Steamboat's Ceramic Epicenter

Kosai Ware

Gold Kosai ware by Biz Littell


The year was 1969, and the world of clay and clay people was filled with the natural and the earthy…and the very brown. Biz at the time was focusing on salt glazing and fuming. His MFA thesis on salt was, at the time, the definitive existing study on the salt glazing process). Biz also at the time was working with and was fascinated withe glass and glazes ultilizing the effects of various chlorides. Never one to shy away from experimentation, Biz tried and accomplished something brand new in the field of ceramics. Understanding the effects and synchronicity of time, temperature, and vapors, Biz did his first clay vapor firing that captured the effects of Newton’s rings and archived them into his clay work. The vibrant results were nothing less than spectacular, the likes of which had never been seen before in the world of ceramics.

As Biz opened the kilns that first time, Val Cushing and Daniel Rhodes who were in the kiln area at the time, were flabbergasted. “That’s the most incredible thing I have ever seen.” sail Val.  “Don’t tell any9one how you did it, ” counseled Dan Rhodes.

Biz’s effusive and commanding personality of course held no secrets when it came to sharing the results of his discovery. It is a trait that has contributed to the master artist and teacher that he is today.


This vapor glazing process, unlike Raku, has proven to be archival. The brilliance does not fade with time. Even more unique with this process is Biz’s application of precious metal, particularly gold and platinum with which he can create even more variations which he has learned to control with subtle mastery. He is able to recreate the effects at will in the unusual ware which has now come be defined by the use of the precious metals.  The term Kosai ware literally translated from the Japanese means  “hue of light” and the ideagram created specifically as a gift to Biz by visiting Japanese artist and friend, Chyako Hashimoto.

In an age of mechanization and cyberspace where we sometimes lose sight of the true vibrancy of our lives, our spirits, and even the natural world, Kosai ware serves to remind us of the spectacular colors that indeed do naturally exist in our universe and on earth…colors emphasized by understanding form, surface, ane even the unique “imperfections” which ultimately becomes artistic expression.