Caring For Your Ikebana Clippers

Added on by the ikebana shop.

For the serious ikebana practitioner, a pair of trusty ikebana clippers is an indispensable tool.  The clippers are an extension of one's hands.  And so, we must treat them like our hands.  If our hands are dirty, we wash them. If our hands are wet, we dry them.  So must we with our ikebana clippers!

Keep the clippers clean.
Stains from plants, sap from branches, etc... they will stick to your clippers. Accumulated dirt and stains will also hamper the functionality of your clippers.  

Clean your clippers after each use. We're not saying that we should emulate the consummate sushi chef who wipes his beloved knife after each slice of fish; but after finishing your arrangement, cleaning the clippers must be automatic.  (So is cleaning up your work area, wiping down the table, disposing of unwanted twigs and leaves, etc for that matter!)

Besides, clippers look prettier when clean!

Keep The Clippers Dry
Most ikebana clippers are made with high carbon steel.  They are tough and could cut thick branches.  But, they are also prone to rust.

After use, you can run some water over your clippers to wash them.  The important thing is to dry them afterwards.  Use a dry towel to wipe off water.  Do not immediately stow them in their case.  Make sure they are completely free of moisture before putting them away. 

If you are not planning to use your clippers in a while, put a sheen of oil over the blades.  Cover every bit of the blades and make sure to put a few drops on the joint and rivets too.  



A very short primer on rusting: water+oxygen on steel = rust! Water is the catalyst for the oxidation process that produces "hydrated iron oxide"...a.k.a. rust!  Oil and water do not mix. A protective coating of oil stops water from seeping through to the steel. It also protects your blades from the moisture found in the air.


You wouldn't this to happen to your clippers!

Don't Forget The Small Towel
When practicing ikebana, always have a small towel for your clippers on the table.  The obvious reason is so that you can wipe the blades clean any time you need to do so.  It also comes in handy to clean up water splashes.  But, there is another equally important reason to have the small towel around.  Every time you need to put your clippers down, place them gently on the towel...never directly on the table.

The towel muffles the sound when the clippers hit the table.  Imagine a roomful of ikebana students, all producing loud clattering noises as they put their clippers down.  It is very distracting and disruptive to the serenity of the class.  Using a towel to soften the noise is a sign of respect towards your teacher and fellow students.  As well, it protects the table from nicks and scratches!

Don't Wiggle!
Did you notice that ikebana clippers have a joint that is a bit looser than those of a pair of scissors or even floral clippers?  Ikebana clippers also do not have an embedded spring grip that limit how wide you can open it. This is because they are made to cut not only flower stems but also thicker branches.  Ikebana clippers are tough and strong.  However, there are limits and if the branch is too thick, then better use a bigger tool like a handsaw to cut it.  Do not twist the clippers left and right in an effort to sever the branch.  This action, done often enough, would loosen the joint too much and damage your clippers.  

Also, avoid using the clippers to cut other things other than plant material.  Unless your clippers have a wire-cutting notch, snipping floral wires is not recommended.

Let The Pros Do It
As with any blade, ikebana clippers will lose their edge in due course. Ikebana clippers have an asymmetrical bevel.  Burr may have to be removed on the other side but actual sharpening should be done only on one side.  Incorrect sharpening will change the original grind and will affect the functionality of your clippers.  If you are not sure how to do it, then just let a professional blade sharpener do it.  And if you need to find one in Halifax, click here!

Cover Up!
We all know that serious ikebana practitioners always have their clippers handy.  A simple clipper cover is convenient and easy to use. It will protect you from injury and your bag's contents from damage.


A good pair of ikebana clippers will last a long time.  Through years of constant use, they will lose their lustre in parts. They might even gain a few hard-to-remove stains.  That means those clippers are slowly getting their unique character and soon they will become like an old friend and trusty companion.  So let's make sure we show our clippers tender and loving care!

My Ikebana: Overflow

Added on by the ikebana shop.

One of the themes in the new Sogetsu textbook #5 is "Composition expressing a movement."   From a list of "action" words, we have to choose one and express it in our ikebana.  For this arrangement, I chose to focus on the word "overflow".

in a top-heavy container, gypsophilia were arranged to look like they were bursting out and forming a mass at the container's opening.  The red dogwood and myrtle branches seem to be carried to somewhere far away by the flow.

Here is the whole arrangement.

I hope you like it.  --Miyako

"Sō" Magazine April 2017

Added on by the ikebana shop.

