Cox: ‘Mud was great!’

     Glen Dale, West Virginia is situated in the very top tail of the state, along the Ohio River with Ohio and Pennsylvania bordering each side. “God’s Country” as many has made reference to and for good reason. Here, nature is respected and treated as a gift and in return, a type of bond seems to form between the residents and the land. Betsy Cox had very little choice but to become an artist.

     Being exposed to creativity was commonplace in her household while growing up. Her father was skilled at trades in mosaic; painting and woodcarving, and her Mother came from a line of Austrian artists. Betsy’s parents encouraged her to paint and were thrilled to see an interest taken in several different media. Playing and making sculptures in the mud was one of Betsy’s favorite past times. “Mud was great! Approachable, moldable, cool and fun!” said the clay artist with much vocal expression.

     Another fond memory that Betsy clings to today is that of their chickens. Sunday dinner would find fried chicken on the dining room table, taken right out of the barnyard earlier that morning, freshly dressed and cooked. Betsy’s Mom opened a restaurant called, The Red Rooster and began a collection of chicken memorabilia. When her Mother passed away in 1994, Betsy’s memories began to seep into her mind and she longed to be closer to those happy moments.

     While watercolors were a main medium and Betsy did well with this art form, she longed for the “hands-on” feel from her childhood days when she would play in the mud and watch the barnyard chickens march about. She remembered the scent, the feel, and the ability to mold the dirt like clay.

     1994 was the year when Betsy realized that she needed to find her own style in her own way. In 2000, Betsy’s husband built her a studio and she is now happy with her daily routine of sculpting, hand building, molding or creating forms on a wheel. Today, Betsy finds inspiration in watching her neighbor’s chickens as they strut around their yard. Many of her clay forms seem to portray different varieties of her favorite bird in different forms and shapes, all visually exciting.

     Cox has won awards for her abstract, modern interpretations of designs from clay and different chicken presentations. Displays of Betsy Cox’s work can be viewed at the Artworks Around Town gallery in Wheeling and the Wheeling Artisan Center. Recent recipient of Best in Clay award from the Wad Clay Institute, her piece was that of a chicken and has been placed in the Institute’s permanent collection in Pittsburgh. Her work will also be featured in the latest of a series of books from Sterling Publishing on ceramics from artists all over the world. 500 Tiles features a handmade collection of ceramics and Betsy created a type of abstract hand-slab tile, about 12 inches square, a type of free form design, with a free -floating ball in the middle on a wire.

     Most artists’ work has a distinct, recognizable signature that sets them apart from others. Cox’s unusual pieces throw all of this logic right out of the window by varying to extremes. Of the horsehair vessels, saggar pots, smoke ware, paintings, tiles and jewelry created by Cox, it is sometimes impossible to find similarities of distinction of this artist because the creativity just seems to keep changing and growing, giving the impression that a group of artists have been at work.

     Her methods of firing include electric, gas, raku, pit firing, saggar firing and a wood-fired kiln. Because of the different ways in which each method leaves a marking on the clay and because Cox uses a variety of methods for unique effects, one of a kind pieces are created as only Cox can achieve. One fellow artist compares Betsy Cox to a Renaissance woman with her drawing, painting, ceramics, sculptures and mixed media work; everything she touches just automatically turns to art.

     Echo Valley Pottery, Betsy’s home studio, is quickly gaining national and international attention for her clay and ceramic pieces as she continues to prepare for various juried competitions. A whirlwind of ideas, designs, colors and a flair for coordination will find Betsy Cox rising fast in the art media world.

     For more information, including her works, see  

Editor’s note: Written by Kate Garton and published in 2008-09 Fall/Winter Art-to-Art Palette Journal print edition, Volume 20, No. 3, in the Potter’s Shed Section as its cover artist highlight, the feature is only partially electronically published here.

Published by on December 2010. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Palette Journal, Cover Section, Potter's Shed Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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