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Soul Searching Floral Stories

emc alumni emc team floral education inspiration Apr 22, 2021

Ikebana inspiration

featuring Sherene S. Tan, AIFD EMC and Keith Stanley, EMC

The featured designers are members of the EMC Core Team as Coaches, experienced florists and wonderful people that share a common passion for one of the most ancient schools of floral design in the world, Ikebana.

There is a certain kind of magical calmness that surrounds the designs of both Keith Stanley and Sherene S. Tan, as their signature style designs always showcase a beautiful blend of styles, a unique approach to design and the love for that constant personal and creative growth. There is no greater value in floral design than communicating emotions through creativity and there is no doubt that that the floral works of Sherene and Keith speak of their inner soul and beauty, with authenticity and sincerity. 

 Where it all began?

"I had been working as a retail florist for a very long time and once I had seen a demonstration on ikebana at the National Arboretum, which left a big impression on me because it was so different from everything I have done before.

I did not think too much about it and as I got out of retail went to the event business, though it was a change, it did not feel as a big enough change in my creative work. In the events work, there is a step up and I was doing some things that were different from retail, yet those things haven't really changed much in 20 years. It's still kind of the same designs done over and over again.

The whole time I was looking for something more, design that had more lines, more space and ultimately more interest to it. I needed something that had a little more of me in it, a little more emotion.

That strong impression I had experienced years before determined me to find a teacher and start studying Ikebana. So I took a class at the Smithsonian Associates and the sensei I took my class with became my teacher and starting in 2004 I truly began regularly studying Ikebana and haven’t stopped since." Keith Stanley, EMC


"I started my flower business more than twenty years ago just because I was pushed by my friends after doing their weddings. They were so impressed with the outcome that it led to them constantly encouraging me and pushing me to explore this creative side of myself. I kind of took on their wedding flower projects not knowing anything about floral design.I remember going to the library and studying books of wedding flowers, looking for information that would help me to put together everything. It was then that I discovered there are so many things that are involved in this work… for my first bouquet I used a holder, which was such a surprise for me, as I had never seen one before, but also had never imagined such things exist. As most people starting to work with flowers, I was a bit underestimating how complex and amazing floral design can be. 

Things worked out for me in that time as my friends encouraged be to start a business, they joined in to help. Funny enough, through one of my first clients I had contact with a whole-seller and realised the amazing range of flowers and floral supplies one can procure. So I would say, with all the love I have now for my job, in the beginning I was more forced by friends and circumstances to become a creative, a florist. And as the love for this job grew and my friends did not have time to help anymore, I started building my own business and decided I need to invest in myself, in my education, to grow and become better.Going towards Ikebana happened also through a friend, Kyoko Peterson. She had earned her teacher status which allowed her to conduct Ikenobo classes. I started studying with Sensei Kyoko more than ten years ago, which had broadened my perspective and enriched my experience in this lifelong floral experience." Sherene S. Tan, AIFD, EMC

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. The tradition dates back to Heian period, when floral offerings were made at altars. Later, flower arrangements were instead used to adorn the 'tokonoma' of a traditional Japanese home. Ikebana reached its first zenith in the 16th century under the influence of Buddhist tea masters and has grown over the centuries, with over 1000 distinct schools extant today.

Ikebana is counted as one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement, along with kōdō for incense appreciation and chadō for tea and the tea ceremony.

Diversity of styles

“My first encounter with Ikebana was with the original school, Ikenobo. A very disciplined style, as it follows the strict rules of arranging flowers for the temples of Buddha so it allows no room for freestyle, but that does not make it in any way less creative. 
The beauty of Ikebana is that it offers the same principles and there is this beautiful flow of words that define all branches of Ikebana (more than a thousand schools), which mean the same thing, in essence: heaven – man – earth.
Ikenobo, the school I initially chose, came so beautifully in my life after doing so many events on the American “no rule” style for years. My cultural heritage and in some respect my personality as well needed that absolute discipline of Ikenobo, that meditative procedure of truly becoming aware of each gesture, of each botanical you use and of taking the design to where it truly speaks of emotions.” 
Sherene S. Tan, AIFD, EMC

“After I studied Sogetsu for at least 10 years I went to study one of the traditional schools, as I wanted to see what that experience was like to have that classical school and I enjoyed but there was so much focus on a lot of rules and for me that was the biggest challenge and difficulty as the time spent in making one arrangement was so long.

But as any educational experience, learning all those strict rules has helped me gain so much appreciation for the freestyle ikebana, not only in terms of time, but also in terms of how I approach that design freedom.” Keith Stanley, EMC

EMC is an international program that promotes the need for uniqueness, the quest for a signature design being a process we focus on the most. We are proud to have Keith and Sherene as teachers in our team and celebrate their particular approach to design. Their works are full of emotion and showcase a conscious use of different elements from their wide range of  floral design experience. They are an infinite source of inspiration for students and designers and their connection to ikebana adds a beautiful touch to the design they present and are represented by.

Moreover, the constant desire to learn and improve is one attribute both designers acknowledged to have taken out of their Ikebana experience, among many other things. Approaching design as a mean to always set back in the role of a student, opening their minds and absorbing information and knowledge, mixing styles yet remembering the rules, makes them two wonderful teachers whose contribution to floral education today is highly important. 

by Diana Toma, EMC

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