The Japanese art of flower arranging: Head & Hands meets Cherry Tree Way
As we leave the roaring heat of summer behind us and embrace the beautiful autumnal foliage, I had a chat with Ikebana florist Nikki Rodgers of Cherry Tree Way about what it means to live seasonally and how she got into mindful flower arranging.
Tell me about your background and how you came to create Cherry Tree Way
I studied art and styling at university, but fell into an office job where I felt I slowly lost my creative side. About three years ago I started to explore this part of me again. I experimented with different mediums and attended lots of workshops, but when I moved into a flat with a garden I realised how much I missed being in nature. I grew up in Blackburn, Lancashire, and was always around nature, so it was great to discover that part of myself again.
I initially focussed on studying the western style of flower arranging and started out by delivering bunches of flowers locally. Whilst it felt creative at first, producing lots of the same bunches was less exciting than I’d first thought – that’s when I started to look for a different direction.
Is this where the ikebana influence came in and how would you describe Ikebana?
To put it simply Ikebana is the Japanese art of arranging flowers. Each piece of material is considered carefully. Rather than stripping down the small unique parts of a branch, which you would usually do to create a bunch of flowers, you highlight these by snipping around the branch to highlight its best features and placing it in the vase as you would see it in nature.
It sounds like a relaxing activity for the person arranging the flowers. But why might someone choose to display an Ikebana arrangement over a typical bunch of flowers?
Here we consider only four seasons, whereas in Japan they break it down into 72 subtle seasons. Traditionally, a platform displaying flowers would be in the living room and updated every one-two weeks. They are changed regularly to represent the new season. This allows you to follow the transition of the flowers and the seasons, and helps you to become more aligned with nature, by bringing it indoors.
Witnessing the subtle changes in seasons can help you to live slow and be comfortable with the speed that your life is going. You can actually begin to enjoy it and value it much more.
How did you discover the art of Ikebana?
I first came across Ikebana through artist Camille Henrot, who had used it to influence his fine art work. I’ve always been intrigued by it, so about a year ago, I found a teacher in Hampstead, and would go to see her to learn the traditions and principles. This different way of arranging flowers was really inspiring because it had this meditation aspect that I hadn’t known about before. It’s a mindful practice, helping us to look closely at nature and notice what we would otherwise easily overlook in our busy lives.
Have you always worked closely with nature in your creative practise?
I haven’t always lived my life this way, I came across this way of being because of my own experience of living a fast-paced lifestyle and having experienced burn out quite young. I started looking into ways to help myself cope with stress and anxiety. I applied new things to my life to make me feel calmer. Being around nature made this so much easier for me, and it’s been a natural progression to use nature in my creative work and to teach my experiences in my classes too.
Do you have any rituals that help you to deal with them stresses in your life?
I try to meditate most days. My mind has always moved at a million miles an hour and meditation helps me to see through my thoughts, giving my mind more clarity and stability. I also started journaling about two years ago, which has helped me to see where I need to go next. It’s great for my productivity levels.
So, would you say your work is about encouraging people to live seasonally?
Yes, the seasons are constantly moving forward, always changing, and so are we.
Where do source your flowers from?
From local flower markets and British suppliers. There is a real movement for British flower growing at the moment, which is great as those grown locally are seasonal and often quirkier. Having grown naturally they have more interest, which suits the Ikebana aesthetic perfectly. Often, I will add in things from my garden or blown from the trees too.
Which is your favourite season?
I value all the seasons for what they offer, but Autumn is my favourite. I love the concept of letting go and Autumn highlights that so well. When the trees are dropping their leaves, they do this so beautifully and with such ease. I love when everything begins to turn bronze. The recent stormy weather has dropped lots of interesting things from the trees, I’ve been collecting leaves and branches to take home. Autumn is such a bountiful season, I love it.
So many of us live fast-paced, busy lives and with a perception that we don’t have time to slow down - was that your experience?
We’re not supposed to be in a constant state of stress, but our culture makes us think that we should. It’s ok to sit down and do nothing. When I was stressed and feeling lost, someone once said to me that I just needed to sit down and not do anything for five minutes – the concept was so strange, but it was really helpful and was the first step to moving towards a slower life. We could all do with listening to our bodies a little more. More people are aware of the concept of slow living and are looking for something to help them escape the stress they experience, that’s something I try to share in my workshops.
Yes, in October you’re running a workshop with Head & Hands, what can people expect from that?
We’ll be making autumnal wreaths, with a beautiful selection of foliage and flowers to choose from. I’ll be guiding you on how to make it using Ikebana principles; considering each branch and making it about your creative process and your own individual style. We’ll be discussing seasonal living – we’ll be on the cusp of winter, so we’ll talk about how we can align ourselves with the winter months.
Where can people find out more about what you do?
You can find out about my offerings on my website and sign up to my newsletter for seasonal living tips. I’m building more workshops at the moment and making sure I have a strong offering each season. I have also been thinking about running seasonal courses in the future, similar to my workshops, but working across a couple of seasons, combining floral practice with an in-depth teaching of living seasonally.
And as we embrace Autumn, what’s your top tip for this season?