Sherlene Seow and Fei Lai of Wabi Sabi

Ikebana, the Japanese art of using flowers and other flora to create stylised arrangements, has an extensive history in Japanese culture (it goes back to the sixth century). And while many differing schools of the art have sprouted, it comes laden with plenty of rules and traditions to abide by, as you might expect of a storied art (and of the culture that birthed it). Ikebana-esque arrangements are a key feature of the services offered at Wabi Sabi (@wabi.saabi), a local outfit started by auditor Fae Lai (above right) and marketing manager Sherlene Seow that styles and curates spaces and objects.

Wabi Sabi’s take on ikebana is entirely 2019 however; while practitioners typically undergo years of study, the duo, both 27, have no background in the art and are entirely self-taught. Though some might consider that a handicap, the absence of preconceived notions actually gives them fewer constraints and conceptualising an arrangement becomes more of a loose, take-it-as-it-comes process. A typical example of their work: Long elegant, twisty reeds, punctuated with a scene-stealing anthurium or spiky thistles. There’s a tempered woodiness akin to a delicate sprig (or that lone tomato plant that suddenly sprouted on a piling in New York’s East River recently) rather than a full-blown bramble.

Ma Lune by Wabi Sabi is comprised of dill, devil’s trumpet and green orchids. True to its spontaneous style, the slab of rock on the right was found by the roadside.

Perhaps the aesthetic doesn’t careen too far off the common perception of ikebana but Wabi Sabi’s organic approach does. The flowers they use depend on what’s available at the nursery. Arrangements, which have been displayed at modish tea space Antea Social and artisanal label Soma Folk’s pop-up in August, change from week to week depending on their mood. Additional material may be sourced at unlikely locales – the rock used in this arrangement was found by the roadside, while the concrete basin was repurposed from Seow’s home.“We find ourselves subconsciously inspired by different elements around us, daily commodities such as books, people, emotions and even life crises that we are facing… Our end product is usually a balance of happiness and sadness — very much like yin and yang,” says Lai. In other words, the only limit is the imagination. 

Still Life Photography Tan Wei Te Art Direction Adeline Eng
This story first appeared in the November 2019 issue of FEMALE.