Kaffe Fassett tapestries return to Dovecot
Rob McDougall

Our upcoming Kaffe Fassett exhibition is a reunion for the celebrated artist-designer and Dovecot Studios. Between 1991 and 1994, Edinburgh Tapestry Company (now Dovecot Studios) made five tapestries and a rug with Fassett at the studio’s previous home in Corstorphine, just outside of Edinburgh. It is fitting that thirty years later, two of these tapestries are being loaned to Dovecot from the Mount Stuart Trust for a new exhibition 'The Power of Pattern', organised by the Fashion and Textile Museum in London.

The tapestries returning to Dovecot are Pink Ginger Jar (1992) and Green Ginger Jar (1993), woven in collaboration with Fassett as part of a series of four tapestries on the same theme. The Ginger Jars series resulted from an earlier tapestry collaboration with the artist – Shells (1991). The Shells tapestry, based on a snapshot taken by Fassett of a box of painted shells, used a novel technique of building up coils of heavy rope to conjure the required texture.

For Ginger Jars, Fassett chose a recently purchased, highly coloured Chinese temple jar as an ideal subject for tapestry weaving.

The artist painted four still lifes of the jar, each inspired by a different coloured stripe on its side. The still lives are filled with different objects, and Fassett particularly delighted in the idea of painting textile objects such as the fan and the tablecloth, which would then be turned back into textiles through the medium of tapestry.

He found the idea of having his images woven almost twice the size as tapestries thrilling, and loved how excited the weavers were by the project. 

“I loved visiting the studios halfway through the weaving, seeing the spools of coloured threads and getting shots of the works in progress”- Kaffe Fassett

Colours present very differently in textiles to the way they appear in mediums such as painting or drawing. The fabric absorbs light, giving tapestries and rugs an intensely deep, rich appearance. Fassett has extensive experience in the ways different materials express colour  from working in a wide range of mediums – painting, mosaic, rag rugs, knitting, and needlepoint to name a few. With his long-standing interest in historic tapestry (Fassett has always loved the texture of woven tapestries) he was thrilled by the way his designs translated into the medium.

For Edinburgh Tapestry Company, weaving tapestries with the colour density and intensity of Fassett’s Ginger Jar designs made for a very enjoyable process. The weavers were accustomed to primarily working with painters rather than textile designers (aside from the odd exception such as Bernat Klein), so the knowledge and language of textile design that they shared with Fassett proved educational, constructive and inspirational.

After their completion, the tapestries were exhibited widely throughout the mid-1990s, from the Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh to Bath, London and even Hong Kong. They are currently looked after on the Isle of Bute, and Dovecot is very excited to once again be welcoming them back to Edinburgh.

Kaffe Fassett: The Power of Pattern opens at Dovecot Studios on March 31. The tapestries Pink Ginger Jar and Green Ginger Jar – designed by Kaffe Fassett and hand-woven at Edinburgh Tapestry Company (now Dovecot Studios) – will be presented alongside the exhibition courtesy of the Mount Stuart Trust.

Exhibition organised by the Fashion and Textile Museum, London.


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