Banaboxer Spotlight: Amber from St. Paul

Banaboxer Spotlight: Amber from St. Paul

May 01, 2019

april arrangement from amber

Amber's April arrangement

In our banaboxer spotlight each month, we catch up with a member of the community to discuss all things ikebana. This month, we spoke with Amber, an atelier-trained painter who was initially drawn to ikebana to learn new ways of thinking about composition in her artwork, and then found joy in arranging the flowers themselves! You can see her 2-dimensional work here and her flower arrangements here.

When were you introduced to ikebana?

For many years I have been going to the local ikebana flower shows, but Banabox is the first time I’ve made an ikebana arrangement myself. Since last fall I’ve been taking a couple floral and plant classes every month. Like Banabox, they are single arrangements, and have included modern florals, a Dutch arrangement, wearable flowers, and kokedama. I also started a bonsai.

What do you most enjoy about banabox?

The surprise of the materials and the design! They always stretch my idea of composition. I love that they come all together. I’ve read through books on flower arranging with frustration of not being able to find specific flowers. With Banabox everything is there, and the emphasis is on the logic of the arrangement. After making each project, I feel comfortable that I could re-do the arrangement with different but similar materials. As a painter, I have admired Japanese woodblock prints for years, and I feel that I understand the design principles more after each arrangement I work on.

If we visited your home, where would we find your finished arrangements?

There’s a little alcove in my dining room that the ikebana is a natural fit for. Between the extra ikebana materials and the classes I take, there are usually a few arrangements scattered around the house - on the dining room table, the coffee table, a little one in the kitchen, and sometimes one in my sunroom next to my painting easel.

chabana mini-arrangement

A mini "chabana" arrangement using extra materials from Amber's February box

Which month's arrangement has been your favorite so far?

I absolutely loved the March arrangement! The materials and design were stunning, and it was enchanting to see the arrangement change every day as the amaryllis and cherry blossoms opened. It had a lovely balance of spring optimism with a nod to the green and white I associate with St. Patrick’s day.

march arrangement

Amber's amaryllis and cherry blossoms, before and after the bloom

What has been your favorite individual item we've sent you so far?

Definitely the cherry blossom. I’ve never looked at tree branches or blossoms so closely before! When the arrangement had faded, I kept the branches because they had such interesting negative shapes.

What flower would you want to see in the future?

I’ve enjoyed learning how to work with the materials that are sent, but I would be delighted to see dahlias or ranunculus!

Help set the scene - when you are making your arrangement, is there music, wine, etc.?

I like to put all the flowers in a tall, wide “working” vase (as Erin uses in the videos) and let them sit several hours on the dining room table, to start to observe their shapes and construction as I go in and out of the room. I will watch the video a few times while waiting, and when the house is quiet, I will put it together slowly, pausing the video intermittently.

peony still life

An example of Amber's 2D work: a peony still life

Do you stick to the instructions or let your creativity guide you to an unexpected result?

I stick to the instructions to absorb the logic and proportions of the lesson. As pieces start to fade, then I will substitute materials from other projects, or change the composition of the arrangement.

Have you ever been to Japan? What was your favorite part?

I would like to visit Kyoto in two years to see gardens, ikebana, historic buildings and traditional homes, and study with a modern floral designer for a few days. I hope that the ikebana flower arrangements will help me appreciate what I see there. After reading books about Japanese gardens and tree pruning, I recently visited a serene Japanese garden in California (at the Huntington Library) and can’t wait to see these in Japan. Last month I started Beginning Japanese through community-ed so I can get the most out of the visit!

Ikebana is very tied into the seasonality of the materials. What is your favorite part of this time of year?

The trees buds are just starting to open and perennials are several inches out of the ground. With the return of the birds, and the new fresh scents in the air, I enjoy the relief that winter has finally retreated, and the suspended anticipation of the plants and blooms unfolding.

Has your ikebana experience provided any lessons you can apply to other parts of your life?

Absolutely. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • A lot can be gained by slowing down and reviewing a lesson or situation
  • Appreciate things in their in-between states
  • Make beautiful things just because you enjoy them.



Thanks so much to Amber for joining us for this month's banaboxer spotlight. We always love to hear from the banabox community, so don't hesitate to drop us a line or connect with us on social media (instagram, facebook).