Kaffe Fassett & Brandon Mably visit Wicklow, Aug 2022

(they didn’t arrive by tuk tuk, Brandon’s way too scared of Kaffe’s driving for that)

You love his fabrics, his bold and unexpected arrangements and now you want to meet the man himself. Kaffe and Brandon travel widely teaching masterclasses in how to put together colour in a different way to how so many of us have learned yet still keeping it true to what you, the creator of your own quilt, will love.

Here in Apple Tree Crafts in Wicklow, we have hosted these artists twice so we can tell you exactly what it’s like to be in a workshop with them. With participants joining us not just from all over Ireland but from the UK and even the US and Australia we’re pretty sure it’s not us they are coming to see!

Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa and let us tell you all about it because

We hosted Kaffe Fassett & Brandon Mabley. Twice!

What the actual flip?!!! Us 3 little oddballs, in a tiny fabric shop with grand notions and few ideas about how to carry them out, we still find it funny that it really happened, and then happened again! 2 giants in the art world, both accomplished artists with huge followings, extensive fabric collection (see whats in stock here) books, exhibitions, appearances you name it. How we didn’t put them off the first time we still can’t figure out.

These lads are the dons of the design world

only we’re pretty sure they don’t intimidate their enemies with horses and fishes. Actually we’re also pretty sure they don’t have any enemies, but how exciting if they did! Who would it be I wonder? And would they duel with paintbrushes? Maybe they would dazzle the enemy with bold patterns and then fling a psychotically bright quilt in their eyes while they run for it. This needs to be a musical, Brandon’s pretty good at the aul tunes, he could definitely take care of the musical arrangements, and costumes.

 There’s the 2 of them there now, all chilled out in the Parkview Hotel, here in Newtownmountkennedy back in 2019

So what’s the craic with us being bold enough to invite these legends to our little town? We must have been feeling super confident that day. The fright we got when they said yes, we blurted out swear words and various versions of ‘what have we done?’ swiftly followed by try-not-to-panic action and look-professional behaviour. I’d say we got about 50% there on both counts, hmm maybe less.

The second time we met them they were escaping a record breaking heatwave in London, but the first time we met, they were on a bus from Belfast to Dublin, and it was snowing.

That’s how we found ourselves on a moody night, meeting Kaffe and Brandon for the first time. Trina and I set off to the airport to collect them, and it starts snowing, in Ireland, where snow panic is real and it only takes a flake for things to get weird. I hadn’t driven to the airport since they had changed road layouts so we had set off early, just to give our nerves plenty of time to make us extra nauseous.

The snow made everything outside the car beautiful

…and everything inside the car stressful but we made it there safely in plenty of time to not be able to find them. Its snowing, we cant see anything, everyone has their head down, huddling from the cold, I’m not sure if I’m parked legally so I send poor Trina out to look for them. Plus, for some reason the airport likes you to guess which bus stop is for which bus, maybe they think random adventures are more fun for everyone.

Anyway, eventually we found them.

As an introvert who sucks terribly at small talk, (especially when navigating out of an airport, remember the snow? yeah, snow, bleugh) this felt particularly excruciating. How do you talk to people you’ve met and don’t want to annoy because you’re spending the next few days together? Turns out, they are both very interesting friendly people who are well used to meeting strange people at airports all over the world and oddly, happy to get in their cars!

Apart from being a kidnappers dream

these guys were so relaxed and easy to get along with that they quickly put us at ease. Brandon talked about how beautiful the snow was, how it changed the colours and tones of everything, how muted shades of greys, browns and mossy greens in an Irish winter can be so striking and inviting. He was so engaging that I had to concentrate extra hard on driving because I was suddenly seeing his colour schemes in my head and pondering how to use them. We dropped them at the hotel and nearly melted in relief as we made our way home. We hadn’t lost, killed or bored them, it’s a miracle!

       

The following day they visited our shop (what the actual fluff?) They very quickly pulled out over 100 fabric bolts to compliment and contrast with the ones from their own collection that we had already laid out for them.

To see them do this is amazing

We sometimes take hours, even days or weeks to choose a palette, on both visits they took 20 minutes, max! They agree and disagree with each others selections, they ask each others opinions, they know from years of running workshops which prints and colours will be exciting for the participants to try out. They absolutely raided the shop, nothing was safe, kids prints, Christmas trees, alligators, pawprints, everything was considered not for the finished print but for how it would make an overall palette look when compiled into a finished quilt design.

When they were with us in 2019 we were so lucky to be able to host an exciting lecture from Kaffe on colour, where he finds his inspiration, how he puts colour together and an insight into how to break beyond our own colour boundaries. This was followed by 2 workshops, Diamonds on one day, which I took part in, and Hexagons the next day which mam and Trina did. It was a bit mad simultaneously trying to design a quilt top using none of the methods you usually do while also keeping an eye on the shop table and cutting fabric for other participants but it was an incredible experience.

