London Life Exhibitions

kaffe fassett – a life in colour

June 17, 2013

If ever i was late to a party it’s this one.


The exhibition, at the fashion and textile museum, (ftm) is running from 22 march until 29 june. I’ve managed to give those of you who would like to visit a week and a half’s notice. Oopss! This has been in my diary since the middle of march, can you believe it? Oh well, i made it just in time, does that count?

I first came across kaffe fassett at a talk and book signing he held in the early 90’s in john lewis. At that time i was already heavily influenced by missoni. It was refreshing to meet a textile designer/artist who had embraced colour and patterns to the fullest. To top it, he made a living out of it while travelling the world to seek inspiration. Fab!



For me, except for the work displayed, a well curated exhibition is the most important aspect. This one, co-curated by sue timney, did not disappoint! Interestingly, sue is known for her monochrome and very graphic designs. I think the combination here worked really well and framed the rather diverse range of contemporary craft kaffee is known for.

I also felt, the ftm was exactly the right venue to celebrate kaffe’s 50 years of textile art.

My absolutely favourite part of a retrospective is the early years, the sketchbooks, the personal belongings, family photographs et cetera. This did not disappoint, albeit too dark to photograph.



I’m going to be bold here and say i have a love/hate relationship with kaffe’s work. It’s more of an acquired taste. As a colour and patterns enthusiast i have huge admiration for the sheer volume, attention to detail and diverse use of materials in his work. I don’t love everything, but there is no doubt that upon entering the main space you are greeted with an abundance of everything that crafts, textiles and colours have to offer. A sheer feeling of ‘wow’!



Here’s a selection of some of the quilting, knitting, needlepoint, mosaic and fabric swatches that stood out for me. I also liked some of his paintings.














What struck me most is the sheer energy and vibrancy of the work. I was transported back to the 90’s, to that very first talk, and realised that this man lives with constant inspiration. How wonderful is that? His constant worldwide travel is well documented and i found myself wanting to hop on a plane with immediate effect.

There is a streaming video at the exhibition. I opted to buy the dvd and watch it when in need for inspiration.
Kaffe’s colour quest – kaffe fassett travels to india and vietnam seraching for inspiration for his textiles costs £15 from the museum’s shop.

What do you think of kaffe fassett’s work? Are you a colour and patterns enthusiast?

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  • Reply Igor June 17, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Great round-up, Tina! I am fascinated by textile design, especially from the orient. Also folk costumes throughout history have such a strong appeal on me, I love visiting ethnologic museums for that reason:-)

    • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:24 am

      Thanks Igor. I know you love your ethnic textile design. The pieces you own are always stunning.
      That Ikea Kilim you have is stunning.

      You would have loved this then:-)

  • Reply Deryn June 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Thanks for the great round up of this exhibition. It’s been on my ‘to do’ list for a while – now moved onto the ‘must do’ list! It looks fab, and the Fashion & Textile Museum is such a great venue.
    Like you my response to Kaffe’s work is mixed. I love & admire his use of colour, but sometimes find the mixes of more intricate patterns a bit too much – still one not to miss though!

    • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:26 am

      Thank you for stopping by.

      I hope you got to go to the exhibition before it closed. I hadn’t been to the FTM for as while so it was nice to be there again.
      Yes, some stuff is definitely OTT but then that’s what separates him…. I do admire his sense of colour!

  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey June 17, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    OK you posed two questions:

    What do you think of kaffe fassett’s work? I had never heard of him until now. You always do such a great job with your photos, taking us on a visual journey. But I don’t like his work. It’s overly embellished for me. The shells pattern (I think they’re shells) is particularly hideous if I can use that word. I keep looking at it but can’t connect at all.

    Are you a colour and patterns enthusiast? Yes and no. Definitely not the above, but I love companies such as Kasthall, Kvadrat & Maharam whose textiles are often sophisticated and elegant. I tend to go for greys with minimal colour lines.

    The ftm is a great space & on my favourite street in London (Bermondsey St) but I’d be giving the above show a miss were I there.

    Thanks xx

    • Reply Alison Sye June 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      I don’t like the shells either, Gerard

      • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:37 am


    • Reply Holly June 28, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      Shells are a no for me too 😉

    • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:30 am

      Thanks G. Appreciate that compliment. I do try hard to do visual storytelling. I leave the writing part to you:-)

      I didn’t think Kaffee’s work was your bag:-) Far too busy, and as you stated: “overly embellished”.
      “I tend to go for greys with minimal colour lines”.. sounds about right!

      Thanks for your comment xx

  • Reply Lena June 18, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Colour and pattern enthusiast? Yes, definitely. Some of the pieces by Kaffe Fassett you showed up there make me wanna scream and run away, some of them I like. But then I think it has to do with trends, too, and our “western eye”, which is so used to certain colour and pattern combinations. But we’re not the world! Knowing where his inspiration came from is certainly going to be interesting.

    • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:32 am

      Hahaha. Well, maybe if you saw those pieces in the flesh you wouldn’t want to scream. They are loud but still beautiful!

      “But we’re not the world!” – well said.
      I know that KF gets his inspiration from India, Vietnam, Morocco amongst others.
      Thanks Lena.

  • Reply Nicola June 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Have always appreciated the creative exuberance of Kaffe Fasset’s work and, like you, I have a love/hate thing going on. He has an amazing following though. Have you seen his house and front door? 🙂 x

    • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:34 am

      No, never seen his front house and door. You can see why he has such a following. He’s charming, creative, handsome and dynamic.
      Yes, definitely have a love/hate relationship.

  • Reply Anya Jensen June 18, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Hi Tina, I agree that his work is great, great patterns, bold patterns, – not everything to my taste either (like Gerard not a fan of the shells) But I must admire the craftsmanship and the sheer volume of stuff created is amazing. I think you can encompass his design into any space – in small doses. Thanks for the review, SOOO look forward to London, the places I have to go, the things I have to see.
    Love from a sunny Denmark,

    • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:37 am

      Yes, agreed, not everything is to our taste but the sheer volume is breathtaking and just shows how vibrant and creative Kaffe is.
      I think you would have liked to be there xxx

  • Reply Alison Sye June 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Some of his work I like, and some I really don’t like at all. I admire his work ethic, though, and such a large body of work. I completely forgot about this exhibition, Tina, so thanks for reminding me. I might try to squeeze it in.

    • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:38 am

      Thanks Alison. Hope you got to go… 🙂

  • Reply Becky - pretty dandy June 19, 2013 at 12:12 am


    Love this post, first and foremost. I can’t go to the exhibition, so it’s great to see such a detailed post with so many pictures, thank you!

    Second, like most of the other commenters I feel a bit love/hate. Some of the stuff definitely has a 90’s feel, which isn’t my favourite design period. I don’t like all the colour choices or all the pattern choices, but there are amazing elements to practially every piece… possibly even the much-derided shells!


    • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:41 am

      Pleasure Becky and thank you for stopping by!

      Thank you. I have to agree with you. Individually the pieces sometimes don’t work, but if you stood there closely you could see
      all the intricate work, the sheer craftsmanship. That’s made it worth the while.

  • Reply Catherine June 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    The early years part of his exhibition would have been so interesting to view. What I do like are his beautiful floral designs, his craftsmanship, talent and passion. I have to admire someone who can make a living from their art while travelling the world for inspiration! xx

    • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:44 am

      That was actually my favourite room but impossible to photograph-(

      Yes, his “talent and passion’oozes everywhere in the exhibition and I also have always admired him for “make a living from their art while travelling the world for inspiration:” Great isn’t it?
      Thanks C xx

  • Reply Chi @ 106 June 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    “If ever i was late to a party it’s this one.”
    Ha! Same here. I actually interned at FTM with Zandra Rhodes when it was being set up but haven’t managed to go to a single exhibition since.

    I’m definitely a fan of colour and pattern (and as a rule, I never say never) but I tend to gravitate towards graphic/geometric patterns the most.

    The photo of the Missoni-style quilt (beneath the photo of the vase) is just gorgeous! 😀

    • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:46 am

      You interned at FTM with Zandra Rhodes??? Spill woman! What did you do there?
      I remember when it was being build. How cool!!

      Why haven’t you been back??
      Yes, all a tad too much for you.. I know!!

  • Reply Holly June 28, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    I think you would know this isn’t to my taste, but then you’d also know that where there is passion, I have appreciation. And so it is for Kaffe’s work. You can tell there’s a lot of passion there. A lot energy and life! I really love the fourth to last image (the colourful crosses).

    Thanks for introducing Kaffe.


    • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:48 am

      Yes, lovely Holly, I know it’s not to your taste:-)

      I’m pleased you can look beyond it and appreciate the passion and craftsmanship!
      Thanks xx

  • Reply Shona June 29, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Hi, I went to see the exhibition when it first opened but it was especially interesting to meet Kaffe in person and to hear about his inspirations and continued passion for his work. I too bought the video to inspire me. I don’t always love all his patterns but he is an amazing colourist and it’s inspiring to meet a successful artist who has made a living doing what they love.

    • Reply tina July 1, 2013 at 12:53 am

      I know you went coz you asked whether we could meet up! It did take me a while to get there and I’m glad I did!.

      I’m sure meeting Kaffe was inspirational. I have not seen him in years and no doubt he hasn’t lost his enthusiasm, passion or charisma.
      Glad you also bought the video.

      The idea of him as an artist making a living doing what he loves is so refreshing and I remember that was the fist thing that struck me when I went for a book signing. I’d never met an artist before who did that. It was the early 90’s. Things change!

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