, the next highest level of achievement is that of Executive Master. There are only three people who have attained this level of achievement and one of them is Ms. Valerie Eccleston. Information on her and some of her arrangements are shown in this post.
ICHIYO SHIKI IKEBANA Valerie Eccleston
My journey with "Kado",( The way of the flower) began in Japan in the 1970's whilst my family was living there.
As often happens, a friend encouraged me to attend Ikebana classes. I had no idea what that meant or that it was an ancient art form involving flowers and branches.
I was fortunate that the teacher was Ando sensei of the Ichiyo School of Ikebana. She taught me the importance of the basic rules of construction and she guided my life onto this path. I will always be grateful to her, and thankful that I stumbled into the Ichiyo School. The genius and artistry of the Headmasters, which they so generously share with their students, can never be equaled.
After earning my Instructor's certificate I returned to England, then moved to the USA in 1984, whilst continuing to study and support the Ichiyo School. I received my Master's rank in 1992 and in 2006 was appointed President of the Washington DC Chapter of the Ichiyo School by the late Iemoto Akihiro Kasuya. In 2009 I was appointed by him to the rank of Executive Master.
I have demonstrated, taught and exhibited, extensively in the USA and Canada, having lived in the UK, Japan, Canada,Connecticut, Texas, Arizona and Virginia.This includes demonstrating and exhibiting at the Metropolitan Museum Asian Galleries in New York and participating in an Ichiyo School Exhibition in Soho with the late Iemoto Akihiro Kasuya and other visiting teachers from Japan and the USA.
I have had the honor of assisting and narrating for the late Iemoto and his son Naohiro Kasuya, the 4th Headmaster, on many occasions, including the last Ikebana International World Convention in Okinawa, Japan.
Ikebana is nature and it is said that the whole universe is contained in a single flower. Flowers become even more beautiful when cut and arranged in a natural and reverential way. When harmony is attained between the arranger and the material, the arrangement hopefully becomes a reflection of oneself.
Emotions and communication are primary. However, through honing our technical abilities and sense of balance of forms, we can achieve a higher level of expression. We attempt to create a sense of balance in our minds, a balance created through our relationship with the flowers.
As you can see, for me, interest gradually became a life-long devotion and connection. Ultimately, the goal is to make arrangements that you like in containers that you like.
President; Ichiyo School of Ikebana, Washington DC Chapter
One of the very fortunate things for me is that I have two regular ikebana teachers. When I first started, my teacher was Gail. But, over the last couple of years, she has been spending her winters in Florida. So, in order to continue my ikebana lessons during the months of November through April, I need to take lessons from her teacher--Karen who is our master teacher and head of the regional branch of the Ichiyo School of Ikebana in of Rochester, NY. Her facebook page is: Ichiyo Ikebana of Rochester. And her email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. She offers her biography below as well as pictures of some of her arrangements.
Ichiyo School, Master
The first time we moved to Japan I had no intentions of playing with flowers, let alone study a formal art. I was not a craft person, but I loved my gardens and nature. As life sometimes leads you down unexpected paths, I was invited to an Ikebana International Tokyo monthly meeting and had a wonderful experience. People suggested I take lessons and so I did. I did not enjoy the lessons at all, maybe because it was right after my language class that I struggled with. Anyway, after my first few lessons, I quit. Soon another friend invited me to come to her ikebana class to observe. After several refusals I said yes. It was a different school and different experience. The school was called Ichiyo. The general atmosphere was different and my teacher, Momoko-san, was gentle and kind. She showed me a different way to look at flowers. I have continued with the Ichiyo School from that day.
The Ichiyo family, certainly Akihiro’s immediate family, plus all the Ichiyo students, were so welcoming and kind. The school realigned me with peace and a calmer way of city life. When I walked through the city, parks, or mountains I looked at life differently.
The first 4-year stay in Japan I took Ichiyo lessons, but was not serious so I did not get any certificates. We returned after 4 years State-side, for 6 more years. I became immersed again in Ikebana International and Ichiyo with a more serious, passionate approach to the art. At this point I was blessed to take lessons directly from the Ichiyo Headmaster. Once I became a teacher this level would meet once a month at Ichiyo HQ. I was the only foreigner so it reinforced the cultural side of the art and forced me to work harder.
I think besides the calm that all ikebana brings to self is that the Ichiyo School highlights the person and their individualism. Once you go through a few courses learning space, balance color etc. you are given more freedom for self-expression. You learn to create, not copy.
Iemoto Akihiro Kasuya passed away January 31, 2019 and his son, Naohiro, is now the 4th Iemoto of the Ichiyo School of Ikebana, headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.
I give lessons in our home every Tuesday; 10:00 AM and 7:00 PM. You must be able to do stairs as we meet in our basement. I teach all levels at the same time. This way we all learn from each other. The curriculum has course booklets for the first 6 courses plus handouts. I like to think by the 4th Course you are creating your own “style”. There are no instruction books past that course as you are applying what you have learned though new concepts and techniques.
