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Rose Cabat (American, 1914-2015)

Sculptures

Also known as:  Feelie

Birth Place: New York, NY, United States

Biography:

Rose Cabat (June 27, 1914 - January 25, 2015) was an American artist whose Mid-Century modern ceramics helped to shape much of modern interior design. Her ability to create refined, personal art that was accessible in price to the average consumer was integral in growing the nascent Arts and Crafts Movement in America. While her work is evocative and lovely, she shunned much of modern studio pottery which she saw as inaccessible to the average person.

Born and raised in the Bronx, Cabat didn’t begin working in ceramics until the 1940s, when her husband, noted art deco ceramicist Erni Cabat, brought home some clay for her to use. After seeing her initial pieces, Erni encouraged Rose’s art, buying her a membership to the exclusive Greenwich House for artists. Her first potter’s wheel was made from a converted washing machine that she and Erni built together. Post world war II, the Cabats moved temporarily to attend the University of Hawaii and developed new glaze formulas, a material that would be vital for “feelies”, Cabat’s soon-to-be signature pieces. 

Cabat’s Feelies were notable for their form over function approach. Where many vases in the past had been vessels for flowers or liquids, Cabat’s were purely driven by aesthetics. When questioned about this idea she simply said, “A vase can hold weeds or flowers, but can’t it just be a spot of beauty?” 

Cabat’s feelies were defined by their simple geometric shapes, often tapering to a thin neck and glazed to appear satin-like. These pieces often used just a few extremely rich colors, blended into jewel-like hues and reinforced with her pattened glaze. These pieces, while small (the largest evocatively described as “scarcely bigger than a baby’s fest”) were huge in their imprint on the budding Mid-century Modern aesthetic. These stripped-down, uncomplicated forms were an ideal match for the artistic choices in the wider architecture and design community. 

Cabat was secretive about her glaze formulas but was willing and open to teaching her general pottery techniques. Her works were exhibited in the Couturier Gallery throughout the 1960s and 1970s. She continued her work throughout the rest of the century and well into the next. She worked every day on her art up until her death at age 100, the oldest ceramic artist in the world. Her contribution to the American Craft Movement and Mid-century Modern design stand as a towering testament to the simple genius of a well-made vase. 

Rose Cabat Frequently Asked Questions:

How much are Rose Cabat ceramics worth?

Rose Cabat’s feelies and vases go for hundreds of dollars at auction. Occasionally, larger collections of her Feelies (especially from the same series) will fetch thousands. A studio ceramic bowl sold for $1,500 in 2019, and Heritage Auctions sold another piece for over $2,000 in 2018. 

What are the most famous ceramics by Rose Cabat?

Cabat is unusual in that she didn’t name her individual pieces. Her “feelies” are her most known work, small porcelain pots augmented by exciting glazes. 

What is the value of Rose Cabat’s ceramics? 

Rose Cabat vases typically will sell for hundreds of dollars, but larger select pieces can be worth upwards of $2000-$3000. 


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