Need a holiday handknit? Time for a Schmatta!

Instinct Is a Good Designer (and So Is This Guy)

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Dear Ann,
I went into Kaffe Fassett’s talk last night thinking that, being a SuperFan, I pretty much knew what there was to know about The Man and His Work. I came away surprised, and more than anything, inspired. My pictures, however, are anything but inspiring. The light was awful and I was too shy to flash. (Flashing would be impertinent, don’t you think?)
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Surprises: He doesn’t have an English accent. He still sounds like a California boy, one who might have seen a lot of British movies. (When Kaffe “talks” to me in my head, he has an English accent. BBC-correct, and a bit bossy. He says things like, “Kay old thing, your pastels are simply not glowing.”)
He’s funny. It seems like more than a person could expect, that on top of all his other gifts, he’d be funny, but he is. He had me at “The color wheel is the work of the devil.” (He finds color combinations derived from the wheel to be sterile and boring. I repressed a big RIGHT ON BROTHER!HAIL YES!)
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He’s still very excited about COLOR. I guess I thought that after all he’s done, he might be a bit “been-there-done-that-and-by-the-way-I-invented-color.” Not at all! He thinks people should work a few rows of his colorwork patterns, to imprint the structure on the brain, then throw away the chart and change colors at will. That’s how he does it himself, with a black & white chart or sketch, and a bag full of colors.
The thing I found most inspiring is his attitude toward the perfectionism that afflicts many of us when we knit or stitch. He is impatient with those whose work is slowed down by repeated ripping-back. Keep going! Git ‘r done! (OK he didn’t actually SAY “git ‘r done”.) You can’t really see the effect of your color and design choices at the row level, or the swatch level, or even the halfway-there level. You have to be willing to wait for the whole effect. If you work quickly, instinct starts to kick in, and “instinct is a good designer”. I’m going to remember that one for a long time.
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I didn’t know about his large mosaics. This one is a wall of broken china for a local preschool. He and Brandon Mably did another large one for a china factory, which custom-made pieces for them to smash up and glue back together. Could anything be more fun than smashing up new china and sticking it back together all crazy-like? (Sign me UP.)
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I also didn’t know about his commissioned big-stitch tapestries (one is behind Brandon Mably in the photo above, pretty much life-size), or his many crazy needlepoint chairs. MEMO TO THE PUBLISHING WORLD: Hello–where is the book about Kaffe’s house? I want that book!
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The evening ended with Kaffe signing his new book, Kaffe Knits Again (as Brandon said, he actually never stopped, but whatever), and being charming to everyone. I have marked him and Brandon down in my Book of Living Dolls.
Love,
Kay
PS I was too shy to ask for a picture, but here’s proof that my Smoulder got to meet her dad.
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41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. “Instinct is a good designer.”
    Brilliant brilliant. It’s killin me that I couldn’t attend this.
    There is so much in what Kaffe does that applies to every single person who cooks up knitting projects. Even if you’d rather die than use more than one color in a project, this idea of instinct is powerful—if you really, truly trust your gut, you’re going to end up with cool stuff. I’m going to be chewing on this for a while.
    Thanks for the reportage. So great.

  2. Instinct can be a cheeky monkey, too. Love it!

  3. WOW.. I would have loved this and the art teacher part of me would have been very inspired by all the color talk and examples.
    I liked his ’tile project’.. I’ve lived overseas for 18 years and I’ve been saving all the broken dishes/vases/etc.. that have been broken in all my many moves.. and some day.. the ‘plan’ is to make a tile tabletop out of all my ‘broken treasures’.. makes me feel all inspired.. to think that the MAN OF COLOR DESIGN has already done the plan that I’ve had since 1989.
    It especially helped to hear about his ‘broken china project’.. because, when though the years, and ‘others’ (not the creative types clearly) would discover my broken items and try to throw them away.. and I’d explain what I had planned to do.. they’d give me THAT LOOK.. you know the look, don’t you?
    :D

  4. I think that photo of you and Kaffe is suitable for framing.

  5. I love how referential we knitters are with those we highly respect in the knitting world. I would feel the same way about meeting you and Ann.

