A short while ago I bought Kaffe Fasset's 'Dreaming in Color' an autobiography he produced in 2012. Though not an entirely won over fan of Fassett, knit was my specialisation at college whilst taking a constructed textiles degree, and I am a big fan of men who knit, crochet, weave and embroider.
The book could well have been entitled 'My Charmed Life', as this six foot three Californian sweeps us along from his artistically bohemian childhood at Big Sur on the sunny Californian coast, to art classes in New York, and a very successful textile career in London. Although Fassett has no doubt seen and experienced hardship and suffering in his life, you get the impression that it didn't hang around for long, and that is the charm of the man.
Although Fassett's work is often derided by the critics and people love, hate and are indifferent to his work in what often seems equal numbers, no one can deny the man's positive enthusiasm for the process of creativity, but perhaps more importantly still, expression through creativity. Fassett has always seemed throughout his charmed career, to be generous and supportive to others, whether they be professional or amateur. He seems to exude genuine interest in the work of a well-known knit designer, or an amateur who has only recently mastered a few basic stitches. That is a gift that can rarely be taught, more often being a much sought after character trait in others.
Illustration: Billy Gibb and Kaffe Fassett, 1960s.
The book itself is heavily illustrated, many of the entries being in colour with double spreads and chapters tend to follow the main events of his life as in his childhood in California, his time in New York as a fine artist, his arrival in London in the Sixties, and then chapters on the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties till present day.
Fassett's text is calm, considered, and generous, as you would expect. There is little technical detail as to his work, but he has plenty of other books for that. Although an autobiography, it is not necessarily a candid one. I got the impression that there was a lot left unsaid as to the complex relationships with his family and with his love life, but it is his autobiography so he chooses what to focus on.
The bulk of the book concentrates on Fassett's textile career, from his early days producing pattern work for Missoni, his collaboration with Scottish fashion designer Billy Gibb, his exploration of hand knit; some of his early experiments are beautifully expressive of the colours of the Scottish natural landscape. Then on to his discovery of needlepoint, quilting, even mosaic work, Fassett is nothing if not open to new avenues and creative suggestions, which makes his work and indeed career life story all the more intriguing, even inspirational.
Dreaming in Color may only appeal to the knitters of the world, which is a shame, as the book really dedicates itself to one man's love affair with colour, texture, and creative possibilities. You may well loathe, love, or be indifferent to the work of Fassett, however, I defy anyone not to be won over by the charms of this gentle, but passionate man from California, and inspired by an individual who seems never happier than when surrounded by the world of textiles.
Dreaming in Color should still be readily and easily available at most outlets. Below in the Further reading links section can be found Fassett's autobiography, as well as a number of his other titles.
Further reading links: