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Meet Katharine Cobey: Risk Taker

March 20, 2012

When we knitters begin planning our next project, we may not be thinking about the fact that we’re about to change one thing into something quite different, but Maine fiber artist Katharine Cobey reminds us “that art is transformation – the taking of a material and making it into another thing. Whether we use oil paints or plastic bags, marble or wool, the challenge is to make significant and expressive forms about the things we use, ourselves, and the worlds we live in.”

Pillars

Katharine Cobey was a poet before she embraced knitting as her art form, but the creative spirit that inspired her poetry suffuses her fiber art as well – her work remains infinitely expressive and poetic. Although much has been written about her use of unusual materials, such as plastic and wire (Loose Ends, below, is knit of white plastic bags), in some of her designs, the form and dimension of her work, both sculpture and clothing, make the greater impact. Her large sculptural pieces, like the one at the left, move us with thoughtful statements about family, aging, war, homelessness, and grace; each piece of clothing she designs is unique, made with her own handspun silk and wool.

In her book Diagonal Knitting: A Different Slant, Ms. Cobey shares her knowledge and her approach to knitting with the goal of encouraging knitters to create their own unique designs. The diagonal structure she describes in the book results in garments and accessories with beautiful drape and flair. She is truly an inspiration on many levels, but, for me, perhaps most compelling is her belief in risk. She writes, “If I attempt what I have not done before, dialoguing with my materials and techniques I discover at least an impulse to work, and that leads to knowing what I can do and why I am doing it.”

For more photos and information about Katherine Cobey, follow this link to her website.

Loose Ends

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