Kaffe Fassett exhibit coming to the Michener

Kaffe Fasset
Kaffe Fassett (b. 1937) at the Quilt Museum and Gallery in York, England, May 2015. Photograph by Tony Bartholomew, Courtesy of the Quilter’s Guild Collection.

A rare collection featuring the work of famed quilt and fiber artist Kaffe Fassett and historical quilts from the United Kingdom is coming the U.S. this fall and the Michener in Pennsylvania will be one of just two museums to host it.

The exhibit, “Blanket Statements: New Quilts by Kaffe Fassett and Historical Quilts from the Collections of the Quilt Museum and Gallery, York, UK” will be on display from November 14, 2015, through February 21, 2016, at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Penn.

The museum’s Gerry & Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator, Kirsten M. Jensen, Ph.D., is a lifelong knitter and sewer and jumped at the chance to host the exhibit, but the collection also has strong local ties to the community. Three of the contemporary quilts in the exhibit were designed by Bucks Pennsylvania County residents Judy Baldwin, Corienne Kramer and Liza Lucy.

“Being given the opportunity to showcase amazing historic quilts in conjunction with modern quilts in a museum setting where you can talk about the long history of quilting in America and its presence within American history, this museum couldn’t turn away from it,” said Louise Feder, assistant curator at the Michener.

Kaffe Fassett (b. 1937), Hot Wheels, 2014, 72 x 60 in. (182.88 x 155.4 cm). Designed by Kaffe Fassett; quilted by Judy Irish. On loan from The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles/ Kaffe Fassett Studio. Photograph by Dave Tolson.
Kaffe Fassett (b. 1937), Hot Wheels, 2014, 72 x 60 in. (182.88 x 155.4 cm). Designed by Kaffe Fassett; quilted by Judy Irish. On loan from The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles/ Kaffe Fassett Studio. Photograph by Dave Tolson.

Fassett, who is known for his bold use of vibrant colors, was a major force in modernizing traditional quilting. The San Francisco native began his career in fiber art after visiting a Scottish wool mill in 1964. Throughout his lengthy career, Fassett has made his mark on knitting, needlepoint and, of course, quilting.

He was the first living textile artist to have a one-man show at the Victoria & Albert Museum, is the recipient of the Turner Medal and is the author of more than 40 books on fiber art.

Feder said the combination of Fassett’s characteristically bold use of color with 15 historical quilts constructed between 1780 and 1949 illustrate the impact Fassett has had on quilting today, helping to modernize an art that has been practiced for generations.

“It is a timeless art,” Feder said. “He is engaging in the dialogue that has been going on for centuries and watching him be a part of something that will be around long after he is gone.”

Wheels Quilt, c. 1850-1900, cotton, 102 x 88 ¾ in. (255 x 222 cm). © The Quilter’s Guild Collection.
Wheels Quilt, c. 1850-1900, cotton, 102 x 88 ¾ in. (255 x 222 cm). © The Quilter’s Guild Collection.

Many of the historic quilts will be archived and will not be on display for the general public when the exhibit is returned to the United Kingdom, so museum-goers will have a rare opportunity to see the quilts before they preserved for future generations. The exhibit also will feature fiber art from textile artist Virgil Marti. The Michener will have four of Marti’s quilted pieces that are so large they hang from the ceiling like tents. There also will be an interactive educational section where visitors will piece together felted quilts.

Located between New York and Philadelphia, the Michener is a popular destination for day trippers or tourists on a weekend getaway. For more information about the exhibit, or to plan your visit, click here to visit the museum’s website.

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