Photo by Debbie Patterson

An interview with Kaffe Fassett

Written by Linnéa Ruiz Mutikainen by Ulrika Lindqvist

Craftsmanship, reimagined. Textile trailblazer Kaffe Fassett’s creative landscape embraces eccentric forms, a bustling exploration of not only technique but also color. For him, crafting in color is a recurrent desire. End of September, Kaffe Fassett: The Power of Pattern opens its doors at Millesgården Museum, set to inject energetic to the zeitgeist minimalist agenda of the region.

LINNÉA RUIZ MUTIKAINEN: Color is undoubtedly key to your artistic practice, continuously depicted through your work. What sparked this interest?

KAFFE FASSETT: When I first started life as a serious full-time artist, I painted only white on white still lives. Color was just a distraction from many white dashes on white clothworks. I gradually got into color as I encountered Persian paintings in the Victoria and Albert Museum. They were crammed with the movement of pattern in a riot of color, transforming my own paintings to a dance of pattern in multicolor. These paintings made me feel joyous.

LRM: Your incorporation and later key transition from classic painting to textile craftsmanship is of particular interest to me. Did it come to you naturally?

KF: I started knitting because the yarns I found in Scotland were intriguingly beautiful. No one was using them to their advantage. It was meant to be a brief relief from my painting career, but soon I found the act of knitting to be so soothing and addictive.

My mind loved the exercise of creating patterns to carry color in more inventive ways. My personal travels, visits to museums, and searching in books for rich patterns of past cultures turned into an all-absorbing pastime. Months of experiments passed and I got to design for the Missoni’s in Italy and be celebrated by Vogue Magazine.

LRM: There are regular injections of diverse materials and techniques, from hand-stitching to patchwork and quilting, through your work. Have you always been curious to try out new textures?

KF: I am curious about new textures and ways of manipulating patterns. But my main obsession and quest is to develop colors in any way that I can find. Just arranging colorful cushions and carpets in a room is deeply satisfying to me.

LRM: The Colour Lab is not only your studio, it is also your home. Has it ever been challenging or solely creatively fruitful merging private life with artistic creation in the same space?

KF: I love to wake up amid my projects. Living where I work is so rich to me. I do make myself take breaks to walk or go for a swim to find balance in my life. But I love what I do. I am so glad I don’t have to travel to get stuck in each day.

LRM: Your upcoming exhibition at Millesgården, Kaffe Fassett: The Power of Pattern showcases a diverse range of your work. What can we, as visitors, expect from the exhibition?

KF: The Power of Pattern is a celebration of all the quilters around the world who use the Kaffe Collective prints by Brandon Mably, Philip Jacobs, and myself in diverse and brilliant ways. Any would-be creative person should find inspiration and ideas here.

LRM: Do you have any sources or ideas of inspiration, both for this exhibition and your creative process in general?

KF: I would say my main inspiration comes from the makers of the past. Skansen is a perfect example. A rich gathering of wonderful life-enhancing design, made by people in the past who wanted life to be decorated and special.

The exhibition Kaffe Fassett: The Power of Pattern opens today September 30th, 2023 at Millesgården and is open until February 28th, 2024.

Portrait of Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably working in the studio © Debbie Patterson

Photo of The Roseville Album © Kim McLean

Photo by Kim McLean