Text + photograph by Meggan Gould
Katharine Cobey is a fiber artist who spins and knits intricate sculptural creations. Her studio, on a hill overlooking the small Meduncook River in Cushing, is both gallery and workspace.
The studio is a detached, barnlike building, designed and built by Cobey’s husband, David. Large picture windows open onto the field and estuary, and a small circular staircase leads upstairs to an airy loft.
Cobey studied language and literature at Bennington College in Vermont and wrote poetry for many years. “At some point, I had to make a choice between writing and knitting because I don’t do things halfway. I insisted
on addressing the same topics and having the same attitude toward the work in knitting as in writing—no holds barred. There are no subject matters that knitting couldn’t handle.”
Cobey’s sculptures have addressed old age, death, Alzheimer’s disease, feminism, and war.
“Knitting focuses me. You have this thing that is fluid and flexible, and you fiddle around with words and materials until they mesh.” She started using plastic during the first Gulf War, knitting a coat that she entitled Mirage. “I was making something beautiful out of something horrible. It can be worn, but it is not warm. It’s not a raincoat, it’s a mirage. It is oil.”
This piece, entitled Ritual Against Homelessness, was inspired by time spent working at a shelter for homeless women, where Cobey ran a craft program. The wool, churro, is characterized by long, disheveled hairs that have to be pulled out of each lock of wool and knitted into place. The armatures are of found wood.
Old Laughing is a manipulated plaster cast of Cobey’s face, painted in red ochre. The hair and scarf are made of matching hand-spun flax and wool. “I would hope to be laughing when I get old,” Cobey explains.
The spinning wheel is a pedaled Great Wheel, “the most innovative spinning wheel design since 1492.” Students and friends have made and commissioned unique knitting needles for her collection of “many, many, many.” Cobey’s work has been exhibited widely in museums and galleries, and her book, Diagonal Knitting: A Different Slant, will be published by Schoolhouse Press this year.
Katharine Cobey | Cushing | katharinecobey.com | 207.354.6762