The vase is a core part of any ikebana arrangement - don't think of it as just a container for your flowers, but rather as an integral element of your work! As you select your vase, view it from different angles and look closely at the texture of the vase. This will help you decide which side to emphasize when you create your arrangement. If you're ever in a creative rut, try changing up your vase. I find a differently shaped vase allows me to view my flowers with fresh eyes and activates my creativity!
Any type of vase can be used in an ikebana arrangement, however there are three factors to consider when choosing your vase: 1) size 2) shape 3) color.
1) The size of the vase dictates the size of your arrangement. In order to create a proportional arrangement, follow this easy rule: the shin, or tallest stem in an arrangement should range from 1 - 2x the height + width of the vase (e.g. for a vase that is 4'' x 12'', the shin should be between 16'' - 32''). Each subsequent stem is dependent on the height of the shin. As you become more experienced, feel free to break this rule and create arrangements of extreme sizes, large or small.
2) The shape of the vase also influences the style of the arrangement. The most common vases are suiban, nageire, and shoka.
Suiban means ‘ﬂower basin’ in Japanese, and is a low vase in which a kenzan can be placed.
Nageire style vases are tall and narrow, like a cylinder, and are not used with a kenzan.
Shoka vases are symmetrical and flared open at the top, and sometimes have a platform on which to place the kenzan.
Other vases include tsubo (seen above), or free-style. Take inspiration from the shape of your vase. If you have a tall vase, echo the shape of the vase by creating a vertical arrangement, or go for contrast by creating a horizontal arrangement. If you have a triangular vase, you can echo the triangular shape in your arrangement.
3) The color of the vase influences the color of the fresh materials used in the arrangement. Natural or neutral colored vases match all flowers, while bolder colored vases can complement or contrast with the materials. Glass vases can also be used, and have the effect of magnifying materials placed under water.
There's no correct order in which to select your materials or vase. Try selecting the vase first, and then your flowers to match. Or switch it up and select your flowers first, and then your vase to match.
Remember, selecting a vase is not a mindless step before making your arrangement. Take on the challenge of integrating your vase into your arrangement and you'll be rewarded with spectacular results!