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Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably in their colourful shirts.

The highlight of my visit to the Festival of Quilts was the Kaffe Fassett lecture on Colour.  This afternoon lecture was packed full of Kaffe fans who just couldn’t wait to hear what the master of colour had to say on the subject.

Brandon Mably introduced Kaffe to the room with a brief background of what the Kaffe Fassett studio are working on at the moment.  His introduction was funny and at times fondly sarcastic, such as when he called Kaffe to the front of the room by addressing him as “his highness” which made everyone clap and cheer.  We were informed by Brandon that Kaffe likes to know people are enjoying the lecture so ‘oohs and aahs’ were always welcomed which brought a chuckle from the audience.  We were also encouraged to just call out questions and so the atmosphere that was created was one of a nice informal afternoon chat.  The audience didn’t disappoint either as the lecture room was full of exclamatory ‘oohs’ and appreciative ‘aahs’ for the duration of the talk as well as lots and lots of laughter as Kaffe interjected various humorous memories of things people had said to him or reflections on his clients.

The lecture was focussed around a beautiful image slideshow.  Kaffe explained why he had chosen the images as well as interjecting other inspiration and things he found useful in his work.  He referenced the work on display at the Festival of Quilts as well as the exhibition currently on at the Welsh Quilt Centre and the recently finished exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum I visited recently.  The new range of quilts on display at the Festival of Quilts features traditional woven fabrics which highlight the simple shapes and colours used as opposed to the patterns often featured in his quilts. Kaffe said this new collection had led someone to ask “Where are all the flowers?” which made the audience chuckle again.

Here are a few images from the exhibition at the Festival of Quilts showing a few of the quilts that were on show featuring these new fabrics:

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We saw hundreds of images throughout the talk, some showed Kaffe’s work, others were photos taken on his many tours abroad as well as photos that Brandon had taken whilst he was travelling.  The format followed this kind of pattern; we saw an image of inspiration, which could be a landscape, colourful flower or still life material from his studio, this was followed by Kaffe’s interpretation of this work, so either a painting, tapestry, quilt or piece of knitting.  The amazing part was seeing how he took those many different kinds of inspiration and interpreted them in so many different ways, all with his distinct style.  He described the slideshow as seeing “one colour story after another”.

What fascinates me the most about Kaffe is his view of colour and how it’s beauty is seen in the world around us.  He showed two images that particularly stuck in my mind, the first was an image of a green English landscape which was taken in misty, possibly slightly drizzly conditions.  His comment about this image was that we Brits loved to talk about the weather and in-fact, loved to moan about it, but that he loves our weather here.  The reason he does is that the pearly light we have in Britain makes the wonderful colours of our landscape “glow” and that this was a stark contrast to the harsh, bright and unforgiving light in California. Isn’t that a wonderful way to look at it?  I don’t actually mind the weather here in the UK but I think there were quite a few contemplative attendees who will now be seeing our landscape in a different light because of what Kaffe said.

The second image was of a disused and collapsed building which is something that most people would find difficult to see beauty in but Kaffe pointed out the charcoal greys of the collapsed walls and concrete and how they beautifully contrasted with the rust oranges of the metal, it really was a beautiful image.

Through Kafe’s eyes you can see a different world, one of beautiful rich colour.  He makes people see that you just have to open your eyes properly to see that world and then use those wonderful colours as your inspiration.  I could see the effect of his talk already altering my vision after I had returned to Sheffield and stared at my very green back garden.  I am used to seeing colour and pattern in the world but even I saw colours there that I had never seen before.

If you ever get the chance to hear either Brandon or Kaffe talk about their work as artists and fabric designers then please do take the chance as you won’t be disappointed.

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Written by Sarah

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