USA * 1937-
Although born in San Francisco, USA, Kaffe Fassett has lived and worked in the UK for several decades. His well-known colourful yarn work found its origins in a visit to a Scottish wool mill with fashion designer Bill Gibb. The beautiful colours in the yarn reflected the beauty of the surrounding landscape. The story goes that Kaffe bought 20 colours of Shetland wool and some knitting needles and the train journey back to London provided, with the help of a kind fellow passenger, the opportunity to learn to knit – a combination of events that would turn out to make a considerable impact on the world of textiles.
Born in 1937, Kaffe spent his formative years in his country of birth, where he won a scholarschip to study at The Boston Museum of Fine Arts School when he was 19. He left three months later to paint in London. In 1964 he settled in the UK, knitting and designing knitwear for Bill Gibb and Missoni. His eye for colour led Vogue to print his first design as a full-page spread in Vogue Knitting magazine. His garments have been collected by Lauren Bacall, Barbra Streisand and Shirley MacLaine.
He later took up needlepoint and patchwork, creating a new, but equally colourful, body of work. He has written over 40 best-selling books inspiring people to have a go and is a regular contributor to Rowan Yarns.
In 1988 he was the first living textile artist to be given a one-person show at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, a very successful exhibition that also toured the Nordics, Australia, Canada and the USA.
His commissions have been varied – from flowing coats and shawls for a ballet in Stockholm, Sweden, to sets for the Hankyu Department Store in Osaka, Japan. He also designed costumes and sets for the UK-based Northern Ballet Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1998 he designed the Hillier Garden Centres garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, featuring his mosaic columns, planters and a shell grotto – all good for a Gold Medal. Further recognition followed in 2013 when he was awarded the Turner Medal by the Colour Group (Great Britain).
Check out Kaffe Fassett’s work in The Gallery.