Masao Mizukami - senior adviser at Masao Flower Design - sees flower arranging as similar to painting and sculpting, and he teaches the skill with an environmental twist
I am from Tokyo, Japan. I came to Hong Kong in 1999. A year later I started my floristry school teaching flower arranging. I have been in the floral business since 1980 in Japan, but I was a painter before that. I studied oil painting at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and furthered my study at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the same discipline .
Flower arranging is very similar to painting. It's all about imagination and creativity. The techniques of flower arranging are also pretty much the same as sculptural work in terms of the fine details. How I shape the flowers along with the background materials and turn them into a work of art requires good vision and aesthetic standards, much in the way a nice sculpture is made.
I teach five classes plus one workshop a week. My students are here to learn ikebana [the Japanese art of flower arranging], free-style lessons and the technique of putting recycled materials to good use through the art of flower arranging.
Before I begin my teaching for the day, I go to the flower market every morning in Mong Kok to check out the fresh local and imported flowers and pick out a few for the lessons, if they are suitable.
My classes usually start in the afternoon but they can be flexible to suit the timetable of the students. I always prepare my agenda before each class and write it all on the board in as much detail as possible so that my students will not miss out on much, as sometimes my broken English is a little difficult to understand.
After a few classes, the students are asked to create a piece of work themselves, and I would critique them individually from a professional and artistic point of view. I find that having an interactive learning mode is far more effective than being an observer.
As a florist artist, I always advocate environmental protection, and how crucial it is to the way we practice our profession. If we do not regard nature with respect and gratitude, we will soon have to face many disastrous consequences.
Most of us see a used plastic bag as rubbish and throw it away, or step over a fallen branch or leaf without noticing it, but not me. I see these things with potential for artistic possibilities which can help add value to the work of flower arranging.
My students are often fascinated by the way I use recyclable materials and how I eventually turn the end product into an artistic pot of flowers which costs very little and, at the same time, conveys the message of keeping the environment clean.
I remember in one lesson I used transparent plastic bags as a vase. After filling water into the bags, I stuffed many fallen leaves which I had picked up in a park all around them and finished the arrangement off with the main flower put in the centre of the bags.
That's what I mean by making the best use of unwanted materials to create a piece of work. My students were very pleased with the result.
I get fresh ideas when I travel and visit museums and exhibitions. Through exhibitions I can exchange ideas with my peers and learn from them.