  6. I went to see him give this talk in Atlanta. Everything you said is true.
    Thanks for the report. It was much more that I did.
    And by the way, Kaffe and Brandon both wore the same tops as in your picture.
    One thing I would add is that he talked about loving color and pattern. So even if his shirt is rather subdued, each hexagon encloses a different print.

  7. I went to see him give this talk in Atlanta. Everything you said is true.
    Thanks for the report. It was much more that I did.
    And by the way, Kaffe and Brandon both wore the same tops as in your picture.
    One thing I would add is that he talked about loving color and pattern. So even if his shirt is rather subdued, each hexagon encloses a different print.

  8. I KNEW you’d enjoy the lecture. And you haven’t seen his book, MOSAICS? Kay, Kay, Kay…get thee to Amazon!! (I think it’s his most inspiring color book.)

  9. thank you kay i have a case of envy
    where does one find the colours of
    yarn he uses i do not like the wheel either
    thank you perhaps a book page could find
    your book try powells and thier used books

  10. So glad you had a good time! It is entirely his fault I ended up working in knitting. And the fact that the house bun we had at the time chewed the Kaffe library book so badly I had to buy it…

  11. wow. you ‘kinneared’ kaffe fassett (hopefully a yarn harlot reference that you understand).
    you are the best.

  12. Kaffe is so much fun and not a traditionalist in anything that he does. Sort of freeing, isn’t it, to listen to somebody who makes their own rules. He was in Portland, OR, two years ago and I went to hear his presentation. Awesome. If you need to see more of his amazing color arrangements, check out Welcome Home by Kaffe Fassett. It shows his home (I’m pretty sure he has *staff*) — imagine waking up every morning in such a glorious environment.

  13. Funny, I had to muster up some bravery to say hello to you last night, and you had the same feelings about Kaffe. It was nice to “meet” you even though I did a lousy job of introducing myself! Thanks, Jennifer

  14. WOW~ I need to hold onto the instinct is the best designer as well….what a report!

  15. Kaffe Fassett’s “Welcome Home”– THAT’S the book you want! Right now! You’ll go wild. Seriously.

  16. I share your enthusiasm for Kaffe. You MUST take the Brandon Mably color class the next time it is offered at Stitches. Awesome is the only description!

  17. The Kayye strikes again! Should have gone – I was at childbirth class watching a horrible video about elk and epidurals. No, really. Really! Horridly illustrated. With elk as stand-ins for people. And a mouse doula. (???) Even Mr. Cake probably would have preferred being dragged in for a lecture on color.
    Smolder on, Kayye. I’m putting the “instinct is a good designer” in The Notebook. In big letters. The Kaffe, you are slowly sucking me in. I find him such a mixed bag – a few things, I like, many things of his I find rather a bit atrocious, a few things are genius.

  18. Thanks for the recap. I learned a few things from it.

  19. I have the same feelings about tearing back as Mr Fassett does.It is wasteful and you loose so much that can turn out good. you just need to keep going even in doubt. Glad you had a good time at the lecture wish I was there…Christine

  20. I once met Kaffe Fassett many years ago at a simliar lecture. I asked him if he ever took time to sleep as he’s so productive. He said his mind is always working even when he sleeps and he survives on very little sleep.
    Great report btw!

  21. I once met Kaffe Fassett many years ago at a simliar lecture. I asked him if he ever took time to sleep as he’s so productive. He said his mind is always working even when he sleeps and he survives on very little sleep.
    Great report btw!

  22. I once met Kaffe Fassett many years ago at a simliar lecture. I asked him if he ever took time to sleep as he’s so productive. He said his mind is always working even when he sleeps and he survives on very little sleep.
    Great report by the way!

