Something for your Bucket List

In November of 2015, I participated in Kaffe Fassett’s Color workshop with noted fabric designers, Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably. Quilters around the world go out of their way to experience one workshop weekend with these two creative guys. I have been lucky enough to attend two.

 Jolly Brandon Mably in his gorgeous "Zig Zag" shirt. 

Jolly Brandon Mably in his gorgeous "Zig Zag" shirt. 

I drove three hours from my home to participate in this workshop weekend, and to hear Kaffe Fassett deliver his lecture on color (the first time I did this, I drove 11 hours and it was worth every mile). The Missouri Star Quilt Company, in Hamilton, Missouri, hosted the workshop. 

Hamilton Missouri is a tiny town with 1800 residents, just an hour north of Kansas City, Missouri. It is a quilters’ dream destination with multiple quilt shops, and an outstanding supply of dreamy fabrics at your fingertips. Quilting celebrity Jenny Doan lives there with her husband, Ron. Her son, Alan Doan, and daughter, Sarah Galbraith, own and run the burgeoning Missouri Star Quilt Co. Hamilton, once a dwindling community with little growth, now exudes a happy energy, and is simply a pleasant and peaceful place to visit while you dawdle your way down the main street and treat yourself to the ultimate shop hop.

I arrived in Hamilton on a Wednesday morning. The retreat was held in a restored brownstone on Main Street. Lodging was located on the upper floor of the retreat facility, and was dormitory style including rooms decorated with quilts and very comfortable beds (big bonus). We suffered no inconvenience whatsoever, and were provided with meals on site. The cheerful staff attended to our every need, including a polite young man who carried our bags upstairs to the dormitory. Additionally, each participant was given a lovely welcome gift.

When Kaffe and Brandon arrived, the workshop began. The patterns selected for this event were “Mediterranean Hexagons” found in their book entitled, Quilts of Morocco, and “Bright Stars” from their newest book, Heritage Quilts.

 Kaffe smiling as he signs books.  

Kaffe smiling as he signs books.  

Once we taped the gray flannel gridded design panels to the walls, we launched into the first of two, intense, day-long color workshops. We were instructed not to cut any fabric prior to the workshop, but of course, everyone did. Doing so only resulted in a pile of unused pieces of fabric because, as we learned, the design process is organic and evolutionary and in the moment. 

Kaffe instructed us to listen to him, and to do what he said, in spite of our preconceived notions or preferences for design and color. We quickly and carefully cut pieces of fabric, and put them on our design walls.  We stood back and looked and pondered. It was very beneficial to use a magnifying glass to assess the design throughout the design process, because the view through the magnifying glass seemed to reveal colors in contrast much more clearly than with the naked eye. We ALL doubted ourselves, and our color choices, but we kept going with their watchful guidance and constructive suggestion. It was challenging to know that they were closely evaluating our color choices, and to step outside of our comfort zones and stretch our color muscles. Within the morning, we each discovered a color palette. Kaffe and Brandon circulated throughout room, suggesting this “jazzy green” or that “sparky print.”  We found out that the awful yellow of a tennis ball is sometimes just the color that will make blue glow!  Who knew that the golden undertone of a pretzel would be just the right shade of orange to bounce off the other colors and keep the gaze moving around the quilt? Essentially, it wasn’t the print that was important, but the colors in the print that we worked with, each color having an effect on every color around it. What we all produced is not at all what we thought we would create. It was much, much better. Of course, the beautiful prints of the Kaffe Fassett Collective were included in everyone’s work.  

On the third day (after two full days of color instruction), was the Kaffe Fassett Color Lecture. It was very interesting to see slides from their travels and photographs of places and things that have inspired their designs.  

It’s fair to say, we were all a little star-struck and excited to learn from these two iconic and glorious designers. They were generous with their talents and themselves, and it was unforgettably enjoyable.

 Kaffe and I take a selfie.  

Kaffe and I take a selfie.  

If you have a chance to be a student of Kaffe and Brandon, do it. It is rare today to be in the presence of creative genius, and the experience is not to be missed.

Photo credit:  Kate Fenwick Dorsey, 2015.