Pattern Play: Cloud

Often recognized as representations of the sky, heaven, dreams, and freedom, clouds are a recurring yet often overlooked aspect of our lives. Popularized in Ancient China, the cloud pattern holds a strong history as a symbol for fortune and happiness. Reminiscent of the iconic Chinese motif, our cloud pattern attempts to create a seamless blend of ancient symbolism and modern fashion to symbolize the dreamlike aesthetic that clouds have.


Appearing in Chinese history for thousands of years, the cloud motif can be considered one of the most important symbols of traditional Chinese culture. With the Chinese word yún, meaning cloud, being pronounced similarly to the Chinese word yun, meaning luck or fortune, clouds are considered to be representations of good fortune and good omens. Also known as auspicious clouds, they are primarily seen in a variety of forms of designs in art, but most often in a repeated pattern to express never-ending fortune and good wishes for the future. Besides luck, they have also been associated with deities and gods due to being between the earth and heaven, and were most often depicted in paintings in combination with thunder, as a symbol of the wrath of gods, and dragons, as they were believed to be able to create clouds with their breath in Chinese mythology.

Traditional Chinese Cloud Art

Additionally, the cloud motif could be seen in what is known as a “cloud collar,” a four to eight-lobed pattern of clouds used to embellish robes. Meant to be a depiction of the universe, the collar has a circle at the center to portray heaven, and the cloud-shaped panels which circle that symbolize its gates. Accordingly, the accessory was worn around the neck to depict the divide between the mortal body and the head which was considered to be where the spirit resided. The cloud-collar motif also appears on objects like vases, jars, and furniture.

Chinese Cloud Collars and A Cloud Jar

Present Day

In modern day China, the cloud is still considered a large part of the Chinese tradition. This is evident during the 2008 Beijing Olympics where the torch was decorated with a repeating cloud design and named “Cloud of Promise” as a way to include an element of Ancient Chinese culture in their contemporary design. Outside of China, the cloud still rings true as a popular motif and idea. Often associated with ideas of daydreaming and freedom, clouds are often a symbol for bliss which is evident in the common phrase “on cloud nine.” Looking at pop culture, the iconic wallpaper in Andy’s bedroom from Disney’s Toy Story uses a repeating cloud pattern that is definitely memorable for those that have seen the movie. Clouds are also often used as props for music videos and movies where a dreamlike aesthetic is desired. What’s more, the actual word cloud is used wisely in the technology industry with terms like “cloud storage” and “cloud computing” which conceptualize the idea of "the cloud" as a technological and intangible space. 

Overall, while the cloud as a symbol has different meanings in the world today, it still represents historical and cultural values as an aesthetic and remains so within our pattern.