Ikebana Master: Karen Napoli, Rochester, NY

In the Rochester, NY, Ikebana International Chapter, we are very fortunate to have a very well trained and experienced ikebana master of the Ichiyo School of Ikebana–Ms. Karen Napoli.  She has trained in Japan and in the United States, and has spent years teaching the art of Ichiyo Ikebana to countless students.  She is the head of the Rochester branch of the Ichiyo School of Ikebana and has put on many demonstrations, workshops, and exhibitions in and outside the Rochester area.  In her own words, she shares with us her personal journey to learning this wonderful art.

The first time we moved to Japan I had no intentions of playing with flowers, let alone study a formal art. I was not a craft person, but I loved my gardens and nature. As life sometimes leads you down unexpected paths, I was invited to an Ikebana International Tokyo monthly meeting and had a wonderful experience. People suggested I take lessons and so I did. I did not enjoy the lessons at all, maybe because it was right after my language class that I struggled with. Anyway, after my first few lessons, I quit. Soon another friend invited me to come to her ikebana class to observe. After several refusals I said yes. It was a different school and different experience. The school was called Ichiyo. The general atmosphere was different and my teacher, Momoko-san, was gentle and kind. She showed me a different way to look at flowers. I have continued with the Ichiyo School from that day.

The Ichiyo family, certainly Akihiro’s immediate family, plus all the Ichiyo students, were so welcoming and kind. The school realigned me with peace and a calmer way of city life. When I walked through the city, parks, or mountains I looked at life differently.

The first 4-year stay in Japan I took Ichiyo lessons, but was not serious so I did not get any certificates.  We returned after 4 years State-side, for 6 more years. I became immersed again in Ikebana International and Ichiyo with a more serious, passionate approach to the art. At this point I was blessed to take lessons directly from the Ichiyo Headmaster. Once I became a teacher this level would meet once a month at Ichiyo HQ. I was the only foreigner so it reinforced the cultural side of the art and forced me to work harder.

I think besides the calm that all ikebana brings to self is that the Ichiyo School highlights the person and their individualism. Once you go through a few courses learning space, balance color etc. you are given more freedom for self-expression. You learn to create, not copy.

Iemoto Akihiro Kasuya passed away January 31, 2019 and his son, Naohiro, is now the 4th Iemoto of the Ichiyo School of Ikebana, headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.

I give lessons in our home every Tuesday; 10:00 AM and 7:00 PM. You must be able to do stairs as we meet in our basement. I teach all levels at the same time. This way we all learn from each other. The curriculum has course booklets for the first 6 courses plus handouts. I like to think by the 4th Course you are creating your own “style”. There are no instruction books past that course as you are applying what you have learned though new concepts and techniques.

The first lesson is always free to see if you mind entering our basement and enjoy the structure and people. It is a casual social and educational environment. Students notify me several days before class if they will be attending so I can have materials available. I have containers, tools and floral materials. The cost for the first 3 Courses (20 lessons/course) is $15/lesson. Starting Course 4 it raises to $20/lesson. You get to keep your floral material so you can recreate at home.

My facebook page is @ichiyoikebanaofrochester and my email is Ichiyo.k.bana@gmail.com