‘The cat lady’ crafted quirky crea­tures

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - BY BART BARNES new­so­bits@wash­post.com

Solveig Cox, a North­ern Vir­ginia pot­ter and ce­ramist who was known in the artis­tic com­mu­nity as “the cat lady” for her whim­si­cal ce­ram­ics of cats on plates, cats driv­ing cars, cats in bed, cat bowls, cat trays, cat vases, cat teacups, cat soap dishes, cat cookie jars, and cat bird­baths, died March 13 at a mem­ory care unit in Northamp­ton, Mass. She was 86.

The cause was de­men­tia, said a daugh­ter, J. Alden Cox.

For five decades, Mrs. Cox was a self-em­ployed pot­ter with stu­dios at her home in the Hollin Hills com­mu­nity in the Alexan­dria sec­tion of Fair­fax County, Va., and at Alexan­dria’s wa­ter­front Tor­pedo Fac­tory, which was con­verted into an arts cen­ter in the 1970s.

She learned her craft in Mu­nich, where her hus­band was posted as a clan­des­tine op­er­a­tive of the CIA un­der an Army of­fi­cer’s cover in the late 1950s. They then set­tled in North­ern Vir­ginia, and Mrs. Cox be­gan fir­ing her own work. Within a decade, her pot­tery was sell­ing in more than 100 shops.

Her hus­band, his CIA cover hav­ing been blown in Ger­many, was as­signed to a desk job at CIA head­quar­ters in Lan­g­ley, Va. He re­tired, leav­ing the spy busi­ness for a new ca­reer help­ing mar­ket his wife’s pot­tery.

They would col­lab­o­rate on cat-themed fur­ni­ture. Mrs. Cox’s draw­ings would ap­pear on Tshirts, dresses, cal­en­dars, day­books, cards, and tote bags, al­ways with a touch of hu­mor and whimsy. On oc­ca­sion she ex­per­i­mented with other media, glass blow­ing, for ex­am­ple, but light­hearted pot­tery was mostly what she was known for. Her works were sold na­tion­ally.

Solveig Peter­son was born in New York City on Feb. 3, 1931. Her fa­ther was a ra­dio pro­ducer, and her mother, an im­mi­grant from Hun­gary, was a cou­ture de­signer. As a child, she and her sis­ter mod­eled chil­dren’s cloth­ing. They lived in the city and spent week­ends at a goat farm.

She at­tended Ben­ning­ton Col­lege in Ver­mont.

Her hus­band of 57 years, Wen­dell Cox, died 2009. Five years later, Mrs. Cox moved to Northamp­ton from Alexan­dria.

Sur­vivors in­clude her daugh­ter, of Amherst, Mass., and a son, David M. Cox of Los Osos, Calif.

The shapes and move­ments of Mrs. Cox’s own pets, she said, were what in­spired her to be able to see the “end­less artis­tic po­ten­tial in cats.” One of the bet­ter known of her works is a black-and-white cat driv­ing a car that is shaped like a red mouse, com­plete with a tail and tires.

It’s called “Meals on Wheels.”


Solveig Cox, a North­ern Vir­ginia pot­ter and ce­ramist, died March 13 in Northamp­ton, Mass. She was in­spired by her own pets.

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