House of Kolor Jon Kosmoski Chronicles
With custom painting, when the economy goes down custom painting goes up because more guys are hobby painting to pay their bills… I always had growth in those times. That’s only one bit of wisdom Kosmoski has learned during a 60-year journey that’s traced the world of custom vehicle painting, paint chemistry and application technique since he founded House of Kolor in 1956.
Starting in a makeshift shop in his mother’s basement, he moved out when the fumes got to her. He rented a space before moving in 1964 to the building he still occupies in Minneapolis, upgrading to a professional paint booth then. Funny though: he’d been producing award-winning, show-stopping work even with his homemade equipment.
“It’s more about attitude than it is the place you’re working,” said Kosmoski. “I had the desire to do it right versus using the cheap methods. Two paint jobs might look the same but one job will live for 20 years and the other one will live for a year.”
Grasping that distinction didn’t come cheap or easy, either. A serendipitous meeting with a polymer chemist led him to study paint materials and formulation in an effort to develop better quality materials than those commercially available. This effort resulted not only in groundbreaking paints but remarkable results that garnered notice.
“I never went to college so I learned the hard way, by making mistakes,” he said. “When a mistake hits you in the pocketbook it makes a niche in the gray matter that you don’t forget.”
True, but a solid work ethic and dogged persistence ultimately staked Kosmoski’s reputation. He talks about “that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you know you’ve done something right,” and it’s this force that guided him as he studied and experimented on his own. Being a rider helped too; with his artist’s acuity he noticed trends and styling cues.
His first bike was a BSA Golden Flash followed by two Aerial Square Fours, the second of which he rode to California in 1959. Back at House of Kolor it was pedal to the metal for decades thereafter. In the early years Kosmoski often painted over 600 sets of motorcycle parts each season, from November to April. Harleys were prevalent but he also painted plenty of Honda choppers, too. When House of Kolor became part of Valspar Automotive Coatings in 1997, Jon continued to develop products, conduct training classes and represent the firm.
Simultaneously, Kosmoski’s passion and determination took him to the top of his craft. He is considered a legend and a master, though he’s still perplexed when he’s approached for a picture or an autograph. “I’ve always thought of myself as a working man,” he said. That said, any discussion with Kosmoski can turn heady in a heartbeat, dissecting pigments and polymers or turning gently to his personal philosophy. Get more details – Jon Kosmoski on the rise of customs and today’s paint colours.
At 78, he’s as engaged as ever, still challenging himself to develop paints that exceed requirements while creating brilliant results. Such as the ‘34 Ford Cabriolet Kosmoski built for Valspar’s booth at the 2015 SEMA show. He designed its color using a base coat that looks like a candy but it isn’t.
“The execs at Valspar are so excited about it they want me to do another 15-16 colors,” he said.
He’s also fired up about a pigmented candy made with real organic pigment that has astounding translucent qualities and won’t fade like the dyes do. You can ask Kosmoski about these cutting-edge products at the Donnie Smith Show, an event he says he wouldn’t miss.
“It’s a good show and I think the swap meet is a big part of it. It’s probably one of the biggest in the country. I’ve found some tremendous buys there.”
Kosmoski will be at the RiverCentre in the House of Kolor booth, shaking hands, meeting friends and signing 60th anniversary posters. They’ll have limited edition 60th-year T-shirts and stickers, too.
“We have a lot going on in our 60th year at House of Kolor,” said Valspar’s Gina Mahan.
There are four new limited edition colors—including Jon’s Black Forest—plus a new website chockfull of ideas and inspiration.” Teaching and speaking engagements for House of Kolor keep Kosmoski optimistic.
“There’s so much talent out there. I meet amazing young people, some natural born talents. It reminds me of myself when I was young, having so much fun doing what I loved.” “You have to feel good about what you’re doing, appreciate the joy of a fi nished project that works,” he said.
Life Lessons with Jon Kosmoski – get’m here.