Glorious Colour lecture, by Kaffe Fassett

On Thursday I attended the Turner Medal Lecture and Presentation for 2013 at City University, London.

The Turner Medal is awarded to…

“…a distinguished artist or art historian honouring Britain’s greatest colourist.   A sterling silver medal is awarded to mark the occasion, and the recipient presents a keynote lecture related to his or her work.”

This year’s recipient is Kaffe Fassett, and his lecture was entitled “Glorious Colour”.


Kaffe has had 15 books published (three of them just last year), including his autobiography “Dreaming in Colour”.  Most people will know his work as the colourful, knitted designs created using only stocking stitch, although he also works in tapestry and patchwork too.

He has designed over 1400 fabric designs and does everything by hand – none of his work is created on a computer (he admitted to not being able to use any machine known to man).  Most of his work is done in his north London studio while listening to Radio 4.

Kaffe described his whole life as “a study of colour” and thinks of art as a religion for artists.  This isn’t an organised religion though!  He ran away from the colour wheel at art school, and has remained focussed on colour ever since.

Kaffe talked us through many slides of images that inspired him; these ranged from oriental influences to Big Sur in California to rocky landscapes in Wales… and he admitted that his favourite colour is grey.  Apparently grey is a good background for colour and shows it off brilliantly as “using lots of colour doesn’t mean Walt Disney on acid”.  Nothing thrills him like a good mist and the way it softens and changes colour.

Anything is a potential source of inspiration and Kaffe takes photos of random things that catch his eye (sounds like me!).  He wants to capture the shapes, colours, contrasts and lines for use later in the design process.  He particularly likes weather distressed landscapes, burnt buildings and shades of rust.

He likes to design big prints on fabric as they show colour better, and he likes the voluptuousness of it.

The evening was very interesting and entertaining, and Kaffe certainly seemed to be enjoying himself as he made his way through a bottle of wine during the lecture.  An evening well spent!

Kaffe featured on Desert Island Discs and if you’d like to hear the interview and learn more about him, it’s available here.


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