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.
What's happening in Buffalo regarding ikebana?
Well, presently not much at this time due to COVID. Buffalo has two ikebana teachers--one in the Chiko School of Ikebana and one in the Ichiyo School of Ikebana (me). But, presently neither have active students. However, those interested in learning ikebana can notify me and more information can be shared about ikebana and about possible lessons.
Even in Rochester, NY where there are five schools represented through the Ikebana International Rochester Chapter 53, lessons are limited. Before COVID, the Ikebana International Rochester Chapter would have monthly morning monthly workshops and afternoon programs. But, with COVID, these monthly meetings have been put on hold. Nonetheless, there are still monthly events which happen through Zoom.
Also, the Buffalo Bonsai Society would have an annual show during the warmer weather at the Botanical Gardens and ikebana would also be displayed with demonstrations. But, of course this year, the annual show was cancelled. It is presently unclear if there will be a Buffalo Bonsai Society show in 2021.
Nonetheless, any interested person can get more information and some teaching online. In the "Links" section, one can access the above Ikebana International website. For any local information, contacting me through the contact form is all that is needed.