ISSUE 8  |  Wabi-Sabi Week

Foraged Ikebana Floral Arrangements

February 24, 2012 11:00 AM

BY Sarah Lonsdale

SF-based renaissance woman Louesa Roebuck is all about "breaking the rules of floral arranging," as she says. "I find imperfection so much more interesting and beautiful."

On an unseasonably springlike day earlier this week, I met up with Roebuck on a Telegraph Hill rooftop, overlooking the bay, for an impromptu ikebana floral arranging lesson. Roebuck brought along armloads of foraged flora from her Oakland neighborhood—buckeye branches and buckets of magnolia blossoms.

"I got into foraging when I moved from Ohio to Oakland and landed a job at Chez Panisse," she says. "The idea of the menu constantly changing and being hyper-seasonal, that whole philosophy really appealed to me. I started gleaning with my friends and I realized there is so much fruit and bounty out here in California." Roebuck, who studied painting and printmaking at RISD, worked at Erica Tanov and owned her own shop, August, before going full time into foraged flower arranging; to see more of her work, go to Louesa Roebuck.

Want more? Watch Roebuck talk flowers, foraging, and ikebana on my iPhone video.

Photography by Jay Carroll of One Trip Pass.

Above: Roebuck's approach to flower arranging? "I am all about breaking the rules. So much floral work is tight, bunched up, and formal. I find imperfection so much more interesting and beautiful. I like creative paradoxes such as the juxtaposition of pristine and decay."

Above: The buckeyes are from a tree that grows in the yard of an abandoned house in Berkeley. "The tree is like a friend now, and the branches are just starting to bud out and be that brilliant Japanese-y green. I also love the big floppy magnolias, I spotted them in a garden and I just knocked on the door and asked if I could take them. I am always making mental maps of flora, noting where things are blooming or where branches have a specific line and form, when plum trees are in bloom and when fennel is tall and yellow. There's always something blooming in California."

Above: A small display in a vase by Berkeley potter Jared Nelson.

Above: The flowers are arranged in an Indian pot once used for indigo, set on a piece of fabric from Kapital, both from the collection of Jay Carroll. "I am part Cherokee," Roebuck says, "and my dad taught me about a certain way of looking and observing nature. I learned to let go of any feeling of control."