Kaffe Fassett MBE is a world-renowned textiles designer who has dedicated over 50 years of his life to the world of knitting, needlepoint and patchwork and is so adored by his fans that you’ll find them at his events knitting away while they wait for him to appear. I’ve seen it.
I had the pleasure of meeting Kaffe in person back in 2012 when he invited me to his home to share more with him about the Turner Medal award he had won, which is awarded every two years to a distinguished artist or art historian by the Colour Group of Great Britain (which I was a trustee of at the time).
Kaffe was the first living textile artist to have a one man show at the V&A Museum, London and I’m honoured and thrilled he has agreed to share his love of colour with you here on The Colour Couch. So without any further ado, it’s over to Kaffe…
What does colour mean to you?
Colour is like music for me. Rhythms, light and dark moods and the power to deeply affect our moods and outlook on life. It is in short, the magic ingredient that can transform objects and spaces.
Do you have a favourite colour or a colour that you find yourself constantly drawn to? And why?
No favourite colour. I just reach for what is appropriate or enhancing in any particular situation or project. I’m almost always playing with complex arrangements of colour not a single “favourite”.
Do you have a colour that you least like? And why?
White can be overpowering, but needed sometimes.
What do you love most about working with colour?
The power it has (as I’ve said already) to alter our state of mind.
What do you think your life would be like without colour?
I simply can’t imagine what life would be like without its most delightful element. Please don’t make me go there. I suppose I’d be reduced to creating with 50 shades of grey.
What’s your favourite colour story?
When I took a trip to Afghanistan in the 1960’s, I found myself one evening standing on a dusty hill in a small village. Every house was made of clay, so dull coloured like the earth and rocks. There were no trees or plants so a completely beige colour scheme. Even the wooden surfaces of carts and tools were faded and silvered so a very monochrome scene. Suddenly a chestnut horse came galloping through this vista. It was ridden by a very handsome young man wearing a piercing Lapis Lazuli blue robe. That shot of blue, like a brilliant blue was seared into my memory.
Were you ever afraid or wary of colour? And what did you do to overcome this?
When I first came to England and started designing for Designers Guild, I was nervous of being too brash or forthright with my colour, so I chose very delicate faded tones for my first collection. My mother commented they looked anaemic and wondered why I didn’t use more richness of tone. So, I did for my next collections and Tricia Guild didn’t quite get it till she travelled across America and came back saying “I see where your bright colours come from!”
Do you have a favourite colourful place that you visit (or have visited)?
There are so many favourite colour places. Portmeirion here in the UK with its Italianate buildings, Burano near Venice in Italy, but just before Covid, I went to Cuba and walked the streets of Old Havana day after day marvelling at the wonderful distressed buildings in the most sumptuous pastel palettes; such an expressive and creative use of colour on the buildings and in mosaic and tile work.
For anyone afraid of colour what would your number 1 piece of advice be?
Afraid of colour? So many are. Perhaps the best advice is try playing with several colours and remember there is no right or wrong, just choose what you love most.
Which colourful person do you most admire and would love me to interview for the On the Colour Couch series?
Sophie Digard is a designer in France who has fascinated me for years. I’ve never met her but have bought several of her stunning crocheted scarves, always in perfect lovely taste. Closer to home, my partner Brandon Mably has a flawless eye for colour.
I love that Kaffe describes colour like a magic ingredient to transform objects and spaces. It can also transform lives don’t you think? And when he described being in Afghanistan seeing the Lapis Lazuli blue robe, it was like I was there with him.
Wishing you a colourful day,
Also on Series 4 Interior Design Masters was Joanne Hardcastle whose Colour Couch interview you can read over here.
YesColours co-founder Emma Bestley’s Colour Couch interview is over here.
You can find out more about Decorex over here.
BBC Interior Design Masters is over here.