Jewelry designer has an eye for form

Candid Closet

February 20, 1997|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

In the stark jewelry she has designed since the 1940s, and in her own wardrobe, Betty Cooke has always searched for the defining line, curve or dash of color. It is her knack for pairing natural forms with silver and gold that has made Cooke one of the first 16 recipients of the American Craft Council Awards. Last October in Seattle, she was inducted into the Council's College of Fellows. Cooke, the co-owner of The Store LTD at Cross Keys, is also a regular customer at the ACC's annual Baltimore show, (which opens tomorrow at the Convention Center), where she buys clothing for The Store and herself.

What do you look for at the craft show?

I'm very selective. I look for simplicity of design. I get quite a few accessories. I'm fond of textures and natural fibers.

A lot of wearable crafts are very elaborate.

I don't mind clothing with things hanging off. But it has to be just right. It has to hang off with style.

Your vest is black, striped with strips of luscious jewel tones. Who made it?

It was made by Ann Williamson. I like the silhouette, which flares out, and I picked out the colors.

Name some other ACC finds.

Silk scarves by Judith Bird. She's a terrific colorist. And hand-dyed kimonos made with a technique called shibori.

What do you wear when you're shopping at the ACC and other shows?

Something with pockets. My basic statement for work is black, with vests. Something easy to wear.

And shoes?

I have good feet and I want to keep them that way. I wear flats because I'm so active. Heels slow me down. And I wear Tretorn sneakers at home and boots with flat heels.

Name a favorite piece.

I bought a jacket by Issey Miyake in Hong Kong. It's a jacket that I wouldn't part with. Time means nothing to me. It's wool, with fine suede binding. And it's a marvelous color you can't describe. It's not olive or brown. It's superb. It's earth color.

And I have a pleated two-piece top and skirt by Miyake. It's not simple. It's an art form.

What have you kept for decades?

I've kept things from Marimekko. Dresses and an evening dress with a big curve, a curve that's as long as I am.

And I really hold on to sweaters. They mellow with me. I have a sweater I bought in Bolivia made of alpaca that I wear frequently.

Describe the necklace you're wearing.

I work a lot with silver tubing. This necklace you can double around and these hanging pieces I call tassels. I like things that move when you move, that whirl around and swing.

How do you use color in your wardrobe?

I love color. It comes through my clothing in small pieces.

What are some of your more unusual accessories?

I have a magenta scarf from Mexico made from the blood of a certain beetle. It's silk. I have it hanging out. I just like to look at it. And I have an Amish hat I enjoy looking at. It's hanging on a rack.

Do you wear hats?

No. I love hats but I don't wear hats.

My husband and I have a hat collection of very ornate hats. We've kept them as objects.

Do you have a style credo?

Be true to yourself. It's always great at The Store when the right person puts on the right piece of clothing. Some people jump around stylistically. It's a way of expressing their personality. I lean more toward consistency of style. I also show restraint in my dress, because I'm in the background while I'm holding things and showing things to customers.

Pub Date: 2/20/97

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