An interview of Betty Cooke conducted 2004 July 1-2, by Jan Yager, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Cooke speaks of her family and growing up in Baltimore, Maryland; taking art classes in high school; attending the Maryland Institute, College of Art; apprenticing in a jeweler's studio; teaching design at the Maryland Institute; buying a house and setting up a studio and shop in it; showing her work in the MoMA "Good Design" Exhibition; marrying fellow artist Bill Steinmetz; working as a design consultant; designing interiors for bowling alleys and restaurants; early jewelry designs; studying one summer at Cranbrook Academy of Art; selling works in various galleries; her interest in folk art; using wood and stones in her pieces; creating a wall mural for a school; working with the Rouse Company; opening The Store Ltd. at Cross Keys and designing the modern interior; her trademark designs; making jewelry on commission; and showing her work in exhibitions. Cooke also speaks of her current studio space and routine; sketching designs; documenting her work; traveling to Mexico, China, Morocco, and London; her current involvement with the Maryland Institute, College of Art; renovating a barn for a new studio; the function and wearability of her jewelry; having a retrospective show in 1995; designing for Geoffrey Beene; her interest in painting and sculpture; defining design versus craft; the market for jewelry; how her work has changed over time; sources of inspiration; collecting objects; deciding to go into retail; choosing metals and tools; masculine and feminine jewelry; and being a female artist. Cooke also recalls Margaret De Patta, Harry Bertoia, Philip Morton, George Nakashima, and others.
Biographical / Historical:
Betty Cooke (1924- ) is a jeweler and metalsmith of Baltimore, Maryland. Jan Yager is a jeweler from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Originally recorded on 5 sound discs. Reformatted in 2010 as 8 digital wav files. Duration is 6 hr., 2 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.