I was so excited about Kaffe Fassett’s “Colour” exhibition at Mottisfont this month that I booked a cheeky day off today to go have a look. Kaffe Fassett (apparently pronounced as “safe asset” for those of us who have been getting this wrong for over thirty years!) has been a huge influence on my creativity over the years and as such could probably be described as one of my artistic heroes. His bold and vibrant designs have inspired me from childhood to the present day. I remember as a teenager drooling over his cabbage and frog tapestry kits wondering how many weeks of paper round wages until I could afford one. And his fabulous 1980s sweaters drove my first tatty attempts at intarsia. Overall his creative career has spanned more than 50 years and he is still a highly respected name and sought after public speaker by knitters and stitchers worldwide.
This exhibition has been beautifully curated with each room focused on a specific colour scheme and painted accordingly to show case the fabulous knitwear, tapestries and quilts. As you enter the first room there is a wonderful quote from the man himself to put you in the right frame of mind: “like so many other crafts, knitting has the potential to create magic in our lives”. I couldn’t agree more.
The theme for the first room of the exhibition is set by the quote “the older I get the more classic blue and white appeals to me”. Something I can certainly relate to myself. He also discusses his love of neutrals in this room, likening them to stonework. I guess this is not something we usually associate with the man but there is no denying the power of beige even to those with such an elevated design status!
The next room makes the wonderful statement that “vegetables have such elegant shapes” and is full of the cabbage, aubergine, beetroot et al images and designs that I remember fondly from early Rowan magazines.
More colour themed rooms unfold as you wander through the upper floors of this richly historic house, including a yellow corridor (unfortunately not enough natural light for photos in there) where he comments on the mood enhancing properties of this sunny hue. Also a richly coloured blue room, and then finally a pink room.
One of the reasons for Kaffe Fassett’s enduring appeal is his fearless use of colour. A quote from the man himself from his 2003 book “Kaffe Fassett’s Pattern Library” explains his approach to an area that many people find quite scary and intimidating.
“The main thing is to have a go at trying out colours, the wilder the better. None of us designers really know what works until we see it, so sampling becomes wonderfully exciting as you stumble on really unpredictable and interesting colouring.”
In my recent knitting workshops we have concentrated on the use of sampling both as a means of gathering technical skills but also for design inspiration. Sampling is a wonderfully safe environment (after all we don’t have to wear the end product if it doesn’t work) for putting together different textures, colours and yarn types in a playful way. We were all excited by some of the outputs.
If you are local and are interested in colour and design do try and get to see this collection in the flesh as the photographs I have shown you don’t really do the textiles justice. Above all I for one can take a bit of advice from this talented man and while I do love a bit of beige he always inspires me to live a little more dangerously. Pink, red and orange!? Hell Yes!