  23. KAY! How great is that! Instinct is a good designer! Somebody needlepoint that on a pillow quick! Let’s ditch our families right after Christmas and go to his workshop in Big Sur – COME ON!!!! MY GOD! The shot of Brandon holding the Gridlock blanket!!!!!! I need to make some tea and settle down.

  24. Awww! Thanks for giving a report to the masses! I thoroughly enjoyed that! Ditto on the Mosaic book and Welcome Home. Love those.

  25. Makes me want to run and sew up my miter blanket RIGHT NOW! I’m sorry I missed last night – more because I would’ve loved to see you all blushy and everything. Miss you!

  26. I can’t believe I didn’t read this week until today and actually could have gone to this…….so sad.

  27. Kaaay, dahling, get a copy of The New Country Style England by Ingrid Rasmussen and you can see pictures of Kaffe and Brandon’s house starting on p. 216. Also, you must get a copy of his mosaic book! Astounding!

  28. About 4 yrs ago I met Kaffe in a small LYS in Houston. I was so impressed with his easy, kind, color inspired ways. He made me feel as if I could knit anything. He seemed to be so humble without being smug or little. Know what I’m trying to say?

  29. I am jealous, so, so jealous. I’m green with envy. Why didn’t I go? I wanted so much to go. Something to do with a plane, work, family and shortage of funds. That and the fact that I didn’t know it was on until too late…

  30. The mosaics book is a must, as Jan says. Also this is worth looking at http://www.amazon.com/Welcome-Home-Kaffe-Fassett/dp/1564772780t even though it’s a little out of date.
    So pleased you had a good time.

  31. “The color wheel is the work of the devil.” I LOVE him.

  32. The lecture sounds *great*. You might also enjoy another Kaffe Fassett book called Glorious Interiors. I believe it was all photographed in his home (in 1995), and it’s all his wonderfully riotous layering of color and pattern. It’s kind of a decorating book with lots of inspiring pictures of things he’s done (including mosaics and chairs! :), but also has instructions for some projects in needlepoint, knitting, rag rugs. It’s a fun one!

  33. Yipppppeeee!! I’m so pleased to hear he’s as wonderful as we want him to be.
    After your post earlier this week I did a bit of digging and now have tickets to see him at the end of November! Now I must decide if I’m going to wear the coat…..
    http://thingssoolikes.blogspot.com/search/label/Chinese%20Rose%20Coat – what do you think????

  34. LOL!!!
    Smoulder got to meet her father!

  35. I am going to have to get that book. The man is a genius and you are sooooo lucky. Did you actually rub shoulders?

  36. “Instinct is a good designer” Interesting..possibly inspiring?
    Thanks for this, I trying to make up a colourwork project and I have a tendency to … go for the learned response rather than the instinctive? Not any more!
    I’m British: I thought KF was American.

  37. Ah, Kay. Thank you for the very lovely flashbacks to the class I took with Brandon and Kaffe (I kid you NOT) about 12 years ago in Lenox. It was such a wild way to think about knitting, and I’m so pleased they are still spreading the word of freewheeling color.
    I came home from that weekend, gathered up a million skeins in a resultingly consistent gauge, and promptly sat down and knit my husband a glorious sweater that I would have considered impossible three days before. It went fast, was like being on a playground to work on, and he wore it until it started falling apart.

  38. Oh, what a fantastic talk that must have been. I’m trying to control my jealousy here. Well, I’m trying to try.

  39. I was at that talk too! I dragged my coworker along who is a beginner knitter and also a grad of FIT in textile design. We didn’t really know much about Kaffe before seeing him. I simply described him to her as a crafty colorist. Boy is he a lot more than that! I thought his slide presentation was very inspiring. I loved his unfussy attitude and that he encouraged focus to get large projects done. He was very encouraging and charming.

  40. you should have asked him to sign your boobie like eliza did, lol!

  41. Love the last picture, exactly the kind of picture I would do! LOVE IT! LOVE COLOR and your blog.
    Janice in Southeastern WI