My Creative Workbook

Christine de Beer - effortless floral craftsman

Tradition and Technique, Technique and Tradition

"The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come. The professional is sly. He knows that by toiling beside the front door of technique, he leaves room for genius to enter by the back."
Steven Pressfield

Kyogi paper bird and fan nest basket with burgendy lilies

I rarely reach for a Floral Design book or Internet Search when I need to find inspiration for my work. But I often go back to tradition to find the new. I prefer Cutting Edge Designs using ancient, cultural and traditional techniques. My art is the result of trying to bring these two ends together.

Fan basket and bird woven from shaved wood

The word "tradition" is derived from the Latin tradere or traderer literally meaning to give for safe keeping. I love that.

If you look at traditional arts and crafts you will notice that it is their compliance to a certain look or technique or unbending design rules that makes them traditional in the first place. Think of painted Russian dolls or Bushmen rock paintings or a Hogarth’s Curve Floral Art Design. There is a great amount of skill in the creation of these enduring designs but not a huge scope for originality or creativity by the craftsman.

Weave pattern and random knots in strips of Kyogi paper

Contemporary Designers on the other hand are valued because they moved away from tradition to develop new techniques that are inventive and inimitable, often ignoring the traditional "rules" entirely.

But as Contemporary Designs evolved and became sophisticated as a design style on its own the need for an even greater understanding of the traditional principles and elements of design grew. Proportions, for example, become harder to calculate if you are working with an armature rather than a vase but it is still important as a design consideration. Ignoring the traditional has become unworkable.

Looking into the fan basket from above

Cutting Edge Designers now build on the enlightened foundation cast by Contemporary Designers by ignoring the constraints of tradition but still acquiring a greater technique skill set by revisiting tradition. This has become a vital part of creating new designs and relevant design philosophies in all art forms today.

Kyogi fan basket from the side

When you need inspiration for a design problem study a Traditional Craft- you will be amazed!

Weave strips of the fan basket through the bird body

Design Note: The bird is woven from traditional Japanese Kyogi paper using a Palm leaf art technique from South America. Dark and dramatic burgundy lilies are tucked in low to line a fan shaped basket that unravels into an unruly nest. Random knots in the weaved strips mimics the knots used to tie the birds beak and tail.

For another Kyogi paper design look at my Blown Away. Kyogi paper was historically used in Japan to wrap food – all natural, keeps the food from drying out, adds a subtle flavour and it can be composted to return to the crop-soil-cycle! It is pine (or cedar) wood that is shaved so thin it’s almost transparent. It can be wrapped, rolled, cut, stained, torn and easily glued.

Every week I add a new design with related tutorials. Be sure to subscribe to receive an email notification with design inspiration.


21 July 2011 Weaving a bird

I wove my bird from shaved wood but you can also use flax, coconut palm (more traditional) or paper or ribbon

8 June 2011 Foliage Weaving

For this tutorial I focus on a simple weave pattern that does not require you to soften or prepare the leaves to be more durable or flexible. This is the starting point in...

21 July 2011 Weaving a fan basket

Dark and dramatic burgundy lilies are tucked in low to line a fan shaped basket that unravels into an unruly nest

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Related Designs

12 July 2011 Blown Away

Kyogi Paper and Phalaenopsis Orchids Blown Away in the wind

15 June 2016 One tug

Weave willow bark strips into a nest and weave a bird from flax

12 October 2016 I found it this way: Bird nest design

This was the fourth design I did in my "I found it this way" floral art demonstration

2 April 2011 Easter Parade Demonstration and Accessory Workshop

Advanced level Workshop: For my Easter Parade Demonstration I made 6 hand-tied designs within armatures. The concept was to pick up the design while demonstrating and to literally...