The ikebana display created by Miyako for Easter Liturgy at the Sacred Heart School of Halifax last year (2016) was featured in the April, 2017 edition of "Sō" (「草」) magazine, the official publication of the Sogetsu Teachers' Association.

My Ikebana: Just Tulips

Added on by the ikebana shop.

Spring is in the air in Halifax.  Tulips should be blooming soon!

Tulips growing tall and straight are wonderful signs of strength and fortitude.  

But wouldn't it be interesting for tulips to show some curves too?  I bent some stems in this bunch of tulips to show a sense of motion and portrayed them to be in a light-hearted dance.

Here is the whole arrangement.  

I hope you like it.  --Miyako

Gyoza Cooking Workshop Photos

Added on by the ikebana shop.

Thank you to everyone who came to our Gyoza Cooking Workshop last Sunday, Apr 9th.  We hope you enjoyed!  ...and we hope you will now be able to make your own gyoza at home! :-)

Special thanks to Patti V. for sharing her photos with us!

(Image courtesy of Patti V.)

Hands-on with the gyoza wrapping!

Before cooking. (Image courtesy of Patti V.)

After cooking. (Image courtesy of Patti V.)

My Ikebana: Magnolia Branch Only

Added on by the ikebana shop.

The challenge was to create an arrangement using only magnolia branches. This style is called "isshu-ike" (一種生け), "arrangement with only one kind of material".

The leathery leaves have different colours on either side--dark green on one side and orange-brown on the other.  This colour difference was used to show contrast.

After the framework had been determined, the leaves were arranged to form a somewhat checkered pattern (市松模様 ichimatsu moyoh).

Here is the whole arrangement. 

I hope you like it.  --Miyako

Japanese Home Cooking Workshop: Gyoza

Added on by the ikebana shop.

2nd Update 26-Mar-2017:
A second workshop will be held on the same day, Apr 9th (Sun), 2:00-3:30 p.m.
Please call or email if you are interested!

Update 26-Mar-2017:
Thank you very much for your great response! Currently, the 10:30-12:00 workshop is fully booked. If you are interested in this workshop, please let us know. If we get enough people, we may open another session later in the afternoon of the same day (tentatively 2:30-4:00 p.m.).

Gyoza (餃子)are Japanese style dumplings.  Dumplings, of course, have existed in many shapes and cooking styles across Asia.  We hope to introduce you to a typical Japanese way to prepare gyoza.

In the same way that French fries are a sidekick of the fast-food burger here in North America, gyoza normally accompany ramen in Japan. (But we won't be making ramen in this workshop!)  Keep that in mind when planning your next ramen party! :-)

Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

Workshop Details:

In this workshop, you will learn to prepare the stuffing, wrap and cook the gyoza in the Japanese style.  Be ready to get your hands a little messy!  Of course, you will eat what you make too!  At the end, Ice cream and tea will follow.

Date: Apr 9th, 2017 (Sunday)
Time: 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 noon.
Venue: the ikebana shop, 6417 Quinpool Rd., Halifax NS

Cost: $15.00 plus HST (total 17.25) per person.  All materials included.

Max 6 persons.  
Advanced booking and payment required. First come, first served!

We will accept bookings by email or over the phone (902-407-0487) but the reservation will be confirmed after payment is made. Payment can be made in person at the shop, over the phone with your credit card, or online via Paypal (let us know and we'll send you an invoice.) 

Our cancellation policy:
Cancel by Apr 6th (Thursday): 50% refund
Cancel after Apr 6th: No refund

Please inform us of any allergies when you sign up.
Note: The gyoza wrappers are not gluten-free.  The gyoza stuffing contains pork.

Hope you can join us!

"Sō" Magazine Feb 2017

Added on by the ikebana shop.

The ikebana display created by Miyako for the 2016 Atlantic Canada Japanese Language Speech Contest held at St. Mary's University was featured in the February, 2017 edition of "Sō" (「草」) magazine, the official publication of the Sogetsu Teachers' Association.

Japanese Home Cooking Workshop: Vegan Teishoku

Added on by the ikebana shop.

2nd Update 3-Feb-2017:

The 2nd session at 4:30-6:00 p.m. is also going to happen and it is now fully booked as well.  Thank you all!

Update: 3-Feb-2017:

Thank you very much for your great response! Currently, the 10:30-12:00 workshop is fully booked. If you are interested in this workshop, please let us know. If we get enough people, we may open another session later in the afternoon of the same day (tentatively 4:30-6:00 p.m.).

A teishoku (定食)is a set meal.  Typically, it will consist of rice, soup, a main dish and some side dishes.  We are offering a workshop on how to make a typical Japanese meal.  We thought we'd make it more interesting by creating a vegan meal of common Japanese food.  All ingredients are readily found in Halifax!

