Field Notes: Kaffe Fassett
My assistant Brandon Mably and I went to Prague, the famous capital city of the Czech Republic, to teach a workshop at their first Patchwork Festival. It was a mind-blowing experience that got me thinking about old versus new, and the way limited resources sometimes lead to greater creativity and a heightened sense of beauty.
When I think of the inhabited places on this earth that move me the most — such as Africa, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico and India — I realize I am inspired by the unspoiled quality of the ancient buildings that are still in use. Wealthier nations have often knocked down their “dated” histories and relentlessly built the newest styles, but fortunately we can appreciate and learn from the style and beauty still in existence in less wealthy areas. In much the same way, we can see the beauty and pride of craftsmanship in an antique quilt pieced from leftover bits of sacks and clothing remnants.
Some say the center of Prague is like a museum, and I say, “What an amazing, wondrous museum.” Street after street was filled by stunningly decorated buildings and amazing squares. Those dramatically ornamented buildings were what charmed me the most in Prague — some of them suggested quilting and fabric patterns to me. Some buildings even looked like patchwork quilts — their fronts were covered with multicolor geometric shapes, and the slate roofs of the churches were also veritable patchworks themselves. Great carved doors often feature larger-than life figures, and three-dimensional stone draperies and painted surfaces abound, suggesting appliqué shapes and trapunto designs.
It was Easter when we were there and trees were covered in pastel eggs and ribbons that went so well with the pinks, soft greens and golds of the houses. Because there is such a brisk tourist trade many shops go
all out with charming Old-World decorations. And our hotel, the Alchemist, had gilded brocade interiors and a dining room with an old French wallpaper mural like those I’ve admired in books about the history of wallpaper. The colors, ornate decorations and gold trim all coordinated and contrasted in ways that seemed to echo the reason for our visit to Prague.
Although we saw quilts from the rest of Europe and some American antiques, our biggest delight at the Patchwork Festival was the originality of the work produced by those who attended our workshop. Brandon and I were almost in tears at the end of the workshop. Since the usual patchwork fabrics are hard to come by in that part of the world, people used many unexpected sources of fabrics. Charity shop finds, vintage clothing and furnishing fabrics were interspersed with more common prints. Much like the grand old buildings, these quilts were very individual statements that really moved us.