University mourns death of former Metal faculty and two-time alumnus John Cogswell ’79 ’84g

It is with sadness that we share news that John Cogswell ’79 ’84g (Art), the esteemed silversmith, educator and SUNY New Paltz alumnus, died on Jan. 24, 2024, at the age of 75.

Born in Cortland, New York, Cogswell’s creative studies blossomed at SUNY New Paltz under the mentorship of the late Professor Kurt Matzdorf, founder of the University’s Gold and Silversmithing program, which is the predecessor to our world-class Metal Program. He earned his BFA and MFA degrees at New Paltz, and as Matzdorf’s protégé and studio assistant, Cogswell was instrumental in the construction of SUNY New Paltz’s ceremonial mace and chain of office, among other commissioned works.


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“John Cogswell was a technical guru, a model of efficiency, and a font of information on so many levels,” said Myra Mimlitsch-Gray, professor in the Metal Program. “The metal and jewelry field has lost one of its premier craftsmen, whose lifelong commitment to the discipline has had a major impact on its many artists, students and teachers.”

“Decanter,” 1979, Sterling silver and spinel, H. 9 × Diam. 5 inches (22.9 × 12.7 cm), Collection of Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven CT

His silver and blue spinel “Decanter,” made at the conclusion of his BFA studies in 1979, was selected for a highly competitive national exhibition sponsored by the Sterling Silversmiths of America and was later acquired by the Permanent Collection of American Silver at the Yale University Art Gallery. Today his work resides in many private and public collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum (United Kingdom), The Jewish Museum (New York) and The Metal Museum (Tennessee), among others.

In 1979, Cogswell became the Director of the Jewelry and Metalsmithing Program at the 92nd Street YM/YWHA in New York City. He maintained connections to higher education as well, teaching at Hofstra University, Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute and at SUNY New Paltz, where he served as adjunct and instructional support technician from 2001-2010.

“While actively producing numerous commissions, Cogswell was also deeply involved in teaching,” Mimlitsch-Gray said. “It is through his tremendous expertise and generous instruction that Cogswell made his greatest contribution to the field.”

During this period, Cogswell authored the comprehensive textbook, “Creative Stonesetting” (Brynmorgen Press, 2008), which has become a must-have text for aspiring and experienced stone setters alike. He additionally published articles on a vast array of technical topics, in books and Metalsmith, the field’s most significant, national professional journal. He held professional affiliations with the Society of North American Goldsmiths (publisher of Metalsmith), the Society of American Silversmiths, American Craft Council, Empire State Crafts Alliance and the Florida Society of Goldsmiths.

After retiring from academe, Cogswell remained in workshop and studio spaces, working with students at community centers and craft schools across the country and attracting a passionate following of students who studied and worked alongside him.

“A person of great integrity, Cogswell was a trusted caretaker of the studio and learning environment,” Mimlitsch-Gray said. “He will be fondly remembered and deeply missed by all who had the good fortune to know him.”

No memorial services are being organized, per John Cogswell’s wishes.