Betsey Cogswell is a Malden-based fiber artist. Her current favorite medium is wool. Most of Betsey’s work in The Gallery@57 is wool felt in the form of scarves, pillow covers, felted beads, and wall hangings. She also makes knitted and crocheted bowls and bracelets. Betsey’s love of felting began when she bought some work from a master felter and thought to herself, “I want to do this.”
Aside from workshops with master felter Martien Van Zuilen, a Dutch Australian felt artist and historian, and with Nuno felter Janice Kissinger, Betsey is self-taught.
Perhaps Betsey’s love for wool can be attributed to the fact that the first Cogswell in America was a wool merchant from Wiltshire, England. Wool is both fire and water resistant. Humans have been making shelters, clothing, rugs, and decorative objects from wool felt for millennia.
Betsey’s work was part of the fall 2019 Medford Art Center show. Her piece was a fine art piece in the spirit of inclusion, which was the focus of the show. Her piece was titled, “Bridging the Rainbow.” Betsey attributes her inspiration for the piece to how the rainbow has been used as a symbol of inclusion for decades, from Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition to more recent use of the rainbow by the LGBTQ community.
Betsey uses merino and other sheep’s wool fleece or roving (unspun wool). She sometimes adds natural materials such as mica, grass or milkweed fiber, pieces of silk, yarn, or silk and cotton thread.
During the spring of 2020, Betsey worked on a project called, “Pandemic Spring,” which reflects the happenings and changes in her yard and garden. In describing her work, she says, “Most of what I do is abstract. I’m thinking about colors and how they work together.”
Other than short stints in Saratoga Springs, New York and Evanston and Chicago, Illinois, Betsey has lived her whole life in eastern Massachusetts. She retired from Harvard University in 2017. Betsey studied at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, the old Radcliffe Landscape Design program, and is currently printmaking at Maud Morgan Art Center in Cambridge. She is also an avid canoeist who has paddled on the San Juan River in Utah, the Rio Grande, the Soper River in Nunavut, and, closer to home, the Malden River.