Saturday, 11 May 2013

Colours, Loose Ends and Kaffe Fassett

A couple of weekends ago, I woke up and thought, I have nothing planned for the day... what can I do, and then it hit me - "A Life in Colour" , the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum.  I had read about it and thought I really must go and see it as I had missed his previous exhibition at the V&A.
I should also mention that I had recently read his autobiography, A life in Colour which I highly recommend, it traces his past from an idyllic childhood in California, to his move to London, how he learnt to knit, murals that he created which were then... painted over and then there are the luscious images of his work and inspirations I got my copy from the library, but do read it, it really whets your appetite
Now the Fashion and Textile Museum was set up by Zandra Rhodes, and my claim to fame is that she once admired a hat I was wearing with a fantastic hat pin when I went to an exhibition in 90s!  It was a great intimate venue for the Fassett knits, tapestries and quilts.

So in I trotted in, well I have to be honest, it was just a little bit gloomy until my eyes got used to it, but when I thought about it, it's just what you need with Kaffe's work as all that colour coming at you would probably have ended up with a bunch of women with bleeding eyeballs!
So where to start, I loved the way you could see what had inspired a design, from photos of an object, eg stones on a beach, through to the paintings - which I thought beautifully executed but a little 2d, however I then realised that is why they translate so well into fabric designs - and thence to the cushion, quilt, knitwear.

But OMG, the colours, his assuredness and use of bright shades is just amazing.  His first cardigan really cheered me up, a stripey number in unlikely subtle shades of brown, but... yes there is a BIG BUT, I whooped and hollered inside, it was the ultimate realisation that the man is human.  He left loose ends, yep, loose ends everywhere... now if you have ever knitted, you will remember the first multi-coloured piece you knitted and all you wanted to do was sew it up and wear it and to the devil with the sewing in the loose ends... see, he is just like us!
The quilts were delicious, the quilt police might have been narked about the lack of perfect corners but the colours were sublime.  You could get up close and personal to actually break down how they were made.  Oh, and there was a wonderful display of fabrics and wool swatches to touch and feel, which was great because no matter how many signs there are in an exhibition, don't you just long to reach out and stroke?
Upstairs was a room that was staged, with needlepoint cushions and rugs... I saw both worked not only in Tent stitch but also in staggered Long stitches, chairs covered in needlepoint.  Knitted cushions and quilted cushions - it was like a fairground explosion, blousey but not slutty - glorious in its celebration of sewing, quilting and knitting.
There was also a row of 1980s knitwear which although it showed its age in style but not in its innovative use of colour and patterns.

This was 90 mins of my time well spent, I came away inspired to sew, resisting the temptation of buying some fabric Fassett and Brandon Mabley collection... I really recommend it as a lovely exhibition to set your fingers twitching.  There are classes and lectures to take associated with the the exhibition, wouldn't it be great to work with Brandon and Kaffe, so when the lottery win comes through... However, as I left the exhibition, guess what I spotted in the road... hexagonal drain covers, how spooky is that?

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