Thursday, 12 June 2014

The American Museum in Britain - Part 1

KING  OF  COLOUR
 FIFT YEA CELEBRATION
Once seen and admired who could possibly forget the colourful world of KAFFFASSETT - his tapestries and knitwear elevate even the humble cabbage to an object of beauty.
A post on KAFFE has been bubbling away in my drafts cauldron for the past few months, but joy of joys a 50 year celebratory exhibition of his work is now taking place at the American Museum in Britain - a mere hop, skip and a jump down the road from me.
Founded in 1961 at Claverton Manor, Bath, the American Museum in Britain is the only museum of American decorative and folk art outside the United States.
The manor built in 1820 is beautifully situated high above the Avon Valley and commands wonderful views over the surrounding countryside.
 
At the age of 19 KAFFE won a scholarship to the Museum of Fine arts in Boston but inspired by his conversations about England with Christopher Isherwood he left in 1964 for London. His timing was perfect as London was about to burst into colour with the arrival of the swinging sixties, and KAFFE was in his element. 
Shortly after KAFFE arrived in 1964 he came to stay in Bath for six months. During this time he was inspired by the decorative treasures on view at Claverton Manor - especially the Museum's many antique American quilts. He was fascinated not only with the block patterns created in the textile masterworks but also by their audacious use of juxtaposed colours and printed fabrics.
KAFFE'
quilts 
Star
Bordered Diamonds 
Striped City
Tumbling Fans
KAFFE'
paintings
KAFFsays: "The one art form that gave me not only an approach to colour, but the exciting geometric forms to hang any colour scheme on, was the patchwork quilt....
The American Museum was one place that collected these inventive compositions of patterned fabric, as America is one country that celebrates this craft. It connects us with the hands of our forebears."
KAFFE'
knitwear
Some of his own work and part of his collection of eclectic pottery
KAFFE'
Needlepoint 
Charleston Summer 
Vegetables
Giant Shell
Both images from the same needlepoint rug
KAFFE'S studio/workshop

The museum has a beautiful garden which I shall show in another post -  a replica of a famous America garden
The exhibition is open until the 2nd November 2014 - closed Mondays
"This is the grandest show of my career - every item is part of an intricate opera of colour. I have always wanted this approach to my work, but other museum designers and curators have steered me to a rather mixed approach in my exhibitions.
This show is so unique to me because it explains in a visceral way my growing obsession with the power of colour. My hope and conviction is that this exhibition at the American Museum in Britain will show the grey and beige clad young the sensual thrill of pure colour. I still feel vital! I want my message to come across in this mood altering show - I'm flying high on colour.
This show is closer to my desires than ever before in my many, many presentations around the world."
Kaffe Fassett, 12th March 2014

58 comments:

  1. Hurrah for your draft's cauldron Rosemary!! What a visually stunning collection of colour and what a variety of mediums this man uses as a vehicle for his world of colour. I love brilliant colours but I have to say I was a little overwhelmed when I first started reading your post.

    Thank you for such a wonderful post.
    Ms Soup

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment Ms Soup - believe it all not but my post is a very toned down version of the exhibition which has shocking pink, turquoise, and lime green walls. You enter through a tunnel of mirrors which exaggerates the whole effect.

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  2. Gorgeous pictures of Kaffe Fassett's work, Rosemary, and how I wish I could see that Exhibition in Bath. Like most Australian quilters, my sewing group is collectively in love with Kaffe's work. I have made one quilt to his design and fabrics, which perfectly suits our bright hot climate, and a patchwork skirt (which I never wear these days!) Kaffe Fassett has been coming to Australia every few years giving very popular workshops. Love the paintings, which I have never seen, but they are as equally appealing as the fabrics. thank you for sharing your cauldron of happy ideas. Great post!

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    1. I am sure you would love the exhibition Patricia, not only is it an exciting visual display, but also the permanent museum collection is worthy of a visit too, and not forgetting the very special garden.
      Perhaps you should get out your patchwork skirt and wear it again in honour of Kaffe's 50 years.

