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Sink Mandala, Kohler Design Center, Kohler, Wisconsin, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







sinks, tubs, and faucets
beauty in beholder’s eye
form follows function


dazzled by bathrooms
Zen nests of relaxation
“sink into our tubs”


preconceived notions
dance and spin down spotless drains
life imitates art










We visited the Kohler Design Center after a writing retreat on Lake Michigan in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. Most fascinating to me was the history of Kohler Company, founded in 1873 when Austrian immigrant John Michael Kohler purchased a cast iron and steel  foundry in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The company made anything you can imagine out of cast iron and porcelain — from radiators to the first sink dishwasher. From farm implements to a generator for Admiral Byrd for one of his Antarctic expeditions.

Many of these vintage items are housed in the basement museum where we spent at least an hour walking around last week. The top photo is a shot of the inside of a black porcelain sink reflecting daylight through a large picture window. Sinks, tubs, and toilets never looked better. After you visit Kohler Design Center, you’ll not only want a new bathroom, you won’t be able to imagine spending time anywhere else.

Last time I was in Sheboygan County for a writing retreat, our host Jude took us to visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Same family,  in full support of the Arts. The museum’s director is artist Ruth DeYoung Kohler, granddaughter of John Michael Kohler (her portrait hangs in the Kohler Design Center). She must love her work; she’s been the director for 37 years. The museum is housed in the 19th-century Italianate mansion that once belonged to her grandfather.

An hour north of Milwaukee, the Kohler Arts Center is known for giving back and building community through the Arts. Each year, between 16 and 22 artists are selected from hundreds of applicants to spend two to six months working in Kohler Company’s Iron and Brass Foundries, Pottery, and Enamel Shop. Kohler Arts is also on the map for exhibiting Outsider or self-taught art with particular attention paid to large scale installations and architecture. You can read more about the Kohler in the New York Times article by Jori Finkel, Way Off the Beaten Path, Letting the Outsiders In.

Another thing the Kohler is famous for? Its 7 theme based bathrooms painted and designed by artists. What could be more natural? According to the website, “the washrooms were one of the few public spaces where permanently installed works of art would be considered, serving to uphold the Arts Center‘s philosophy that art can enliven, enrich, and inform every facet of our everyday lives.”

If you’re ever in Sheboygan County, add the Kohler Design Center and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center to your list of enriching experiences. And prepare to start saving for a newly designed bathroom.


The Arts Center shall continue its leadership roles of nourishing diversity and building community through the arts. In all programming, the Arts Center shall cultivate connections: between artists and audiences, between artists and communities, between emerging and established artists, between local and visiting artists, between the Arts Center and other organizations, between art forms, and between past and present.


Luxury Bath, Swirl, Black & White, Above: Wall Of Toilets, Kohler Design Center, Leave It All Behind, Everyday Art, Things That Are Round, Kohler Design Center, Kohler, Wisconsin, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, October 15th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), State Of The Arts (haiku for Kuan-Yin), Walking Your Talk (Do The Arts Matter), Martín Ramírez In Rain Taxi, Gripped By Cathy Wysocki

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