工欲善其事,必先利其器 – sharp tools to make quality craft

“工欲善其事,必先利其器” is a Chinese idoiom from the Analects of Confucius. Its direct translation can be
‘To make quality craft, first start with sharp tools “.
I was told since very little that this is the bases for all art. To play music, start with an instrument that is in tune. To write good calligraphy, start with brushes that are well conditioned. While the skills of the craftsman play a big part, the tools chosen are essential for success as well.

The same principle applies to ikebana. You need the right tools (and sharp ones literally) to make arrangements. During the past years in training, numerous times I felt lost regarding the use and the maintenance of these tools. Here in Australia, many new ikebana students are overwhelmed by these unfamiliar objects which otherwise are pretty common things in Japan. I found that there is a lack of English sources about them. And this is my motivation to write a series of articles about ikebana tools. I have not made In-depth research nor with profound knowledge of them, but these articles are merely my own experiences. I hope they will help anyone new to the art to gain some quick understanding on the tools we use.

Let me kick start the series with something “sharp” – the ikebana shears – はさみ、鋏み. The kind of shears that most people use for ikebana are quite “iconic”; very different from the western garden shears in form and operation. Many are still hand forged in a similar way to how samurai swords are made. We will discuss more about these “samurai swords” that fit in a palm next time.

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