No Fear of Color

Yesterday I drove to Monterey to attend a Kaffe Fassett lecture. It was put on by Back Porch Fabrics, a local Pacific Grove/Monterey quilt shop. I have written about that shop a couple of times, most recently on November 4, 2009 after my late October visit.

During my last visit, I saw that they were selling tickets to a lecture by KF. I decided to buy 2 tickets and just go. I knew it would be after a 2 or 3 day holiday extravaganza, but I decided the opportunity was too good to pass up and that I would worry about who to take later.

Signed Books
Signed Books

I left in time to arrive before 2pm, which is when the book signing started. I got about 6 of his books signed and he didn’t mind. He said that I was supporting him and he was glad to sign. 😉 I don’t know why getting books signed thrills me so much, but it does.

Quilt Road Signed
Quilt Road Signed

My SIL went with me and she was pleased to see and shop at Back Porch Fabrics. She bought a few fabrics for another Infinity block project she is working on. I bought a few of the Lonni Rossi fabrics so I could make another bag. I bought some FQs there in October and used them all up on Marilyn’s Multi-tasker.

The lecture wasn’t until 7pm, so we had time to hang around Pacific Grove a little bit. We spent a fair amount of time in the shop, partially because it was REALLY crowded and the lines were long. One thing I love about my SIL is that she makes me slow down in quilt shops. She really looks at things, which is a good reminder for me to do the same. Not much else in PG was open, so we went out to eat and then to Home Depot to find some paint colors for MIL, and to Borders to look at books.

After some technical difficulties with the projector and the Powerpoint, the lecture got started at about 7:30. Things I didn’t know about Kaffe Fassett:

  • He found the name Kaffe in a children’s book about an Egyptian boy he thought looked like him. He took it to replace his boring given name, which he is trying to forget. He refused to tell us the boring given name. I imagine it is Joe or Rod.
  • He was born in San Francisco, grew up in Big Sur and is now living near the Camden and West Hampton (Hampshire??) sections of London in Kilburn.
  • He went to a museum studies program in Boston
  • He learned to knit and purl in 20 minutes on a train, which was followed, later, by another 20 minute lesson from his cleaning lady on weaving in the ends and casting off.

He feels that color is in instinctive, that people have to work hard at conquering their fear of color and to learn to listen to their instincts. He enjoys going to places where there is intense color such as South Africa, India and Guatemala. He feels that color is life enhancing; it can make something elegant. He finds color to be a gift that people can give to themselves every day for a very low cost.

He thinks that there is a lot of visual pollution in the US, such as concrete parking garages, and hideous buildings. He thinks that the buildings in the US are very drab. Every morning I go to a horrifyingly ugly concrete parking garage and wish that someone would add some color to it or embellish it with tiles or mosaics or something, so I have to agree with him. He finds developing countries o be filled with intense color, which he calls visual poetry. He showed a number of slides of buildings in various countries, which were painted and embellished in a different ways.

As you may know, Kaffe started as a knitter. He said that knitters are never bored, are happy in their own company and make things that are very personal. He also said that anyone who says they can’t do what he does hasn’t tried. This is the point where he said he learned to knit in 20 minutes on a train.  His point was that people certainly cannot make what he makes if they sit and whine. People have to go to their knitting needles or sewing machine and try, then try again. He said that he makes simple things and spices them up with glorious color. I am not sure his needlepoints are simple, but I get his point, which echoes one that TFQ says:

Go to Your Studio and Make Stuff!

InKaffe’s career trajectory, he moved on to needlepoint after knitting. Some of the chair covers and cushions are just wonderful. I love his vegetable cushion and chair covers. He also create rugs and does quite a bit of needlepoint commission work.

He finds knitting and needlepoint to be slow, so was amazed when he discovered patchwork and saw how fast quiltmakers can cut up fabric and put a piece together. He loves teaching quiltmakers and commented several times on how he loves seeing how people put his fabrics together in new ways.

His adjectives of choice were ”thrilling and ‘exciting’. He uses those two terms a lot when he talked about fabric. He said that making books and fabric allowed him to give part of his creative mind to others and he commented again on how thrilling it is for him to see how people put his fabrics together.

