30 August 2020

City mourns a master artisan

| Charlotte
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Today, I’m going to fill our FINK jug with flowers and put it in our front window to celebrate the life of its creator, Robert Foster, the Canberra designer-maker who founded FINK, and fostered the talents of so many artists in our city.

FINK jug

Foster, 53, died yesterday in a head-on collision on the Kings Highway at Kowen, leaving a wife and two daughters. All of Canberra is thinking of them, and of their extended family and friends, today, as our community reels at the news of this loss.

Those of us who are lucky enough to own a FINK jug are drawn to the iconic object today as never before, noting its utilitarian form and elegant design as if for the first time.

Ours was wedding gift from family friends who live and breathe the Canberra art scene, supporting it in a multitude of ways including buying locally produced artworks for such occasions. I’m a terrible thank you letter writer, so probably never did thank them properly: please both know eight years on how much this very special gift has meant to us.

My Facebook feed is filled with tributes to Foster today, like this one from former Canberra Times journalist Karen Ingram:

“Terribly sad news. I interviewed Robert many times about his projects, and his enthusiasm for design and Canberra were enormous. Watching him “explode” his steel pieces was quite an experience! Vale.”

And from fellow artists like CEO/Artistic Director of Megalo Print Studio & Gallery Ingeborg Hansen:

“Every third thought in all my social media feeds are about Robert. I am sad and so are all the people who make up our strong arts community.
RF, you are firmly entrenched in my memories of the early years of the Canberra School of Art and the Gold and Silversmithing workshop I feel like I grew up in.
Vale Robbie. The parental Hansens send so much love. X.
Much love from me to everyone hurting.”

The FINK website (finkdesign.com) explains Foster’s legacy better than anything I could write:

“There are rare moments in the design continuum when the inspiration of a single artisan transcends that of their contemporaries and translates into a legacy destined to extend beyond the here and now.”

It also contains a selection of testimonials that now form a tribute to one of Canberra’s most respected artisans and the iconic objects he has gifted to us all. Here are a few of these:

This sleek, hand-finished pitcher is a precise, easily controlled, ergonomic pouring tool. Truly a utilitarian object that is pure pleasure both to the eye and the user. Offered for sale in the MoMA store and chosen to be used in the Museum’s three-star restaurant, The Modern, Robert Foster’s work stands forcefully alongside the furniture and tableware from modernist greats.
Pamela Shaw
Museum of Modern Art
New York

Three splendid pieces held in the National Gallery’s Australasian Art Collection are testiment to the importance of Robert Foster’s work and Fink and Co. products have been essential stock in the Gallery Shop for more than a decade.
Robert Bell
Senior Curator Australian Decorative Art
National Gallery of Australia

Spectacular functionality disguised as works of art have made Fink and Co. products one of our bestsellers over the many years we have been offering them to our discerning customers. The pieces from Robert Foster’s company of designers happily sit beside international classics from design houses including Iittala, Rosendahl, Normann Copenhagen, Flensted, Marimekko, Stelton, Ego, Alessi, Skagen, Eva Solo and Menu.
Pat Coppel
Make Designed Objects

Emerging from the European skilled crafts people and artisans of Canberra’s history, F!NK + Co. continue to renew this tradition. Robert Foster’s belief in the potential of the highly malleable and versatile properties of aluminium, married with his entrepreneurial vision drives a truly innovative centre of ideas and experimentation, realising products that are full of energy, reinvention, and originality.
Barbara McConchie
Director, Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre
Canberra, Australia

Design is about everyday life. Fundamentally, that’s what it is. Robert Foster’s work fuses art, craftsmanship and functional form. There are elements of retro, of Scandinavian lines and redolent Australian colours, but the elegant and principled way in which Foster crosses the genres defies classification. It is simply ‘Fink’.
Paul McGillick
Editor, Indesign Magazine

Here are some final words, a call to action from Foster himself, for us to ponder as we remember his achievements.

“It is crucial to educate the Australian and international public about the value of outstanding design and high quality products.”

Thank you, Robert Foster, for creating such sublime and innovative work and sharing your expertise so generously.

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Robbie Foster was my best friend. He was the funniest, sweetest, funnest madcap you could ever meet. If you see a picture where he’s not laughing, you know it’s a posed one…
If you had ever seen him in the past, detonating jugs with dynamite (he was a licensed powder monkey), building huge, powerful and wierd (really wierd) machines or letting off a home made flamethrower, you would never have guessed that a car accident would be the thing that finally killed him… I was in the Fink workshop on Tuesday afternoon. Robbie was vibrant, talking about creating a new, larger blacksmithing area out the back in ‘my bit’ of his factory, about his latest commission, which he was driving to when he was killed, and about us working together more in the future. That won’t be happening now. We also talked about our girls. The day Robbie died was my daughters fifth birthday. He was laughing as he warned me how quickly they grow up. ‘Mish is already wearing nail polish!’… So much pride and love. Robbie was more than just a designer or an artisan or an artist. He was a great, a really great human being. He was a brilliant ‘dad’ and an amazing friend, first and foremost. Being good at the other stuff (everything) came easily to him, because of the muse that always sat at his elbow. He was pure talent with the brain of an autodidactic polymath. My life is smaller, lesser for the loss of him. Love you Robbie. See you on the other side.

Holden Caulfield11:18 am 14 Jul 16

Terribly sad news.

From a pure design point of view, Foster has left a great and enduring legacy.

Thoughts with this family and friends.

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