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Rose Cabat met her eventual husband Erni when they were schoolchildren in New York City in the 1920s, marrying in 1936. Erni worked in advertising and apprenticed for Austrian potter and sculptor Vally Wieselthier. One day, Erni brought a lump of clay home to the apartment that he shared with Rose. This simple act sparked a passion that continued unabated for the rest of her life.
After making a simple coiled vase from the clay, Rose learned wheel throwing at Greenwich House Pottery, teaching herself to work on a kick wheel. When their son’s asthma prompted the family to move from New York to Tucson, Arizona, Erni built Rose an unassuming studio on the dusty streets outside town that Rose referred to as a “shack.” He obtained a potter’s wheel made from a converted washing machine and she used a tractor seat for a stool.
Life intervened in the form of a growing family, World War II, and a job as a riveter on an Air Force base, but Rose persisted. In 1957, she attended a five-week glaze course offered by the art department at the University of Hawaii. In this course, she was exposed to modern studio ceramics, which led her to work exclusively in porcelain. With Erni, she experimented with glazes; together they created their signature satin matte glaze notable for its silky quality.
Rose named her unique pots around 1960, when she held a finished example in her hands and remarked, “Now this one’s a feelie!” Feelies emphasize the tactile experience above all. Unable to hold even the smallest reed, they offer beauty for beauty’s sake, without functionality. The shapes resemble things found in Rose’s garden: onions, figs, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Many glazes are named for fruits, vegetables, or flowers: onionskin, cucumber, olive, lavender, etc. Never interested in the spotlight, Rose was driven by her love of the creative process and the Feelies themselves. She continued to work in her Tucson studio, averaging five pots per day, until passing away at age 100 in 2015.Contact a Specialist View all Artists/Makers