By Louise Irvine

The first Artist Showcase exhibition at WMODA featured Rose Cabat’s porcelain “Feelies” to celebrate her 100th birthday on June 27th, 2014. At that time, Rose was the oldest practicing ceramic artist in America and she was still working at her potter’s wheel. She passed away in 2015 but her legacy lives on as one of stars of the Midcentury-Modern movement. Rose’s work will be showcased again at WMODA when the museum reopens in Hollywood.

Rose Cabat began creating her signature Feelies in the 1950s and for over 50 years, she perfected her tactile porcelain forms with seductive satin glazes in jewel colors. The sensual organic shapes inspired by onions and figs just beg to be touched and Rose coined the name when she exclaimed “Now this one’s a feelie!”

Rose’s husband, Ernest, was a graphic artist and he encouraged Rose to start playing around with clay in the 1930s. She attended pottery classes in New York and initially made all sorts of pieces. The couple moved with their young son to Tucson, Arizona, during World War II and Rose worked as a riveter repairing damaged aircraft.

As she raised her growing family, Rose continued to make ceramics in her spare time from the clay that Erni obtained from local brickyards. She used a potter’s wheel that Erni fashioned from an old rotary washing machine and even made a fountain for their back yard. Eventually, she got a kick-wheel which she used throughout her career.

Erni initiated the evolution of her innovative glaze effects when he enrolled Rose in a summer course in glaze calculation at Hawaii University while he was attending an advertising conference. Her silky soft sheen glazes in turquoise, lavender, cobalt blue and rose pink were applied to small porcelain pots with a tiny, closed neck too narrow to hold anything. In Rose’s own words, “A vase can hold weeds or flowers, but can't it just be a spot of beauty?"

When Rose’s Feelies became widely appreciated, Erni retired from his advertising agency agency to help run the business which supported their family. The Feelies have been exhibited throughout the USA and can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. See this fine collection at WMODA when the museum reopens.