American multidisciplinary artist Daniel Arsham is no stranger to collaboration. In 2021 alone, he has already melded his signature aesthetic with the likes of Porsche, Tiffany & Co, and Pokemon, showcasing his uncanny ability to flex his creative muscles while still remaining true to the essence of his work. Arsham’s ethos has played well with a wide range of brands, the most recent of which is US kitchen and bathroom behemoth Kohler, with whom he has designed a limited-edition sink. Created using Kohler’s cutting-edge technology, the sink, named ‘Rock.01’, is Kohler’s first artist collaboration in many years. 

A 3D-printed ceramic sink by Daniel Arsham and Kohler

Using Kohler’s cutting-edge 3D-printing technology allowed for creating shapes not possible with traditional slip-casting methods

The 3D-printed sink continues the same line of thinking that Arsham explored with his ‘Objects for Living II’ furniture collection, presented at the Friedman Benda gallery in September. Confined to his Long Island home during the early months of the pandemic, he experimented with materials that were easily at hand – found rocks and stones, and his sons’ collection of Play-Doh, which he would use to create hand-pressed forms. ‘Rock.01’ poetically ties these organic elements together. Featuring an asymmetric vitreous basin, which leans against a rock-shaped form cast from brass, and with the same recognisable patina as Arsham’s bronze sculptural works, the sink design is a true industry first.

‘Kohler reached out to me about a year and a half ago, specifically about a new technology that they had been developing around 3D-printed ceramics,’ recalls Arsham. ‘The technology is pretty nascent, but beyond being able to do some incredible things that are not possible with traditional slip casting, there’s a huge sustainability factor. There’s very little waste and it uses a lot less water than regular casting methods. I wanted to create something that would be iconic or representative of the technology itself, and I wanted to go big.’

Daniel Arsham at Kohler’s archives in Wisconsin

Arsham has also incorporated a reverent nod to Kohler’s 148-year history in the design, to create that tension between past, present and future that has characterised his work. ‘When I originally designed the sink, there were two components that looked like one stone was resting on top of another,’ he says. ‘But after realising that Kohler made cast iron bathtubs in the late 19th century, I ended up using a cast brass base that has a familiar patina to the rest of my bronze work. It’s a nice juxtaposition of this heritage material that feels very worn and old, alongside a new futuristic material.

‘One of the super interesting things about the 3D-printed surface is that it’s actually quite imperfect,’ Arsham adds. ‘There are some flaws in it and, in some ways, it looks more handmade than the other sinks that Kohler produces now.’

Bronze casting process

‘Rock.01’ will makes its debut at Design Miami as part of an installation designed by Arsham to mark Kohler’s first time at the fair. Released in a limited edition of 99, the inspiring design effortlessly unites Arsham’s and Kohler’s worlds, even though that might have seemed unlikely at first glance. In truth, Kohler’s affiliation with the arts runs deep. Not only has the company been a long-standing supporter of the John Michael Kohler Center, an organisation offering an artist residency programme at the donated home of the company’s founder, it also runs the Kohler Foundation, which has championed the arts and education through grants, scholarships, art preservation efforts and a performing arts series since 1940. 

To David Kohler, CEO and president of Kohler, the company’s partnership with Arsham, which stemmed from its relationship with the art consulancy, The Art Lab, could not be more seamless. ‘We have a shared ethos on the topics of innovation, pushing boundaries and thinking differently,’ he says. ‘Many of Daniel’s works are an homage to time, where future meets past. To us, 3D-printed ceramics are exactly that – juxtaposing one of our most heritage material sets with a new production mechanism. We knew Daniel would be an authentic partner to bring it to market with us for the first time. We had spent three years with this technology before bringing Daniel onboard, and we used those learnings to establish some technical parameters. With those foundational fence posts, the canvas for the final design itself was entirely his to create.’ §