In the workshop, we will show you how to prepare the food.  Participants will be asked to help in some of the tasks.  Then we all share the meal together.  

Workshop Details:

Date: Feb 19th, 2017 (Sunday)
Time: 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 noon.
Venue: the ikebana shop, 6417 Quinpool Rd., Halifax NS

Cost: $19.50 (plus HST) per person.  All materials included.

Max 5 persons.  Advanced booking required. First come, first served!
Register by phone (902-407-0487) or email.

We are making....

Kenchin-jiru けんちん汁, Miso-based soup with many yummy stuff inside!

Hourenso no goma-ae ほうれん草の胡麻和え. Spinach with sesame seed.

Tofu steak 豆腐ステーキ.

Nasu no yakimono 茄子の焼き物 Grilled eggplant.

Nasu no yakimono 茄子の焼き物 Grilled eggplant.

Served with rice, of course! 
At the end, we'll throw in some soy-based ice cream with matcha for dessert!


Why Get An Ikebana Certificate?

Added on by the ikebana shop.

Most major schools of ikebana (Sogetsu, Ohara, Ikenobo, etc.) will have a certification programme in order to rank their practitioners according to skill and maturity.  

From here on, we will talk about the Sogetsu School because that is where we belong.  

Getting a certificate is not mandatory.  You can still continue with your ikebana studies without them.  So you might be wondering: Is it worth getting a certificate?  

1. Becoming A Teacher
If you plan on becoming an ikebana teacher some time in the future, then you definitely need to get certification...all the way up to getting your Teacher's Diploma 4th grade, which is the minimum rank required in order to teach. Certificates are issued only out of the Sogetsu Headquarters in Tokyo.  When you get your certificate, that means that you are duly registered with Sogetsu Headquarters and they can keep track of your progress.  When the time comes for you to become a teacher, the headquarters will be able to accredit you based on your officially attained levels.

2. Recognition By Others
The teaching curriculum of the Sogetsu School is centralized and governed by the Sogetsu Headquarters in Tokyo.  All Sogetsu teachers use the same textbooks.  In this way, standards are upheld and the skill-set for each rank, whether attained in Tokyo, Toronto or Rome, is kept uniform.  Any Sogetsu teacher will understand what you have been through just by simply knowing your rank.  

This can be especially useful if you have to move and change teachers.  Say you received your First Certificate in Sogetsu (like the one pictured above) here in Halifax.  Then you move to Vancouver but still want to continue your studies. When you find your new Sogetsu teacher and show her the certificate, she will more or less know your skill level. She may ask who your previous teacher was and maybe contact her in order to better understand your training. She may also ask you to create a few test arrangements appropriate to your level.  BUT, you will not have to start from scratch and most probably will simply continue from where you have left off with your previous teacher.

If you want to work as a florist or floral designer and would like your prospective employer to know that you know ikebana, then the certificate would definitely help!  In Japan, people in the floral industry will certainly appreciate the kind of sweat and tears needed to get such certificates!  Outside of Japan, we cannot really say... But compared to the person who claims to know ikebana just because he attended a few workshops, you will surely have better credibility with an official certificate!

3. A Sense of Achievement And Belonging
A certificate tells you that your school recognizes your accomplishment. It also puts you in the company of all the other persons around the world who have gone through the same training.  Even if you do not intend to use the certificate in a practical way, the sense of achievement and belonging it brings could be worth it!

Other points to keep in mind (for Sogetsu School)....

  • Only your teacher can apply for your certification.  You cannot apply for certification by yourself.  Your teacher will decide if you are ready to move up to the next level.
  • Your teacher must be a duly registered member of the Sogetsu Teachers Association (STA) in a teaching capacity.  Every member of the STA will have this ID (see picture above) that displays the member no., name, gagoh and rank. It will also indicate if the member is "teaching" (or "non-teaching"). Membership must be renewed every year.
  • There is an application fee for certification. This fee is decided by Sogetsu Headquarters and not by your teacher.  Your teacher does not get a "commission" from this fee. It is paid to Sogetsu Headquarters in full.  The cost of certification varies according to rank.

One last thought...

Just like learning music, painting, karate or any other art, the practice of ikebana is a life-long process. There is always something new to learn and discover.  The certificates are there to provide milestones in the journey. They may also provide encouragement to strive to become better.  The certificate, in itself, should not be the final objective in the study of ikebana.

We wish you the best in your ikebana studies.  Gambatte kudasai!