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For centuries, only the fabulously wealthy could afford artist-decorated dinnerware. Painting each piece by hand was an incredibly time-consuming and unforgiving process. The paint was fragile, and easily damaged by cutlery and even ordinary cleaning.
The English invented the transferware process in the mid-18th century, making it possible for artisans to place highly detailed patterns onto ceramic ware through specialized ceramic ink printing and application techniques.
Transferware also allowed for a higher-definition image, and the use of more colors within a pattern, than hand-painting. Better still, the new process enabled makers to produce fine dinnerware faster, easier and more consistently than before, and with a much higher level of durability than the hand-painted variety. Suddenly, exquisitely designed table settings were no longer exclusive to the aristocracy.
Kohler uses the same techniques that gave the world the beautifully detailed dinnerware of Wedgewood and Spode to create elegantly patterned fixtures for the bathroom, including sinks and toilets, even faucet handles.
That beauty belies a surprising toughness. Like the dinnerware with which it shares a lineage, the Artist Editions sinks are exceedingly durable. Just as dinnerware is engineered to stand up to a lifetime of punishment from cutlery and thousands of cycles through dishwashers, the Artist Editions decorated sinks are made to look amazing for many years to come.
Kohler creates designs inspired by a wealth of different cultures, countries and artistic traditions for the Artist Editions series.
If a design is intended for use on more than one product, it must be designed to be adaptable to each product’s specific surface and geometry, from an oval sink to a round sink to a rectangular basin. This requires fracturing the pattern into a collection of puzzle pieces that the decorators will expertly fit together and hand-apply to the sink’s surface.
Multicolored designs intensify the process. Some designs require as many as 15 different color layers composited together to accurately reproduce the original design. Once the decorator has faithfully translated the chosen pattern on the desired base ware, the piece is ready for production.
Kohler’s Artist Editions designs are inspired by a wealth of different cultures, countries and artistic traditions.
The primary Artist Editions studio at Kohler is surprisingly intimate—no larger than a one-bedroom apartment--along with small neighboring kiln rooms and a compact storage area for the sinks that serve as canvases for the artistic patterns. Every one of the Artist Editions products is finished right here, in this modest studio staffed by a tiny fraternity of artisans who know their craft—and each other—well. Some team members have worked here for decades, honing the skills required for this demanding, detailed work.
Once the design has been applied to the ceramic surface, the decorators move the sinks to a kiln for firing. When they remove the fixture from the oven, the design has become an inextricable part of the finished piece. Inspiring works of art for the kitchen and bath, rich with color, character, and a sense of tradition are the beautiful result of this long, intense process.