Fun, fuzzy, funky dolls and balls from Paige Cox

Felted LuDoo doll

I love Paige Cox’s felted artwork! I wrote this for my regular Who & Ware craft column for the News & Observer in NC (it ran Nov. 6, 2010). Her pieces are sold around the country and online.

By Diane Daniel

When Paige Cox goes into high schools to talk to students about careers in art, she makes sure they know that drawing is not her thing.

“I always tell kids that I’m really not that good of a drawer,” said Cox, who lives in Greensboro, NC. “I don’t sell myself short, but I want to let them know that you can do other things as an artist besides painting and drawing. You can be a craftsman.”

And what a craftsman she is. For the past decade, Cox, 38, has felted joyful, colorful, highly artistic dolls, balls and more. Her work is in stores across the country, including the Triangle, and she’ll have a booth at the Piedmont Craftsmen and the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Guild shows this month.

Paige Cox in her Greensboro, NC, studio

Cox grew up in Asheboro, as Paige Helms and was encouraged by her mother, a lover of art and crafts, to explore her creative side.

When it came time for college, her boyfriend was going to N.C. State University, so she opted for nearby Peace College in Raleigh.

Things didn’t work out at Peace or with the boyfriend.

“I knew that art school was where I wanted to go,” said Cox, who enrolled in the highly regarded Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. “I took to it immediately. I loved Savannah and the school. It wasn’t just drawing and painting. And then there were all these very interesting people.”

Cox focused on weaving, but in her senior year tried felting, where wool fibers are matted, pressed and adhered, with or without moisture, to form objects, shapes and designs.

Her colorful geodes are popular

“I made a big wet-felted piece and it was really kind of horrible. But I loved that it was such a tactile craft, and I like the blending of colors. It was just one of those things that clicked.”

After graduating in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts specializing in fiber arts, Cox worked with Annawear hand-painted clothing in Highlands. Once back in North Carolina, she reconnected with her high school sweetheart, Tim Cox, a graphic designer who by then had moved to Greensboro. She joined him there the following year, and they married in 1997. The couple now have a daughter, 10, and son, 7, who were the impetus for her return to felting.

“Weaving and kids don’t go together,” Cox said with a laugh. “You’re calculating, working with patterns, needing to concentrate. Strings are hanging down everywhere.”

In 2000 she started felting brightly colored geodes and larger balls along with what she calls dolls, animated creatures whose sprawling limbs, brilliant, contrasting colors, and lovable expressions bring them to life.

Birds Clyde, Burt, and Sylvia

“They were something to keep me sane when I was home with the kids,” she said.

Cox started to sell her work at area shows under the name Lulugroove, and she was accepted into Piedmont Craftsmen in 2007. “That was the first biggie,” she said.

Since then, Cox has joined the Carolina Designfaer Craftsmen and participated in highly competitive national wholesale shows, where retailers come to choose their stock for the following year. For Cox, the pinnacle was the New York International Gift Fair this past January.

“It’s the mecca of all wholesale shows,” she said. However, the outcome of selling wholesale was mixed.

One of Paige's recent sculptural pieces

“Twice a year, they want to see a whole new line. You have to create and have it marketed and they want professional pictures. And I realized, oh my gosh, I have to reinvent myself twice a year.”

That, combined with galleries tightening their belts, has caused her to rethink the wholesale market.

“Right now I’m just trying to make some things that I want to make and not worry about price point. It’s refreshing to just return to craftsmanship,” she said. “I’ve started incorporating a lot of found objects in my art in humorous ways, like baby doll parts, arms and legs. It’s really exciting after spinning my wheels to keep coming up with new ideas for small pieces.”

Don’t expect Cox to abandon her smaller work.

“I like having affordable art because I know what it’s like to go to art shows and you want to be able to buy something.”

Felted skeletons are a hit

Cox does all her felting at her home studio, where large bookshelves are loaded with squares of colorful wool. “I’m not happy if every color isn’t represented,” said Cox, whose favorites include her “stop-sign red” hair.

She combines wet and dry felting, and stitches some pieces together.

“The wet felt adheres to the wool better, but then I do detail work with dry-felt needles, which allows you to draw, then I wet-felt pieces again to make the drawing stick. I’m such a fiber dork that I’m still completely fascinated a piece was soft wool and flat a few hours earlier.”

Dry martini, anyone?

Cox was thrilled to learn recently that her work is featured in Savannah College of Art and Design’s first retail catalog. It’s also sold at the school’s art gallery.

The artist is looking forward to her second year at the Carolina Designer Craftsmen show.

“I like to create this fun little world with my wacky booth. Because I work out of my house all day long, it’s refreshing to do shows. I can’t wait to get out and talk to people.”

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2 Responses to “Fun, fuzzy, funky dolls and balls from Paige Cox”

  1. Karen Says:

    Love her work…Fun to see items that seem so spontaneous come from such a labor intensive craft. Thanks for writing about her!

  2. Karen Pressick Says:

    Hi,
    After seeing your site, I wonder if you could help me. Some months ago while browsing knitting link, I saw some monster/alien type dolls knitted in bright bright colors. I’ll be darned if I can find them again. Help?

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