Yesterday I went to the London Fashion and Textile Museum with my Grate Frend, Beatriz. We went to see the Kaffe Fassett exhibition. She had never heard of him, which I found a bit strange as all knitters and patchworkers and needlepointers in the UK will know his innovative and colour-soaked work. Anyway, it was a lovely show – unfortunately it finishes tomorrow, so you will have to be quick to see it.
I took some pictures, but flash wasn’t permitted (understandably) so my photos are a bit murky. There was plenty of his work on display including his paintings which I think I have only seen reproduced in his books up to now.
What was interesting to me, however, as a raging egotist, was Beatriz’s comment that his work is like mine. I think it is probably the other way round. He has been a huge influence on me, and still is, I think. Since I came across his first book Glorious Knitting at an impressionable age, I haven’t been able to resist a yellow background:
His work has always been highly decorative, with detail being one of the main design elements:
I love these little crocheted and beaded caps he seems to be doing now.
But I think that what I mainly got from him was something about pattern. I remember going to a lecture by him in Bath years ago and taking away one thing he said which was that if you repeat something, even a mistake, it will look deliberate and like part of a pattern. This has saved me on a number of occasions:
Pattern making, particularly with beads, is a huge part of my work.
Finally, he gave me what he gave lots of women in the eighties and nineties, a freedom with colour. Again, I remember reading in one of his books that one red is difficult to work with, but ten reds are easy and give a vaguely faded feel to a piece. I have used this a lot in my work. Firstly lots of red which I love, and secondly lots of variations on a colour in one piece of work:
I’m not sure if you can still get this pencil print, but it is exactly how I feel about red, pink and orange. This is why I will never be a really trendy embroiderer. I cannot do that bleached out, stripped back stuff. I think colour is life. I have taken to wearing bright red lipstick in my fifties just for the hell of it and life really changes. I had a friend who said that if every woman in the country were given an Estee Lauder Parallel Red lipstick we could do without assertiveness courses altogether.
Confidence with colour marks Kaffe Fassett’s work and I think I owe him a real debt for that.
PS. Naturally I bought his autobiography in the tiny shop. I got it home to find it was an autographed copy which was a delight. On reading it, however, I discover his birth name was Frank. I seriously don’t think he would have gone so far called Frank Fassett. Kaffe, by the way, comes from a children’s book about Ancient Egypt that he loved.