Cox, (Christina Mary) Kathleen (1904–72), artist, sculptor, and mystic, was born 2 July 1904 in Wo Sung, China, eldest daughter of Irish parents. Her father, Dr R. H. Cox, of Dundalk, the port health officer at Shanghai, was an amateur geologist and modelled in clay; on retirement, he invented a periscope which was used by the Royal Navy during the first world war. On returning to Ireland in 1911 the family moved to Listowel, Co. Kerry, and later settled in Howth, Co. Dublin. Educated at Alexandra College, Cox enrolled (1921) in the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin, where she studied under the master of sculpture, Oliver Sheppard (qv). She was one of his most talented pupils, and won the RDS Taylor prize for modelling (1925, 1926, 1927); the prize money enabled her to spend time in Paris in 1929. During this period she began to question conventional religion. She became a vegetarian, became increasingly interested in mystical literature, and (having discovered that her new system of beliefs bore a marked similarity to theosophy) joined the theosophical movement and spoke at meetings. During the early 1930s she was greatly influenced by the Rev. William Hayes, founder of the Order of the Great Companions, then residing in Dublin.
In 1929 she and her college friend Stella Rayner opened her pottery studio at 7 Schoolhouse Lane, Dublin, from where they operated the first electric kiln in Ireland. Having exhibited at the Tailteann exhibitions of 1924 and submitted textile designs to the Arts and Crafts Society in 1925, she made her RHA debut in 1930, with a pair of ‘Madonna’ bookends, and portrait masks of Brigid O'Brien (daughter of Dermod O'Brien (qv)) and the writer Norris Davidson. He was both a friend and neighbour, who in 1929 commissioned her to design a poster for his film ‘Suicide’. Continuing to exhibit at the RHA (1931–3) and the Tailteann (1932), she also held exhibitions in her studio. With a view to expanding her market in 1932 she began producing a more commercial line of figurines, based on the style of the Doulton Burslem factory, where she is known to have worked at some point. These included ‘The lavender man’, a model of Michael Clifford, a Dublin character and street trader. During the mid 1930s she became frustrated with aspects of her work, most particularly her inability as an artist to make an impact on the wider society. Her attendance at the Chinese exhibition in London (1935) confirmed her belief that pottery should be essentially practical rather than ornamental, and on her return to Dublin she destroyed all her moulds and sold her kiln. In 1937 she married Alan Palmer , with whom she had two daughters, and moved to England. During the war she and her husband (a conscientious objector) ran a farm in Meopham, Kent. She spent three years illustrating and writing a book on religions of the world for children entitled A story of stories, published in 1970 under the pseudonym ‘C. M. Kay’. She also travelled in North Africa. Her portrait was painted by Hilda Roberts. She died in London in early September 1972. Her work is represented in the NMI.