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Kaffe Fassett - The Power of Pattern at Fashion & Textile Museum

Frances has many years' experience writing about exhibitions in art galleries and museums.

"Bordered Diamonds" - Designer Kaffe Fassett 2009. Maker: Liza Prior Lucy

"Bordered Diamonds" - Designer Kaffe Fassett 2009. Maker: Liza Prior Lucy.  Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from the Fashion & Textile Museum. All rights reserved.

"Bordered Diamonds" - Designer Kaffe Fassett 2009. Maker: Liza Prior Lucy. Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from the Fashion & Textile Museum. All rights reserved.

Fashion & Textile Museum

The Fashion & Textile Museum is London’s most exciting destination for anyone interested in fashion and textile design. They don’t keep a permanent display, choosing instead to host a varied programme of temporary exhibitions showing a wide range of crafts, fashions and textiles from designers and makers around the world.

Kaffe Fassett – The Power of Pattern

The FTM’s latest presentation is “Kaffe Fassett – The Power of Pattern”. The display features artworks by Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably and Philip Jacobs, known as the Kaffe Fassett Collective, together with items by invited makers.

The exhibition shows how Fassett's work and that of the Kaffe Fassett Collective inspires crafters around the world.

Speaking at the FTM Brandon Mably said: “This exhibition is a celebration of how other people have taken our artwork and used it for their own art and that’s the greatest compliment that we can have.”

Fassett said: “I wanted to celebrate the relationship that I have with Brandon Mably and Philip Jacobs, the three of us, creating a paint box for the creative world. I wanted to really demonstrate how the world has taken up our work. We contacted all the quilters that I could think of, that I had seen in exhibitions around the world that had used our fabrics. It was very exciting to get those pieces that were interpreting our fabrics in ways that none of us would have thought of”.

About the Artist

Kaffe Fassett is one of the most successful designer/artists working in contemporary craft today. Born in California, Fassett has lived in England since 1964. He has at various times designed for Bill Gibb, Missoni, Rowan and many other well-known fashion houses.

He has exhibited in many museum exhibitions and was the first living textile artist to have a one-man show at the V&A Museum. In 2018 he received an Honorary MBE in acknowledgment of his services to the crafts of needlework and knitting.

Through a career spanning more than sixty years he has presented us with exciting and colourful knitting patterns, needlepoint, mosaic, quilting, textile designs as well as stunning paintings and drawings.

Kaffe Fassett Spoke Exclusively to Frances Spiegel

FS: You chose to make England your home – what was it that attracted you?

KF: I met several English people in America including Jeremy Fry and they seemed to have an attractive sense of humour, especially in their views of the US. When I arrived in England, I realised that not only did I enjoy the humour but the quaintness reminded me so much of the childhood stories I had absorbed, such as “Wind in the Willows” and “Mary Poppins”. Also, I enjoyed feeling part of Europe, able to hop over to France and Scandinavia.

FS: I believe you spent some time in India and Guatemala. What effect did these countries have on you, both as a person and as a designer?

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KF: I began to realise that the culture I was brought up in was very cautious about colour. When I went to India and Guatemala I witnessed an unselfconscious use of colour. It blew my mind to see such rich glowing colour in everyday use - it was like living in a painting. It made me much more courageous about using pools of colour to create dramatic moods.

FS: Do you have a favourite colour combination or a favourite pattern that has a deeper meaning specifically for you?

KF: I don't have any favourite colours or moods, just a constant striving to create sexier, more luminous colour so people can see what moves me so deeply about the colour I see in life.

FS: It seems to me that during covid lockdowns an increasing number of people have taken up crafts, especially crochet, quilting and knitting. Do you agree?

KF: When we create our annual collections of prints, we always try to supply our fans with a paint box in useful and playful patterns. During lockdown, our online business went through the roof so I'm sure a lot of people got stuck into creative work. I know I did, and I was contacted by many who were benefitting from the time out, to get into new projects.

"Cartwheel" Designed and Made by Liza Prior Lucy, 2012

"Cartwheel" designed and made by Liza Prior Lucy, 2012. Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from the Fashion & Textile Museum. All rights reserved.

"Cartwheel" designed and made by Liza Prior Lucy, 2012. Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from the Fashion & Textile Museum. All rights reserved.

Highlights of the Exhibition

With so many captivating pieces on show it’s almost impossible to select a favourite but I would choose two pieces. The first is “Bordered Diamonds” a stunning quilt designed by Fassett and made by Liza Prior Lucy (shown at the top of this article). The second is “Cartwheel” designed and made by Lucy (shown above).

It was Liza Prior Lucy who got Fassett into patchworking in the first place. She made her first patchwork quilt in 1970 and opened a needlepoint and knitting shop in Washington DC, specialising in hand-painted canvases.

Prior Lucy’s knitting designs have appeared in several prestigious publications including “McCall’s”, “Family Circle” and “Vogue Knitting”. An early commission came from President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan for a child’s needlepoint chair. It was presented to the Prince and Princess of Wales on the birth of Prince William in 1982.

"Tusker Bull" - Designed and Made by Sophie Standing (2022).

"Tusker Bull" - designed and made by Sophie Standing (2022). Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from the Fashion & Textile Museum. All rights reserved.

"Tusker Bull" - designed and made by Sophie Standing (2022). Image by Frances Spiegel with permission from the Fashion & Textile Museum. All rights reserved.

More Than Just Symmetrical Designs

Many of us might think that quilting is all about symmetrical designs but this exhibition shows quilting doesn’t have to be symmetrical. “Tusker Bull” designed and made by Sophie Standing shows us how animals can be brought alive in fabric. Using mainly cotton fabrics and 100% cotton threads Standing’s works can be up to two metres tall. A single piece of art at this size might contain as many as 3,000 metres of thread!

More From the Fashion & Textile Museum

“Kaffe Fassett – The Power of Pattern” will be open until 23rd March 2023. The exhibition is accompanied by the book “Kaffe Fassett: The Artist's Eye" written by Dennis Nothdruft, Head of Exhibitions at the museum. Information about future exhibitions can be obtained from the Fashion and Textile Museum.

Finding the Museum

© 2022 Frances Spiegel

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