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Rene Women Interviews 0006: Studio AOI

Arriving at the genuine Karakoy passage, we arrive at Pelin and Ayse’s ikebana studio. The serene and minimalist approach of ikebana has left its mark on the ambiance in their workspace. During our conversation, we discussed their sources of inspiration for practicing ikebana, their commitment to sustainable floristry, and their aspirations.

Here is our interview with Studio AOI:

Steph: Now, Ikebana – it’s like a beautiful love letter in petals and branches. Can you describe what Ikebana means, in your own words?

Studio AOI: Ikebana can mean “giving life to flowers.” But it is far more than that. “Flowers become human in ikebana.” This is an important point. You can see beautiful flowers in nature, but when you arrange them  through this art, you create your own reflection, It becomes you.

S: Sogetsu Ikebana, it’s a wild and free spirit, isn’t it? It reminds us that we can create with any gift of nature, and use our emotions to guide us. How does living in Istanbul and in Turkey influence your designs or style? 

AOI: Ikebana, especially Sogetsu School, is incredibly creative. You can choose any plant, flower, container, material. There’s a lot of freedom. Any creation could be Ikebana.

Istanbul is a magnificent city with this diversity. This city, which embodies different cultural identities and backgrounds, inspires us in many areas with its architecture, art, streets and nature.

S: Practicing outside of Japan must bring its own set of challenges to your art and business. Can you tell us about those challenges compared to if you were to have a studio in Japan?

AOI: When we read this question, we immediately thought of that studio with a tiny zen garden and huge windows, which we dreamed of as soon as we saw it in Japan and thought “this is our studio”! We are sure that if we existed there as AOI, it would provide us with very different returns. The fact that ikebana art is not widely known in Turkey necessitates an active effort to convey and promote this art. We think one of the biggest difficulties is that the perception of “abundant flowers” is more preferred in Turkey and this idea has not been broken yet. We can say that we are trying to make more widespread the idea that very flashy and impressive designs can be made with a few branches of flowers, instead of coming to mind in projects that are simpler, more minimal, and where the idea of space is at the forefront, which is the basis of the Ikebana philosophy.

S: The furoshiki box wrap is beautiful. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of creating them in Turkey? 

AOI: The Furoshiki; initially a basic square of fabric, has a long and unique story in Japan’s history including ethical connotations.

Japanese sustainable wrapping cloth is a perfect alternative to plastic bags; “It’s one of the symbols of traditional Japanese culture, emphasising care for materials and avoiding waste.

”While considering our packaging alternatives, we acted based on the environmentally responsible materials. As AOI Studio, we prefer wooden boxes and natural fabrics such as Kutnu, linen and cotton for our packaging. We supply our Kutnu fabrics from Gaziantep to support local materials.

S: The name ‘AOI’ – it has a certain charm. Does it play a role in shaping your work and the way you do business?

AOI: In Japanese, AOI has been widely used to describe green and blue- such as blue sky, blue ocean- they’re essentially considered the same.

From another perspective, kenzans have usually been designed green since ancient times to be in harmony with nature and flower stems. This is why, as AOI Studio, we designed our kenzan and floral pin frogs in green, and the fabric color we use for furoshiki, the Japanese packaging technique, is also blue. That’s why we think the name AOI reflects the brand.

S: What is Sustainable Floristry? And how do you practice it in your business?

AOI: Sustainability in the floral industry is a constantly changing subject. As more products are created for florists to use in their designs, sustainable floristry will evolve. As a brand, we support this with local flower supplies and zero waste packaging. In ikebana, floral pin frog and kenzan are alternatives to floral foam. We encourage you give ikebana a try, as a way of opening your eyes and heart to the simple beauty that nature provides us. There’s an essential minimalism to ikebana, a “less is more” orientation has helped enhance our sense of sustainability.

S: What is a dream that you have for AOI Studio?

AOI: We want to do work full of vision and creativity, more and more visual artists source their inspiration in ikebana and we absolutely love these kind of collaborations. We aim to produce more alternatives and solutions for sustainable floristry. We want to improve ourselves in international ikebana and constantly create different artistic works. To us Ikebana is one of the symbols of the Japanese aesthetics which we would love to share with people all over the world.

S: About homes, tell us a little bit about yours? Do you have a favorite room or corner or an item?

Pelin Bulut: For me, being at home means being fully in nature. Going out to the garden when I open the door and reaching the forest with a little walk is truly some of the most precious things in my life. My favourite place at home is the corner where I create my botanical illustrations. Watercolours, papers, brushes; the idea of revealing the secrets of flora is so magical that even the possibility of doing it with a paintbrush takes endless space in my imagination. The ones I have the most fun with are my childs; Üzüm  and Dante 🙂

Ayşe Merve Paslı: It is a great pleasure to live in a house with a historical texture in Pera. I designed my home as a studio where I create my projects at the same time. My workbench, where I’m working on various materials, is my inspiration space. This is my playground, vintage kenzan collection and my old Stradivarius violin are very special toys for me.

S: When traveling, what are the most important things you are looking when booking an airbnb house?

AOI: During our last trip to Japan for Ikebana training, we were very impressed by traditional ryokan where we stayed in Kyoto. It was also a workshop area where indigo dyeing -an important art form in the region- was practised and it was a great pleasure for us to use the items that were dyed during these workshops, from bedcovers to pillows, wall boards to towels.

When traveling we pay attention to the location, it’s really important for us. We love exploring streets of the city by walking. We prefer to stay in buildings with beautiful architecture and reflecting the texture of the city.

S: What are your favorite shops, neighborhoods, restaurants, public spaces in Istanbul?

Pelin Bulut: The variety of Istanbul with its impressive architecture, stunning ancient landmarks and contemporary art elements creates a truly multicultural city. Shopping from the local markets, treasure hunt in the antique bazaars and exploring the vintage stores are some of my favorite activities. Due to where I live, I often spend time in Polonezköy forest. Botanical gardens where I can observe many different species together for my illustrations, are my favourite routes. Pera, Büyükada, Çukurcuma and Moda are also locations with their own unique identity I like to visit.

Ayşe Merve Paslı: Istanbul is incredibly inspirational: Especially Galata and Pera- Walking down any street in the early hours and watching the sunrise on the Bosphorus is breathtaking. There are so many art galleries like Salt, Istanbul Modern and Arter, local bakeries and also restaurants that are my favourites. I also love exploring the Grand Bazaar, where the contrast of traditional and contemporary. It is quite impressive. And in addition, the perfect balance between nature and urban is possible in Istanbul. I like escaping to nature- Belgrad Forest and especially Büyükada.

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