What actually happens in the workshop?

It starts with a short intro and welcome from the 2 boyos and then you are sent to your tables to start cutting. You are given a time limit to get some fabric up on your wall. This is to keep everything moving along so you can all keep up throughout the day. Brandon cranks out his playlist, I can’t give anything away but you will find yourself singing along! Once you have the beginnings of something they both move around the room and offer guidance or suggestions. We are there too as back up to help with cutting, finding plasters for sliced fingers, adding more tape to secure the design walls, making tea and coffee and as general support for whatever is needed.

They do keep time aside for photos and signing books so there is a chance for everyone to get that special pic for your sewing room wall and Kaffe will get to everyone’s design wall and give you his insights into how your design is progressing.

We don’t want to give away too much about their methods or how they run their class. It is a format they have clearly worked hard on and perfected however we can say that for each workshop we hosted we only had wide smiles and tired brains at the end of the day.

If you have never worked with large scary prints before, you will find yourself fussy cutting them and placing them on your design wall and then going ‘so THAT’S why they design such flamboyant giant prints in all those colours, and THAT’S why they have those smaller prints with weird shapes and blobs, it’s all making so much sense now‘!

Here’s how Trina’s quilt turned out…

This is Trina’s quilt, she started with a few fussy cut flowers she liked and it just went from there. Kaffe recommended she try some black and white small prints and soft smoky hues and she loved how it made her main colours really pop. A narrow border of a lilac Toscana and a wider border from Kaffes collection, bound in the same print finish it off beautifully. It gets so many compliments anytime it is hung in the shop, people literally stop in their tracks to admire it.

 

Here’s Mams quilt from the same workshop…

This stunner is mams version of the Mediterranean Hexagons. Again starting with some eye-wateringly bright yet beautiful huge flower prints in a red/orange/pink palette this time. Mam was encouraged to add some deep smoky tones for the triangles. It really lends a velvetty richness to the whole thing. The pops of blues, used sparingly so as not to overwhelm, stop the whole quilt becoming uniform. They lead the eye around the quilt, encouraging you to notice little details in the fabrics that aren’t immediately apparent. This quilt also causes customers to forget what they are doing and just gaze at it.

 

Here’s my quilt from the Diamonds workshop…

  This quilt, smaller than the other two, is much brighter in real life, if you can imagine! I deliberately chose to focus on having fun, which for me is using colours I loved most in my pencil case in school, the brightest yellow, hot pink and a fun blue. It was so much fun experimenting with fabrics to get that blend right, its softer on the quilt than it seems here. Because it is so busy I chose not to add borders. It’s not a colour palette that appeals to most of our visitors here in the shop but that’s the whole point of a Kaffe workshop.

It’s about what appeals to YOU

What colours are making you smile, making you excited, making you giddy to see how they look when they are put together?

Chances are you end up a going different route than you might have anticipated. For that reason I wouldn’t recommend going to a colour workshop to make a quilt for a particular space that demands a particular colour scheme (unless you are open to an unexpected piece of art that you may not have planned!) or, to make the quilt for someone else. That is one sure way to guarantee you do not get 100% out of the day. You will spend the time wondering if they will like it and it will restrict the freedom that you are taking the workshop for.

Here is our sister’s quilt (yes there’s more of us!)

  Case in point. Here is our gorgeous big sister Fionnuala with her quilt in the 2022 workshop. She chose rich pretty pinks and cool blues, very different to how we all thought she would go, she definitely surprised herself too. She’s usually a Hamptons, beach style, neutrals kind of person. She was visiting us from Perth Australia and never gets the chance to take part in any of our classes so on this trip she gave herself over to it completely and guess what? Kaffe LOVED it! He was especially taken with the contrast between the warm hexies and the cool triangles in a very ‘pretty hat box’ mix of colours (his words!). She is absolutely thrilled with it, she loved every minute of the day and it has inspired her to take up painting classes again. She is returning to us at Christmas with her delicious children and can’t wait to see it completed, the jammy brat has mam sewing it up for her.

So what did we get from the workshops?

The 4 of us came away with quilts that we LOVE and it was huge fun to just play with colour, to set aside the ‘rules’ we have picked up and to experiment and allow ourselves to just accept and run with what pleases our eye. It’s very freeing and it is totally in line with our own philosophy on sewing and creating, its a hobby, by definition, we do it for fun, so why do we sometimes tie ourselves in knots over it?

