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Howard Kottler


Royal Paisley Pot

17 x 15.5 x 5 in.
Museum Permanent Collection

Royal Paisley Pot combines Art Deco architectural style with mass-produced adhesive decals and the factory production technique of slip casting. Though it resembles many objects within the vessel tradition, Kottler’s Royal Paisley Pot is more sculptural than its name implies, and this juxtaposition is a playful element in his work. While on a Fulbright scholarship to the Arabia Ceramics Factory in Helsinki, Finland, Kottler mastered the use of decals to create political commentary, biting satire, and coded messages. In the late 1960s, paisley was associated with psychedelic style and countercultural music. Additionally, paisley bandanas were worn by gay and bisexual men as a coded method of signifying interest in specific sexual practices. Kottler delighted in layering such subversive content in his ceramic production.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Howard Kottler originally pursued a career in optometry, receiving his bachelor’s degree in biological science from the Ohio State University in 1952. Unhappy with his coursework, Kottler began experimenting with clay in elective courses. After a year in optometry school, he dropped out and returned to OSU for his MA, which he completed in 1956. He went on to study with Maija Grotell at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he received his MFA in 1957. Kottler is one of the few people to achieve a PhD in ceramics, in 1964, when it was briefly offered by OSU. He was hired by the University of Washington, where he, along with Robert Sperry and Patti Warashina, made the institution’s ceramics program one of the most important and vibrant such educational centers in the United States.

Matthew Limb

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