For him, the different media are all about manipulating color and the knitting, needlepoint, fabric design and patchwork all are ways that he can work with color. He said that he painted white on white still lives for a long time, because he was also afraid of color. He continues to be fascinated by neutrals. He talked about how he enjoys putting colors and textures together so they almost merge (you can see what he is talking about in some of his vegetable needlepoint works, in the shading, especially the Lichen Auriculas at Ehrman Tapestry This link opens in a new window, which is part of the needlepoint slide show). He showed the Vegetable Rug Border Pack in the rug form and also made into cushions. He makes me want to take up needlepoint!

He got around to talking about stripes as well. He said that he is thrilled by stripes and finds that lots of ordinary stripes put together become extraordinary.

He talked about hanging an exhibit of his quilts in France, where he was thrilled to find that the quilt stands had shocking pink background drapes/curtains. He was thrilled and said that he would never find such an occurrence in the US. He finds mostly black and, the most ghastly color against which to hang quilts, white in the US. “Ghastly” was his description and I immediately thought of TFQ.

Philip Jacobs and Kaffe Fassett are now working together. Apparently, Philip Jacobs does large realistic paintings, which Kaffe then recolors in different colorways. One of the recent collections includes some very large sea shells.

Someone asked about creative waxing and waning. He said that life serves up the rhythm and since he travels quite a bit he gets quite hungry to get back to his studio and work, especially when he has been surrounded by inspiring views. He often will see something and go to his studio and make something from the inspiration. This is a piece of advice that I also like.

He hangs up projects which have gotten stale and works on something else. Leaving the stale project around so he can see it affords him the opportunity to be reinspired.

He doesn’t usually plan his projects from beginning to end, but makes the color combination up as he goes along. He also keeps looking at it from different views and angles to see what the piece needs.

Kaffe’s theory about fabric design is that he is working with a palette of color and continually works with those ranges so that newer fabrics work with some of his older fabrics. He is also working on keeping fabrics in print for longer by recoloring them and adding older designs to new collections. He doesn’t want to create a line that is in today and “so yesterday” tomorrow. I completely appreciate this and whish more fabric companies would take this advice. He seems to be going for more of a classic look/feel. I am not sure if that is the right description,  because I am not sure I would characterize his fabrics as having a classic look. Perhaps they are the ‘new’ classic?

He said that he is basically a shallow person who likes pretty things. He claims not to have much depth. I think he was saying that we should make things that we like, things with which we want to surround ourselves and I think that is wonderful advice. He encouraged people to just start playing and put something into repeat to see how it looks. He also reminded us to work with simple shapes.

Kaffe finds inspiration everywhere and said that in England the gardens are where the passion is hidden. Aside from this, I think the best advice he gave was that ‘manifesting’ was vitally important and that having the confidence to make the statment [with your work] and enough energy to make the thing in the first place are the most important parts of the battle. Finally, he said it is important to surround myself with other positive people. This advice is stuck in my head and I think the confidence part is particularly pertinent.

His next book will be out in the spring of 2010 and will be called Simple Shapes, Spectacular Quilts.

It was 2 hours each way and I didn’t get home until 11:30 pm, but it was totally worth it and I am glad I went. I am now very interested in taking a class from him.

Author: Jaye

Quiltmaker who enjoys writing and frozen chocolate covered bananas.

4 thoughts on “No Fear of Color”

  1. What a wonderful opportunity! I’m not a huge fan of his work, it’s just not my style, but I do appreciate it would jump at any opportunity to learn about his methods and point of view. BTW, I’ll be back at Quilting Adventures tomorrow taking a second look around!

  2. What a wonderful review of the evening! As I read it all, I kept thinking about the challenge piece I have on the design wall. “No fear of color” isn’t the problem though! It is the total lack of color!

    Your commentary is inspiring me though. I won’t give up! Thanks Jaye!

  3. Vicki: I don’t think we have to agree with another quiltmaker’s work to learn something from them. I like some of his work, but I really admire some of the ways he gets inspired and that he just goes and works.

    SherriD: Keep at it. Perhaps the piece you are working on is a neutral piece and needs to be neutral?

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