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  3. Hello Rosemary, I have just stumbled upon your gorgeous blog! What beautiful and sumptuous photos you take and of such interesting subjects. I was very enamoured of Kaffe Fassett's work years ago and have quite a few of his books. I confess that I haven't kept abreast of his work in recent years so it was lovely to see your post. I held my breath to see where exactly the American Museum resides as I am very lucky to be visiting the UK in a few weeks time and hoped it would be situated in London. Maybe I will get the chance to squeeze a day trip from London to Bath in on my itinerary!!

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    1. Hello Wendy - thank you for your visit and for becoming a follower - welcome. Later in the day I will pop over and see you.
      If you caught an early bus to Bath you would be able to see the exhibition - the journey is about 2 hours. The American Museum is outside Bath up in the hills, but the museum offers a free bus pick up at the back of Bath Abbey. The first small bus picks up at 12.15pm but be there for 12 noon it only holds 14 people. Anyone would point you in the right direction, and the bus has the name of the museum on the side. There is a free return journey back to Bath.
      However, Bath is not a place to visit briefly, it is a wonderful stone built city with UNESCO heritage status, and the most wonderful Roman baths comparable to anywhere in the world. Stay a night at least if you travel over.

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    2. Thanks so much for all the detailed information Rosemary! I have been lucky enough to visit Bath on two previous occasions and I agree it needs FAR more than a day trip to do it justice!
      You are so lucky to have all these amazing places on your doorstep - not that I know exactly where your doorstep is - but it's obviously close enough for you to make the most of your amazing country!

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    3. Do hope that you can fit a trip in to the exhibition Wendy - I live north of Bath in the Cotswolds, it only takes me 40 mins.

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  4. Unique to me Rosemary, such beautiful bright colours to brighten ones day...
    Regards,
    Margaret

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    1. Thank you Margaret - We really enjoyed our day at the museum - not only the colourful world of Kaffe but enjoyed seeing the American Folk Art and gardens too.

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  5. Dear Rosemary,

    I was introduced to Kaffe Fassett about 15 years ago through one of his books on needlepoint, But it was exclusively on his fine needlepoint designs. Your posting has highlighted his many facets and what a prodigious artist he is. It really looks as though Kaffe has spent a lifetime creating around the clock!

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    1. Hello Mark - he travels widely giving lectures and demonstrations on quilting. His latest venture is mosaic work, 3D figures of swans etc. I have also seen a mosaic that he did in an entrance porch to a domestic house which was a cornucopia of flowers.

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  6. Hello Rosemary, I wish that I could go see that exhibition, as I am amazed at the detail and craftsmanship in his color-saturated work as you have presented it.

    America may be the home of quilting, but on a previous trip to London, I was requested to visit Liberty's department store to get pieces of their well-known fabrics for a friend who quilts.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - Liberty's is my favourite shop to visit when I am in London, it is much more than just a retail business and has been ever since it was founded. I particularly enjoy the way they showcase young up and coming designers, craftspeople, jewellers etc, and as you rightly mention their fabrics are particularly lovely.

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  7. What an interesting exhibition to visit Rosemary! His colourful work looks really impressive!

    Have a lovely evening!

    Madelief x

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    1. I think that you would love the exhibition Madelief - he likes lots of the colours that you enjoy too.

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  8. How fabulous. I loved a visit I made to the American museum in Bath ...but it was nearly 40 years ago....that is a scary thought. ( I took American Studies at university, and one of our lecturers organised a trip for us ). I love the quilts and always have been fascinated by those gorgeous and often ancient stitched works of art.... and the Kaffe Fasset exhibition looks amazing. Thank you so much for sharing this....glorious.

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    1. I have not been back to the museum for about 20 years, and this time I also explored the garden which I will show in another post, it is beautiful. I wonder if you managed to see it?

