Cartwright was born in Los Angeles. She received her BA at California State University, Long Beach, and her MFA from the School for American Craftsmen, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), in Rochester, New York. She also attended Marguerite Wildenhain’s (see her 1950s Jar) summer school at Pond Farm in Northern California. At RIT Cartwright studied with and was lab assistant for renowned sculptor Franz Wildenhain, Marguerite’s former husband. Cartwright taught at several schools, including Scripps College, in Claremont, California, and Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles.