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The world of home decor is vast, and we’re constantly amazed by the designers, creators, and creatives who cross our paths. In an effort to learn more about the innovative eyes behind the scenes, we’ve launched a series that explores the sanity-saving tools, products, and services that keep our favorite designers and decorators focused on the job at hand. Welcome to Tools of the Trade.
Helen Ellis, the Head of Design for Shida Preserved Flowers, is all about taking a fresh approach to floral design. At Shida, Ellis uses naturally dried and preserved flowers to create arrangements that last for up to a year. While a fresh bouquet is lovely, preserved flowers are sustainable and stunning.
Best of all, they're extremely easy to arrange and display at home—and Ellis recently told us about the one item that makes it even easier.
What item made your work life easier this week/month/lately?
Helen Ellis: A Kenzan (literally translated as sword mountain in Japanese), aka a “Flower Frog.”
A Kenzan is a heavy flat disc covered in brass spikes and often used in Japanese flower arranging. They come in all shapes and sizes, but we tend to use the most common round-shaped ones which are usually around 6cm in diameter. Of course, the more flowers you want to arrange with, the larger the Kenzan needs to be, so it’s always good to plan ahead and overestimate size-wise if you’re going to use one.
JUSTDOLIFE Kenzan Flower Frog
HE: With tall vases, the neck of the vase gives support to the stems. But, if you’re wanting to display your flowers in a low bowl, for example, a Kenzan allows you to keep the stems upright and in place as well as help create fantastic angles for a modern look.
Why is this item so great?
HE: Kenzans were originally used in the ancient Japanese art of ikebana for fixing flowers in containers. There are other ways of keeping flowers in place, the most common being floristry foam. However, floristry foam is made of microplastics and isn’t biodegradable or recyclable. Using a Kenzan is a much more sustainable way of arranging and is now an indispensable piece of my floristry toolkit.
Where/how do you use this item most?
HE: I use Kenzans mostly when I'm creating bespoke work. We have a lot of commercial inquiries—often asking for unusual designs or those wanting to use an unusual vessel. A Kenzan can be a great way to arrange flowers in some of these more challenging designs and styles. The brass pins hold the flowers and foliage in any position, helping to create minimalistic designs, emphasizing lines, and adding visual movement.
The brass pins hold the flowers and foliage in any position, helping to create minimalistic designs, emphasizing lines, and adding visual movement.
How did you discover this item?
HE: I came across Kenzans while I was hunting for sustainable alternatives to floral foam, and this seemed like the perfect answer. At Shida, we try to keep the use of plastics to an absolute minimum so this was a no-brainer eco-friendly alternative.
Floral foam does a good job in stabilizing arrangements and can be cut into any shape however, its negative points far outweigh its benefits. We decided to use chicken wire as a base for arrangements instead as it gives a really great structure and can be shaped to suit your needs. We also use natural products like pebbles, sand, and even twigs (which can be arranged into a supportive lattice shape on top of a vase or bowl). However, if you’re after precision placing, then a Kenzan is the way to go.
Will you use this item in the future?
HE: For sure. It’s perfect for use with our preserved and dried flower stems, from woody materials to soft grasses—so yes, definitely! Plus, it’s literally maintenance-free.
How has this item made your job easier?
HE: As there is minimal space to place stems, it causes me to think about every single flower going into the design, resulting in an original and considered arrangement. It makes this a really creative way of arranging.
Kenzans can also be used over and over again. If you’re using fresh flowers, it will need to be cleaned, rinsed, and thoroughly dried after use. Of course, with preserved and dried flowers you really wouldn’t ever need to do any of this.
How might someone not in your line of work benefit from this item?
HE: Kenzans are ideal for anyone wanting to recreate the grace and simplicity of floral art at home, or you could head off-piste and design your own floristic fusion. They’re super simple to use and if you change your mind and want to re-position your flowers, simply pull it out and go again.
What, if anything, would you change about this item?
HE: Honestly nothing. Some things are meant to be simple and easy, and this is one of them.
Are there any care/use tips someone considering this item should know about?
HE: Store it safely and be super careful when handling and pushing stems into it...those pins are seriously sharp.