Beyond blooms: is Ikebana restricted to flowers only?

Are you familiar with the Japanese art form of arranging flowers in a vase and wondering whether Ikebana is restricted to flowers only?

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There are many offshoots of this beautiful art form where the aesthetic principles are maintained, but non-flower elements are used instead, for example, in Ikebana with fruits and vegetables (Morimono).

Ikebana without flowers: a new way to approach the art form

A second example of Ikebana with unconventional elements is marine Ikebana and by the end of this blog post, you will know how I ended up creating this genre and how this type of Ikebana looks like.

Because while initially admiring Ikebana arrangements in books, on the web and in offline exhibitions, when it came time to actually practice it, I never felt comfortable in using living plant material or cut flowers for a variety of reasons.

So I ended up making Ikebana with non-living elements: in the beginning just with marine elements, mostly seashells, and then with poetry too.

Minimalism meets coastal when marine Ikebana makes use of seashells, but this sea life art form can also use other “fruits” of the sea, such as dried sea urchins, starfish, sea horses, corals and maybe even sea glass. All these marine elements can be beachcombed without killing any animal.

Yet too much beachcombing is not good for the environment or for one’s clutter-free home, so I started thinking of ways of limiting my marine collection (mostly made of seashells).

Subsequently, when designing marine Ikebana arrangements, I started with small arrangements of 3D physical marine bouquets emerging from seashell vases, which could either function as trinket containers or could be attached to regular containers. As a minimalist, I can’t stand clutter and decorative containers proved to be a solution to enjoy visual art while keeping things neat.

I could have left it at that, but during a walk I got this idea of replacing the branches and twigs with free verse poetry as curved text, while maintaining the same line shapes.

Following this unexpected idea, I started taking photos of my marine Ikebana arrangements, did lots of photo editing (mainly to remove the background and crop individual elements of the arrangements) and started jotting down ideas of beautiful words which could be turned into free verse poetry for this novel art form.

In keeping with the philosophy of Ikebana, I wanted the words to be both beautiful and for the poems to suggest the passage of time. Marine Ikebana may be made of inert, non-living material, but I still wanted to suggest, and not necessarily show, the typical awareness of the passage of time which I admired in classical Ikebana (and Japanese art in general) for so long. Which brings next to:

Creating a relaxing coastal oasis with marine Ikebana poems

If you wonder how Ikebana combined with marine elements and poetry looks like, this section is for you.

I have included 9 marine Ikebana poems which I applied to 3 types of objects:

  • posters
  • desk accessories such as photo blocks and paperweights

By clicking on any of the images below, you will be taken to the Zazzle marketplace where each design can be customized without you being logged in. If you like any of these visual poetry designs, you can easily change the background color, select a different shape and/or size (depending on the product) and you can also transfer the designs to any other product from the Zazzle marketplace. It’s a lot of fun!

And now the poem list begins.

Time Travel

The following desk accessory is an ornamental glass paperweight featuring a visual poem called “Time Travel” which reveals a sense of time travel when listening to music recorded decades ago by musicians who are not among us anymore.


This desk decor idea features a visual poem called “Cake” about the only temporary human organ: the placenta. Hint: placenta in Latin means flat cake and I liked the play on words, so I used this theme to write a poem about the biology of it.


Next comes a poetry poster featuring a minimalist and coastal visual poem called “Paranoia”. The poem is enclosed in a pyramid and talks about a recent historical event: the Covid 19 pandemic and its early stage when paranoia spread faster than the virus, there was a toilet paper shortage due to panic buying and humans left humanity at the door.

Hot Chocolate

Although a common comforting drink, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to hot cocoa and this marine Ikebana poem, called “Hot Chocolate”, depicts the inherent sad story of each ingredient used to make this drink.

Graveyard Shift

My medical background proved to be a fertile ground when it came to depict the passage of time through marine Ikebana poems. “Graveyard Shift” is one such example, revealing the life and death realities faced during night shifts when most people calmly sleep in their cozy beds.


Next comes a sophisticated glass paperweight featuring a visual poem called “Dust”. It is a free verse poem about star dust, both in a nebula when a star is formed and metaphorically speaking, in all living beings like you and me.

Dreams in Stone

The following octagonal desk ornament features a visual poem, called “Dreams in Stone”, about water slowly carving dreams in stones until they become sand and “swim back” to the seaside for a better life.

In Science We Trust

Minimalism meets coastal in this science poster featuring a visual poem called “In Science We Trust”. Shaped like the tree of life or its bonsai variant, the poem praises the many benefits of science, technology and inventions which are so common that we take for granted.


The last poem from this blog post on Ikebana without flowers is called “Confidence”. If you ever undertook a creative project, you know that in the beginning, nothing is certain and it takes a leap of faith to take an idea and run with it. Similarly, the poem talks about the creative process with its highs and lows and the full drama.

As you can see, Ikebana evolved beyond the traditional Japanese art of arranging flowers to include non-floral elements such as shells and free verse poetry.

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