Born in Clevland, Howard Kottler earned a B.A. degree in biological sciences in 1952, an M.A. in ceramics in 1956, and a Ph.D. in ceramics in 1964, all at Ohio State University. He studied with Maija Grotell at the Cranbrook Academy of Art., where he earned an M.F.A. degree in 1957. That same year he was awarded a Fulbright grant for study in Finland.
Before moving west in 1964 to teach at the University of Washington in Seattle, Kottler created traditional ceramic work. Exposure to California funka new movement that rejected established art theoriesgave Kottler license to go wild and use his art to satirize American popular culture. In his subsequent work, Kottler applied glazes and decals to ready-made ceramic objects, rarely modeling and casting his clay.
Kenneth R. Trapp and Howard Risatti Skilled Work: American Craft in the Renwick Gallery (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998)
Howard Kottler received his master's from Cranbrook Academy and his doctoral degree from Ohio State. His humorous art draws upon Dada, art deco, pop and cubism. In his later years Kottler began to produce pieces that focused on the relationships between dogs and their owners. He was an influential teacher at the University of Washington from 1964 until 1989 when he died of lung cancer, which may have resulted from his exposure to toxic materials.