           

As you can see from the pics, not every quilt is bright. Some are beautifully soft and subdued and your soul almost sighs with happiness when you stand before them. Kaffe and Brandon are very excited for these softer schemes so do not feel you have to go bananas with colour if you are not comfortable with that.

It was also interesting to see that even highly accomplished creators like Kaffe and Brandon still find inspiration and joy among the arrangements in a classroom. Just like us, they are excited by what other people put together. After teaching these workshops and methods thousands of times you might think they had seen it all but creativity is a constantly evolving phenomenon and it is so lovely to see that it can keep bringing joy and fun and discovery for your whole life.

Those magical design walls

Do you see the grey gridded fabric behind each project? That is a Kaffe Fassett design wall and using them was a revelation. We ourselves used them first in the 2019 workshop and have used them since to aid our design layouts. Being able to see them upright makes the process so much easier, they are also easily packed away without losing pieces or places making them portable. Being light they are easy to pin in place on a door or wall, or like me, on an upright unused mattress in the spare room!

As they are designed by Kaffe they have of course been dyed that exact shade of grey for a reason. It serves as a neutral for both warm and cool tones so it does not interfere the colours you are working with, keeping the focus on your project. The printed grid is crucial for lining up your work and keeping things straight and the brushed cotton finish helps pieces cling lightly without pins, making it quick and easy to rearrange or change elements.

Believe it or not, this design is his biggest selling fabric. It can of course be used by any quilter or patchworker and as such it is a must-have in your sewing room. We are not really gadgetty people so we do not say that just because we have them for sale right here! We say it because we use them all the time, we know the value in them and we feel sure you will too.

Would we have them back again?

We absolutely would. Kaffe and Brandon are so professional that they make it look easy, and they do genuinely love what they do. It’s a tango between them and the participants, they coaxing out hidden or shy creativity and the inspiration they get in return.

They really do find inspiration everywhere. When we were out one of the evenings Kaffe pointed out a funny colourful sign on a food truck to Brandon who loves to share similar things with his followers (we brought them to an Indian restaurant the first night then went low key with burritos and pints the next night) On the way back Brandon interrupted Kaffe to show him some fluffy coral/peachy/pinky clouds at sunset after dinner (Kaffe was telling us about how he knows Dustin Hoffman, see? they have great stories!) and we were reminded of one of the quilts designed in the workshop that featured similar colours in the triangles. It was my favourite of the day actually, it’s the 3rd pic in the first row of the pics below.

Despite so many obstacles in pulling this off it all came together beautifully

We really enjoyed our time with them both in the workshops and at dinner each evening. They are fascinating widely travelled people with great stories who love to go to new places and meet new people. They have a deep interest in life that we are sure contributes to their creativity. And of course, they have a knack for finding creativity in others and encouraging it to spill out.

Perhaps it’s that combination that makes them, and their workshops so popular

So for now it’s all over, we are still on a high from meeting them again and from how smoothly everything went. Event organisation is not our favourite thing! We keep looking back over the photos from the day so we thought we would share some with you. Here are pics of just some of the designs in progress, first up is our boldest participant who had to be sat near the shop table so we could keep an eye on her.

Aren’t they all just delicious? It is a light hearted joy and a wonder to be in the middle of the room surrounded by them all, a bit like being in a very tasteful kaleidoscope. We are looking forward to receiving pics of them when they are assembled, or even better, seeing them brought into the shop!

Here’s some more pics of us having a bit of craic throughout the day.

The first one shows Fionnuala watching Trin fussy cut with mam supervising. Fionnuala kept claiming her left handedness made her clumsy so she managed to get most of her pieces cut for her. She’s a bit of a diva but she made very nice tea and coffee with her cacky left hand so we let her away with it.

In the next pic Trin and I are annoying mam while she tries to place all the pieces back on Fionnuala’s design wall after I knocked them off, poor mam. The last one is mam, Fi and me after I called Fi pretending I needed her, that’s her ‘what do you want I’m busy‘ face, that’s my ‘I’m posting this online‘ face and you can’t see mams ‘I’m ignoring the lot of them‘ face but it is definitely there, we can tell from the back of her head. She doesn’t know what she did to get such annoying kids but it must have been pretty bad.

 

 

So there you have it. How often do you get a chance to attend a workshop run by highly experienced and accomplished artists who not only designed the quilt pattern but also designed the fabrics you use? It is a special and unusual treat and we are very lucky to have been able to arrange that for our customers. For ourselves it’s a particular highlight over the 10 years the shop has been open. What a birthday present!

We want to deeply thank Kaffe and Brandon for visiting us. They have a pretty crazy schedule and it is no small feat to wedge us in there too! If you want to keep up with their news you can see the website here  the facebook page here and Brandons insta here.