Thursday, March 31, 2011

Japanese Koi Tattoos

About Koi Tattoos
The history and mythology of koi goes back to China, over 2,000 years ago, and these images and stories were absorbed into Japanese culture like so many other things. They have been kept as auspicious pets dating back hundreds of years. They have been popular images throughout the history of Japanese tattoo designs and as that style is now very prevalent in Western tattoo culture, so is the Japanese koi tattoo.
In real-life, these fish are ornamental carp kept in backyard ponds and water gardens.  They were bred from ordinary fish to develop their distinct and fantastic patterns and colors.  The only thing more fantastical than the array of colors that these fish have in the real world is the patterns and colors they are depicted with in tattoo designs.
    * A Koi On Keith Alexander
      Keith Alexander was a long-time body mod enthusiast who created an amazing blog, chronicling the creation of his koi back tattoo. Sadly, he was killed in a bike accident in NYC, but his blog has been maintained as a memorial by his friends.
    * Why a Koi Tattoo? | The World Is Not Flat (TwinF)
      Here is a personal account of one man's choice to get a koi tattoo. He details his reasons for picking this design and how it fits into his personal history.
    * Michael McClure Family Commentary: Koi Tattoo
      This is the archive of a series of blog entries, following along as Michael gets an extensive koi tattoo. The entries start in 2006 and run into 2007.
The History of Koi
Koi is the Japanese word for "brocaded carp" and refers to the large, colorful fish that have been bred and kept in ponds for centuries. The formal name "Nishigikoi" translates as "living jewels." Careful breeding of these fish really got a modern foothold in the 1800s, and it has produced a rainbow of colors and a variety of specific body markings in the years since.
They are part of Japanese mythology and are symbols of strength, perseverance and courage. These fish are very long-lived under the right conditions and this is what has contributed to these interpretations and associations. In myth, the very strong koi will be able to swim upstream and leap the waterfalls, being rewarded at the end of the journey by being turned into a dragon.

The Story of Crystal's Koi
The tattoo you see here is on the leg of my friend Crystal. She'd had a few smaller tattoos before, but when it came time for something large, she picked a koi. I think the symbolism of perseverance fits well with how she's overcome many challenges in her life.

The tattoo was designed and tattooed by Bill Liberty. His shop, Liberty Tattoo, is located in Sacramento, CA, where Crystal lives. She's a big lady and she decided to put this tattoo on her thigh, so it's pretty large. It starts a little above her left knee and runs up to the top of her thigh. The entire tattoo took several sessions. Large, complex tattoos are most often done in stages, with the colors being added from darkest to brightest. So first the black outline and shading was done. Then all of the blue water coloring and shading was done. And finally, the brightly colored fish and flower were finished.

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