Color, Glorious Color, by Kaffe

by Christine Barnes

A week ago Heidi and I traveled to the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, to hear Kaffe Fassett talk about color. We’re both big fans of his fabric, knitting, and needlepoint, and we were excited to see him in person, to say the least. He did not disappoint.

Kaffe was there as part of an exhibit from the collection of The Quilt Museum and Gallery in York, U.K. (The San Jose exhibit runs through July 3, so you have plenty of time to go.) Historical quilts were used as the inspiration for new quilts made from his fabrics. “I like taking traditional quilt ideas,” Kaffe said, “then feeding new fabrics and patterns into them.” We quilters agree!entrance poster

Where does he find color inspiration? In a word, everywhere. Travel, modern art museums, Oriental rugs, patterns of Morocco, china, tile, succulents, fruits and vegetables. He showed a slide of a pot that inspired an intricate sweater design. He loves to see laundry hanging on a line all over the world: “It makes a patchwork of ideas.” And, of course, plants and flowers, like the pansies in this exquisite needlepoint piece:pansy pillow, Kaffe

He’s also a painter, of course, and his paintings show his love of complex pattern.painting by KaffeI tried to be a good reporter, but honestly, he said so many wonderful things that I couldn’t keep up. A few of my favorite quotes:

• “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.” If you’re familiar with his fabrics, you know that he loves profusions of pattern and color.

• “It’s OK to make things that are ‘show-offey’.”  Heidi and I were rather show-offey ourselves that day, being the only two people wearing garments made in his fabrics. (He commented on both; see our picture farther down.)

• Kaffe delights in “gorgeous, juicy, punchy color.” “I make it up as I go along,” he says.

• Beige is NOT in his palette. Beige-minded people favor quiet colors that “won’t scare the horses.” He has no time for such “good, grown-up taste.”

Do you begin to see how much fun it was to hear him speak? Following the lecture there were questions from the audience. I forgot to ask a question I’ve had for years: Why aren’t there more blue-violet (my fave color) fabrics in his collections? Another time . . . .

Here are a few of the quilts in the exhibit:

This cool little quilt was near the entrance. I love Kaffe Fassett Collective fabrics for many reasons, but it’s the balance of color that makes me so happy. Bits of warm color among cooler colors make a design feel complete, like a “complete protein,” only with color. (These ladies work at the museum. Can’t you imagine this as a New Yorker cartoon? What would the caption be???)

blue triangles, entranceThe Lotus Leaves print in the quilt below has always been one of my favorites, in all the colorways. If you aren’t familiar with Kaffe’s online store, which includes fabrics by Philip Jacobs and Brandon Mably, check out 
lotus leaves sized, yesI was so busy chatting that I forgot to read the history of the antique quilt in this pairing. But if you look in the lower left area of this photo, you can see the inspiration for the new quilt. The low-intensity teal shot cotton in the new version really emphasizes the vibrant colors in each group of four units. Of course, extra credit for the pieced “striped” border.
new quilt with slate blue

I love both the old and new versions of this pattern:
old quilt wheelsnew quilt wheelsAnd finally, here we are after the lecture. We thought this would be our only chance to have “our picture taken with Kaffe” (that’s him in the background, signing books.) Yes, yes, we are shameless.Me and Heidi at Kaffe, SJose

I hope hearing some of Kaffe’s thoughts on color will inspire you to keep dreaming and collecting and sewing and quilting. That’s what it did for us, and we came home exhausted from talking about what we had seen and heard, and scheming about our next projects. (Heidi will be showing more pics and sharing her thoughts in her next post.)