The first lesson is always free to see if you mind entering our basement and enjoy the structure and people. It is a casual social and educational environment. Students notify me several days before class if they will be attending so I can have materials available. I have containers, tools and floral materials. The cost for the first 3 Courses (20 lessons/course) is $15/lesson. Starting Course 4 it raises to $20/lesson. You get to keep your floral material so you can recreate at home.
No matter how good one may be in the art of ikebana, if one does not have a teacher whom one has given permission to critique one's work, there is always the risk of one's arrangements being uninspiring, and lacking in creativity and sophistication. Teachers always have the benefit of seeing our arrangements from a different perspective and from more years of experience. Lucky for me, I have two teachers. My first teacher--Gail--used to give me lessons throughout the year in Rochester, NY. But, with her now living in Florida for 6 months out of the year, I have to take lessons from her teacher (Karen) who lives year around in the Rochester area also. Both have their own styles of expressing ikebana. But this being so, their arrangements still show the characteristics of being Ichiyo School of Ikebana arrangement. Unfortunately, neither of them offer lessons in the Buffalo area, but with me being far enough along in my studies with them, it is possible for me to teach ikebana in the Ichiyo School of Ikebana style here is Buffalo. One of Gail's arrangements is above and shows a greater degree of sophistication and depth than mine. But, the great thing about continuing to take ikebana lessons, is that the kinds of arrangements that one loves that our teachers make, are the ones that inspire us to make just as awesome arrangements too as we gain experience. Both of the arrangements I've included in this post are from my initial teacher--Gail. These are fall arrangements which offer their own end of year beauty. In the picture below, one sees the use of frames which is characteristic of the Ichiyo School of Ikebana style.
If one is interested in learning the art of ikebana, how does one go about taking lessons? Well, the first step is finding a school of ikebana that one prefers. And how does one do that? Well, there is an excellent resource to learn about various schools by visiting the Ikebana International Rochester Chapter website: ikebanarochester.org This organization has five schools of ikebana represented and examples of each schools style is shown on their "Schools" page. Once one has a particular attraction to a school or a couple of schools, one needs to find out how to take lessons from that school. On the "Teachers" page of this same website, is a listing of teachers and how to get a hold of them. Most of them are in the Rochester, NY area. But, the Chico and the Ichiyo Schools of ikebana have teachers in the Buffalo, NY area also. There is one Chico School teacher and one Ichiyo School teacher (me). At this point, the interested person just needs to contact a teacher and find out the particulars on getting a lesson. Every teacher has their own style. Some may give a few lessons with minimal commitment but if one is interested in taking up this art on a long-term basis, then usually more is expected of the student. In the Ichiyo School of Ikebana, lesson books and some supplies are the first things that the student will need to purchase. If one is going to learn this art well, lessons need to be taken on a regular basis and making arrangements at home in addition to taking lessons is needed. Eventually, the student gains confidence and then participating in exhibitions is requested. Lessons can cost about $10/lesson. And one pays a bit more for floral material that they get to take home with them.
Can one take lessons from more than one teacher? Yes, this is possible. But generally, it is usually best to take from only one. Taking from more than one teacher--particularly if they are from different schools is generally not recommended as each school has its own style and it is easy to mix the styles up. Teachers in each school expect the student to make arrangements which are consistent with that schools style. And this is difficult to do if one is being taught to make arrangements in another school at the same time. This being said, even if one only takes lessons from one teacher in one particular school, we all learn from and are inspired by the other schools arrangements, and their students who make them. Some times there is no other way to take lessons year around except from different teachers--particularly if a teacher lives in New York during the warmer months and in a warmer state during the winter.
Finding an authentic ikebana teacher can be difficult. Over the years, I've talked to people who state that they are ikebana enthusiasts and are happy to teach others, but their ikebana is a self-styled ikebana and not one that is a continuation of a teaching and practice tradition of many, many years. They basically do what they want and there is no critique of their work. This is unfortunate because a self-styled ikebana practice has a tendency to be stagnant and can lack depth and creativity. Also, people looking to learn the art of ikebana would not know what to look for in finding an authentic teacher who has a depth in their practice of ikebana that truly expresses the essence of this art form.
When I come across someone who states that they do ikebana, the first thing I ask is with what school of ikebana are they taking lessons? Ikebana is a lifelong practice. One is always growing in this art form. And a teacher of depth is also continuing to learn. The next thing I'll ask is how many years have they been taking lessons. Knowing who their teacher is and being able to see their arrangements is also important. They may be an accomplished teacher, but that does not mean that one will like their style of ikebana. Another question is are they attending any ikebana groups and doing demonstrations or how many they are teaching or how long they have been teaching. It is important to keep one's skills up and only doing ikebana once or twice a year, and not participating in exhibitions can result in a stale practice of this art.
Most importantly, the one thing to ask, if one is serious in taking lessons from this person, is to see their school's certificate to see if they have been authorized to teach. If they don't have such a certificate, I would look for someone who does.
Before one takes up the art of ikebana, it would also be wise to get a realistic sense of how much time one can spend on it. A life full of many other activities which may interfere with a regular practice of this art, may make it difficult to progress.