After enduring a lengthy suburb lockdown and a snowstorm we finally made it to the Mondrian and De Stijl exhibition, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, Spain.
As a preliminary activity to this lesson, and prior to visiting the exhibition, I showed my daughters pictures of Mondrian’s paintings. We discussed the similarities between his paintings and the principles of Sogetsu ikebana: line, mass, and colour. We talked about his use of colour in creating an awareness of mass and space, the types of colours and shapes used, and Mondrian’s use of white, empty (negative) space.
In designing this lesson, I also incorporated the Sogetsu Curriculum lesson on “disassembling and rearranging material”, reusing dried and painted sunflower stems. To ensure that the paint would stick to the dry sunflower stems, I gently scraped the fine hairs off the outer layer of the stems. My daughters cut the dried stems in various lengths and painted them in a variety of primary colours.
Once the stems had dried, they threaded black, bendable aluminium wire through the hollow centres of the stems. Several stems were thread on different lengths of wire. Older children may be able to use wire cutters to cut the bendable wire, however, younger children may need help with this step.
While the stems were drying, my daughters chose a ‘vase’ for their arrangement. Items from the kitchen often make inexpensive ‘vases’ for ikebana for children. For this lesson, my daughters chose small, square, black kitchen bowls for their vases, with kenzans placed inside.
My daughters arranged the wire and painted stems on their kenzans. I reminded them that the black wire represented the black lines, and the negative space created by the angles were the white squares in Mondrian’s paintings.
They created angles and squares at different intervals with the wire and created depth by placing some of the wires to the front and some to the back. When placing the coloured stems and wire on their kenzans, they applied the principle of asymmetry and placed more on one side and less on the other.
Finally, a single gerbera flower was added for an extra ‘pop’ of colour. Gerberas are one of my favourite flowers for children’s classes as their soft stems are easily cut under water and they come in a variety of fun, bright colours.
The original version of this article was written for the Sogetsu Netherlands Branch and published in their magazine (2021).