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  9. Dear Rosemary,
    what an exuberance of colour! A firework - so joyous and lively! I love especially his quilts, and the needle point - what a creative energy. And of course he is right about the beige - though I always fight that more in elderly people's fashion, the young ones in beige I might have overlooked :-)
    Wish that the exhibition comes to Berlin too: we have a special Arts&Crafts Museum too.

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    1. I do not know whether Kaffe's intention is to take the exhibition elsewhere - come over to Bath and see it, you have plenty of time Britta. The curators have painted all of the walls bright zingy colours,and there is an entrance passage made out of mirrors that exaggerates the whole exuberant effect.

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  10. The American Museum is definitely on my list of places to visit and I had noticed this exhibition on Kaffe Fassetts work, but now I want to go even more!!!! I really hope that we can arrange it at some point to visit as it looks astounding. Your pictures are lovely, so vibrant and beautifully captured. Thank you! xx

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    1. At least you have plenty of time Amy - the exhibition has another 4¾ months to run.
      It is a lovely museum to visit anyway, and has a wonderful garden - the whole is situated in an idyllic spot.
      Bring plenty of pennies as the shop is very good too.

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  11. Oh Rosemary you've been. And what super pictures of the exhibition. I can't wait to go. I posted a little film of Kaffe talking about the planning of the show, a wee while back. I adore him and his partner Brandon and everything they create. I even have one of Kaffe's paintings in my drawing room, although it's not as bright as some of his work I still am super pleased I have it. I'm really looking forward to your post about the garden at the museum as I have never been there.

    Jean x

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    1. Some of the early drawings Kaffe did when he first arrived in the UK, and found Claverton Manor so inspirational are on show.
      What a very lucky girl you are Jean to be the owner of one of Kaffe's painting.

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  12. Great colour article, like how you even out the title in the same theme.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. Colour is what Kaffe is all about, so I hope that I have done him justice.

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  13. Wonderful - I remember Kaffe's colourful work from years and years ago. He's a perennial!

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    1. I can't believe that it is 50 years ago that he first hit us with his cabbages and cauliflowers - I do remember being so impressed that they could be considered things of beauty, which of course they are.

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  14. Such colourful post Posemary! Love it! Amazing how the quilts inspired KAFFE(sorry, no colour) to make more beautiful art. Especially love the striped city quilt and the vegetables needlepoint. Couldn't live without colour. Can anyone?
    Marian

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    1. Dear Marian if I had to choose one thing it would probably be the striped city quilt after I had already taken the painting of the colourful vases off the wall.

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  15. What a riot of color. I love quilts. I am always on the look out for them wherever I shop. His cabbage painting is beautiful.

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    1. He has a unique and colourful eye.

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  16. It sounds as if Kaffe Fassett is happy with the way the American Museum in Britain has curated this 50-year celebratory exhibition to demonstrate his love of colour in his artistic creations. The quilt designs are beautiful and I think visitors from different cultures would enjoy seeing them. I like the shell pattern and colours of that rug and the Tumbling Fans quilt pattern. It's good to know that this creative person is still full of enthusiasm and wants to pass on his philosophy of the use of colour in art to others.

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    1. It is hard to believe that he first made the cabbage into a piece of art 50 years ago, he made us see the mundane as beautiful.

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  17. How wonderful that the museum are showcasing the work of Kaffe Fassett and thankyou for your own tribute with this interesting post. Your kind words on my last Travel Tales post are appreciated, I do so agree with you about the difficulties in preparing suitable posts.

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    1. I enjoyed having a good excuse to go mad with the colourful borders and printing.

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  18. Wonderful images and what a riot of colour, Rosemary.. I admire Kaffe Fassett's designs very much and once bought a book of his knitting patterns, only to realise that they are far beyond my skills. Still, I can enjoy looking at them. :-)

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    1. I appreciate the way Kaffe introduced us to everyday ordinary objects, cabbages, beetroots, cauliflowers, and showed us that they were things of beauty. We tend to forget that it was Kaffe who did that.

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    1. Something that he excells at Sharon.

