Kaffe Fasset: The Power of Pattern

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HH Intern

The Power of Pattern exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum explores the power of colour, texture and pattern within design and our own lives. Dedicated to American-born, British-based artist Kaffe Fassett, one of the most incredible textile artists of our time. The immersive experience presented over 70 original pieces, ranging from quilts to prints – all showcasing incredible patterns. Kaffe Fassett has devoted most of his life to the techniques featured in the art works such as patch work, knitting and needlepoint.

The experience began with a great example of the power of pattern by covering an entire room in one of Kaffes beautiful floral prints. The almost overwhelming room allowed everyone to be immersed in pattern.

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Photos taken by myself

Kaleidoscopic Vision 

Kaffe’s first patchwork design was a watershed moment in the artist’s career as he realised that quilts offered him the dramatic grand scale that would amplify his rich use of colour. Kaffe had visited the Whitney museum’s seminal 1971 exhibition, Abstract Design in American Quilts, showcasing sixty pieced quilts exhibited on the gallery walls. These visual aspects became clear – hard edges, optical illusions, repetition, bright colours and graphic simplicity. The exhibition left Kaffe  ‘buzzing’, below are some examples of these optical illusions and graphic repetitions in Kaffe’s art.

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Photos taken by myself

These geometric patterns created in the quilts are very impressive, many people were in shock by how intricate the pieces within the designs were. Every little shape has been cut out of fabric and patch-worked together to create these optical illusions.

Image 5.

Photos taken by myself

Prints

It is key to look at some of Kaffes’ prints that are just as important as the quilts he created; many of these patterns are featured in the quilts. The artist began his career as a painter, using both acrylic and watercolour his compositions vary from selections of abstract to realistic florals, seashells, pebbles and more. My particular favourite was Image 7.

Image 6, 7 & 8.

Photos taken by Lillie Foster

Texture

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What is so fascinating about Kaffe’s quilt creations is all the different layers of patterns. There is pattern within the print of the fabric and pattern created from the pieces of fabric that have been patch-worked together and finally as you can see in these images the artist has created a pattern on top using stitch.

Image 11.

Photos taken by myself

Kaffes interest in quilts manifested itself when he arrived in England mid-sixties. Using quilts found at flea markets borrowed from friends as backgrounds in his paintings, the artist loved how the extra details from familiar domestic objects brought to his compositions. The vivid memory of waking up beneath a quilt adorned with faded cabbage roses provided inspiration for Kaffe’s first design – Rosy.

In the mid-nineties Kaffe’s passion for patchwork was truly ignited, encouraged by friend and collaborator, Liza Lucy Prior; their jointly authorised best selling book, Glorious Patchwork, was published in 1997. The potential for mixing colour and pattern in patchwork proved irresistible for the artist, leaving him to design his own fabrics, each quilt becoming a unique artistic composition. While vintage quilts provide a frequent stimulus for Kaffe’s designs, the artist also finds inspiration in the world around him be it a tiled floor or a row of striped beach umbrellas, bellow are some examples of this:

 

Image 12.

Photos taken by myself

In image 12 you can see examples of Kaffe taking shape inspiration from many different aspects of the world. It features bouquets of flowers and bowls of fruit which are a part of most households. Along with beautiful trees and leafs, there’s also a range of animals from birds to cows.

 

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Image 14

Photos taken by myself.

Image 2 and 3 are more examples of unique objects in Kaffe’s designs. Image two is an immersive wallpaper featuring onions, in image two you can clearly see the inspiration is from tiling. I particularly like how the artist took a piece of food like an onion and created an abstract shape from it whilst not making it obvious where the imagery came from.

Overall this exhibition on the power of pattern really opened my eyes to this world of maximalism and bright colour that Kaffe has created with his incredible work. My favourite piece was Image 3 due to the complexity of the piece and all the different prints used within it to create a geometric pattern. Kaffe’s work has inspired me to be more adventurous with design, to not be afraid of clashing patterns and colour and to just have more fun with it.

Written by Lillie Foster

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