Kaffe Fassett www.kaffefassett.com was born
in San Francisco in 1937. When he was 19,
Kaffe won a scholarship to the Museum of Fine Arts
School in Boston, but left after 3 months to paint
in London. He settled in England in 1964.
Kaffe ventured into the world of colourful yarn
on a visit to a Scottish wool mill with fashion designer
Bill Gibb. Inspired by the colours in the landscape,
Kaffe was thrilled to find the same colours in yarns.
He bought 20 colours of Shetland wool and some
knitting needles, and on the train back to London
a fellow passenger taught him how to knit.
His first design appeared as a full page spread
in Vogue Knitting magazine.
Missoni and Bill Gibb commissioned Kaffe's early
commercial collections, and his one-of-a-kind designs
have been collected by Barbra Streisand, Lauren
Bacall, John Schlesinger, Ali McGraw, Irene Worth,
Shirley Maclaine, Helen Frankenthaler, Alan Bergman
and H.RH Princess Michael of Kent.
In 1985, Kaffe launched a needlepoint project
on the TV programme 'Pebble Mill at One', inviting anyone across the country to needlepoint an image
of their favourite thing, no bigger that 6 inches square. Over 2,600 entries were sent forming the Pebble Mill
at One Heritage Tapestry which was on show
at Chatsworth House until it moved to Harewood
House. The same year, the British Crafts Council
invited Kaffe to present a BBC daytime television
series interviewing leading UK crafts people.
Since then Kaffe has inspired thousands
of traditional one-colour knitters to employ
rich palettes of colour through his 6 part
television series, 'Glorious Colour' for Channel 4.
The series was aired in 1986 has been repeated
3 times and was released as a two-part video.
It has been shown in various countries including
Japan and Canada. In 1998, Kaffe released 'Kaffe's Colour Quest', a video looking at colour and design
inspiration through his world-wide travels.
In February 1999, Kaffe presented a 6 part series
for Radio 4 called 'A Stitch in Time'.
Kaffe has also been interviewed countless times
on national television and radio programmes such
as 'Richard and Judy' for 'This Morning';
'The Bazaar' TV series; 'Chelsea Flower Show Live'; 'Collectors Lot'; 'The Homes Show' and 'Through
the Keyhole.' For radio: Radio 4's 'Woman's Hour'
and 'Desert Island Discs' with Sue Lawley.
In 1988 Kaffe became the first living textile artists
to have a one man show at the Victoria & Albert
Museum. The exhibition attracted such crowds
that the Museum doubled attendance figures during
the run and has since visited Finland, Holland,
Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Canada,
USA and Iceland (where 5% of the total population attended.) Recent exhibitions of textiles include
the American Museum in Bath (UK), Sweden, Denmark, America and Japan. The Hankyu
Department Store, Osaka, Japan invited Kaffe
to create 3 room sets in their store, for a British fair,
sponsored by the British Council. Over 30,000 people visited the display in 6 days. In June 1998, Kaffe
displayed his quilts from his 8th book, 'Patchwork'
at the Japan World Quilt Fair in Tokyo.
Kaffe's first needlepoint design was commissioned
by Pamela Lady Harlech for Lord Harlech.
Since then, commissions include; two 5-foot
square needlepoint tapestry designs for the 1994
Marks & Spencer department stores Christmas packaging; tufted rug designs for Christopher Farr
Hand Made Rugs; two 5-foot square needlepoint tapestries for the Sea Princess cruise liner;
a needlepoint tapestry for an Elizabethan house
in Yorkshire; a series of five tapestries and a tufted
rug for The Edinburgh Tapestry Weaving Company;
a 13' by 15' mosaic mural at the entrance to a theatre
in Ojai, California; needlepoint arm chairs for clients around the world and an endless list of one-of-a-kind
design garments.
Since 1981, Kaffe has worked closely with Rowan
Yarns in Yorkshire. Rowan Yarns insight into fashion and colour complement Kaffe's skill and together they
have produced ambitious designer patterns to inspire hand knitters all over the world. He contributes
to the bi-annual Rowan magazine, which is marketed
Since 1976 Kaffe has been the leading designer
of needlepoint kits for Ehrman Tapestries of London, one of the most successful mail order needlepoint companies world-wide.
The international charity Oxfam asked Kaffe to work with poverty-stricken weaving villages in India and
Guatemala, to advise on designs that would be more marketable in the West. As a result, a range
of colourful hand woven fabrics is being produced
for use as shirt fabric, bed throws and patchwork
fabric, available on an international basis through
Rowan UK and Westminster Fibres, USA.
Other charity work has also taken him to South Africa.
A large part of Kaffe's output is now an expanding
range of fabric prints for the patchwork market along with the Indian stripes fabric and shot cotton fabric
range distributed world wide by Westminster Fibres, USA and Rowan, UK.
Hilliers Garden Centres invited Kaffe to design their garden for the 1998 Chelsea Flower Show.
The garden featured his mosaic columns, planters
and a shell grotto and won a Gold Medal and was
written up as 'The trend-setting garden of the year's show'.
Kaffe gives slide talks and workshops on colour
in design which take him all over the world,
allowing him to see how people use his fabrics
and pick up inspiration.
1999 saw the release of two new books, Kaffe Fassett & Candace Bahouth 'Mosaics' and 'Welcome Home,
Kaffe Fassett', part of Martingale USA publishers
At Home series.
In 1993 the UK based Northern Ballet Theatre asked Kaffe to design costumes and sets followed by The Royal Shakespeare Company commissioning Kaffe
to co design the set and costumes for 'As You Like It'. Kaffe reveled in the Elizabethan period and used knitting, needlepoint, rag rugging and patchwork
in the costumes. It was directed by Gregory Doran
and opened in 2000, one of the most exciting commissions Kaffe has received to date.
Since the Millennium major exhibitions have included 'The Textile Tradition, Then and Now' (2001) and Quilt Bonanza (2003) both at The American Museum
in Bath, plus shows at Stening Slott,
in Sweden (2004) and Rohsska Museet,
in Gothenburg (2004).
2005 has seen a variety of exciting commissions, projects and publications. Exhibiting quilts
at the Textile Museum of Canada, involvement
at the Yokohama Patchwork Festival in Japan
and Kaffe's contribution to two group shows,
'The Artist and Radio 4' at the Bankside Gallery
and a painting exhibition at the Catto Gallery,
London has seen the year end with a prestigious invitation to design and decorate the Victoria
and Albert Museum Christmas tree in collaboration
with Kaffe's latest book publication 'Kaffe Fassett's
V&A Quilt's'.
Kaffe's one man multimedia show in 2006
at the Prince Eugen's Waldemarsudde, Sweden
was followed by an exhibition of Kaffe's quilts,
knitting and needlepoint at the Modemuseum
Hasselt, Belgium and 2007 continues with Kaffe embarking on a workshop tour of Australia
and New Zealand and the launch of his latest
knit book 'Kaffe Knits Again' due to be published
by Rowan in September.
Kaffe's unique sense of colour and drive to create, combined with his desire to encourage others,
has led to his reputation as a guru in the world
of colour and textiles.