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  20. I remember the first time I encountered Kaffe Fassett's work - I was hooked on the rich colour. Somewhere, in a trunk in the attic, are two cushion covers that I did in needlepoint - rich greens and purples, eggplant and plums and other fruits and vegetables. I must dig them out when we move. I still crave colour - could never live in an all-white house.

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    1. Your cushions sound absolutely lovely, you will be able to enjoy them afresh in your home.

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  21. Pure fabulosity and joy to the eyes ! How lucky to live nearby and to see all this for real, wow !

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    1. The ladies have been flocking to the exhibition, and I did wondered what my husband would make of it, but you know what, he enjoyed it.

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  22. How lovely to see this exhibition Rosemary. He certainly produces some fabulously colourful and intricate works of art and it was a joy to read all about your visit. x

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    1. If you like Kaffe's work then this exhibition is well worth a visit, plus you can see the rest of the museum, gardens, and even Bath itself.

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  23. Dear Rosemary,

    I am so delighted you have taken the time to post about this exhibition; your carefully penned words and attention to details - and your PHOTOGRAPHS - have delighted my senses. Kaffe Fassett has my undying admiration. His ability to turn nature into geometric forms and, of course, his use of colour literally blow my mind.

    Thank you very much for sharing your visit with us all.

    Stephanie

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    1. Dear Stephanie - Thank you for your very kind comment. I can appreciate that you would also enjoy this exhibition being such a fine needlewomen yourself. It was Kaffe that showed us that the cabbage, beetroot and cauliflower were more than mere vegetables.

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  24. I have learnt much more about Kaffe Rosemary. I associated him with his pullovers and knitted wear.
    I didn't know he painted.. I love his work.
    You have shown us so much here Rosemary.
    I love the red colored patchwork beadspread.. Oh, gosh.. how I wish I had a big house again. One could go wild with all his lovely color choices..
    Enjoyed this visit. looking forward to the next.
    I am behind blogging and commenting.. but getting there.
    wishing you a happy weekend. val x

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    1. Thank you for your visit Val - Kaffe seems to have been developing along different lines for most of his career with the common denominator being colour. He is now doing extraordinary mosaic works which are unlike any other I have ever seen.

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  25. I love the Kaffe colours! This was a lovely post...
    Have a great weekend Rosemary.
    Love Titti

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    1. Thank you Titti - this post gave me an opportunity to go a bit wild with the colours around the photos and the printing - enjoy your weekend too♡

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  26. He lives near me.... have always fantasised about fainting in the road outside his house and him inviting me in for a cup of tea - he is quite a private person, though....

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    1. You could always give it a go and let us know how it works.
      I think I mentioned before that because I am not on Google + I do not seem to be able to comment on your blog.

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  27. My son visited the American museum when he was at primary school and learning about the Native Americans. The Kaffee exhibition looks fantastic and it is lovely that it is taking place in somewhere that originally inspired him. Sarah x

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    1. It is, and he really seems to appreciate that aspect himself - they have the drawings on show that he did when he was there 50 years ago.

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  28. Rosemary,
    I am so grateful to have read about Kaffe's exhibit. I am now planning to come see it in person (from California, USA). Can you recommend where to stay? I assume I can take a train from London?
    Many thanks,
    Mary

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    1. Dear Mary - you can travel by train or bus to Bath. The museum does not open until 12 noon so you could catch an early bus or train. The museum has a free shuttle bus service from Bath up to the museum and then back to Bath. The first bus is at 12.15pm and leaves from behind Bath Abbey. You need to be there to catch it at 12noon to be sure of getting on, it is just a small bus which holds 14 people.
      Look at the museums website here:-
      http://americanmuseum.org/
      Are you wanting somewhere to stay in Bath?
      I couldn't actually recommend anywhere to stay, but central Bath would be best.
      Look at this website
      http://visitbath.co.uk/accommodation/guest-houses-and-bed-and-breakfast
      Hope this is of some help to you - don't forget the Museum does not open on Mondays unless it is a Bank Holiday.
      In Bath the Tourist Information Office is at the side of Bath Abbey in the large square - anyone would point it out to you.

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