Pattern Play: Koi Pond
Referred to as swimming pools for koi, or just really big fish tanks, koi ponds have been a staple in backyard decor and a huge influence in design since the beginning of the 19th century. We created the Koi Pond pattern to symbolize the beauty of the ponds and convey the feelings of peace and serenity that are often experienced when viewing them.
Historically, from Asia to North America, ponds have had a long history in agriculture and home design. While often associated with Japan due to koi meaning love, affection, or friendship, koi fish are actually believed to have originated around Western Asia and Persia as carp, and are assumed to have found their way to Japan and China through waterways or trade where they were eventually bred to be the colorful fish that we know today. Koi ponds specifically were originally used during the Shang dynasty in China (1600-1046 BC) as a way to farm fish and entertain emperors and other royalty. These farmers however, later observed mutations on the fish (red and white blotches) and would separate them from the non-mutated ones to be selectively bred. This was the first record of koi breeding and became so popular that by the 19th century, breeders were exhibiting their prized “living jewels” to audiences in Tokyo. The first record of colored koi in fact was in 1843 Japan with three breeds, Asagi, Bekko and Sarasa. Over time–through increased human intervention–more breeds of koi came into being and the pursuit of the koi began.
Today, the magoi, or carp, is widespread across Japan’s natural waterways, yet its colorful counterpart, the nishikigoi, or brocaded carp, have invaded not just Japan and China but much of the world. It comes as no surprise in fact that koi ponds saw a surge in popularity when they were adopted by the Western elite as focal points in their backyards throughout the last century. Celebrities like Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, Freddie Mercury of Queen, and multi-millionaire and British music legend, Pete Waterman, were proud owners of koi ponds and were believed to have spent thousands of dollars on getting the perfect one built for their home. Some of the most famous koi ponds are Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson’s, who had their home landscaping surround a koi pond, and the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, which has a koi pond in the midst of its many waterfalls. With the possession of a koi pond now being associated with the wealthy and high status, it is no surprise that the koi pond remains a sought-after, ornamental piece for one’s backyard after centuries of its introduction.
Symbolizing good fortune, spiritual abundance, and purity in various cultures, the koi fish and koi pond remain significant symbols in Chinese and Japanese history. Unlike other fish, koi are best viewed from above due to their beautiful patterns and graceful movements. As such, they are often a recurring subject in art and design in Eastern Asia and beyond. With our Koi Pond pattern, we aim to display that same motif through our illustration of the koi pond’s serene environment and blend of calming colours like Olive, Navy, and Lavender.