When the then-babyfaced trio Rich Brilliant Willing burst onto the New York design scene a few years ago, they were working in a signature style that’s since become de rigueur both here and across the Atlantic: material-blocking, as I like to call it, which is kind of like color-blocking but with uninterrupted chunks of contrasting yet complementary materials, often including marble and/or offbeat metals. The boys still tend to put the focus on materials one way or another in their work, but their recent projects have relied much less heavily on the mixed-media technique — until now. Earlier this week they launched the RBW Bar Kit pictured above, as the third installment of the Unfiltered Project by Karlsson’s Vodka — for which we had the honor of creating the first — and going back to their roots made a particular sense in light of the project’s brief. Picking up on the raw and unfiltered theme, the designers chose four elemental materials from nature and presented them as simply as possible. Working with craftspeople in Brooklyn, they had aluminum and marble discs cut that, when stacked, function as an oversized grinder, perfect for prepping the cracked black pepper that Karlsson’s uses in its signature reductive cocktail. Topped with two mouth-blown glasses and a dome, under which one might store a bottle of the brand’s limited-edition vintage, the Bar Kit is a strikingly sculptural homage to the fine art of tippling. We got the scoop from Rich Brilliant Willing’s Theo Richardson on exactly how it was made.
“The glasses and the dome were hand-blown, Venetian-style, by Michiko Sakano from Brooklyn Glass, and they’re as as simple as can be. There’s a nice little hint of a punte mark on the bottom of each glass, alluding to that handmade process. This is the vessel connecting the kit back to the project’s origin: the ritual of drinking. Every bar kit also needs a tool for mashing fresh ingredients and releasing flavors; the hickory wood muddler acts as a handle, as well, for rotating the millstone on the base.”
“The millstone was hand-cut using powered tools by Jake Levy at International Stone Collections in Brooklyn, and it’s made from 2-inch-thick Carrera marble. The face, which you see here, has a blind hole for the muddler/handle, and when the stone is rotated, it appears to orbit the center like a moon to a planet. The slightly concave underside has 12 grooves that allude to a clock face — they’re intentionally symbolic but with no specific meaning. The blind hole can also be rotated with a finger rather than the muddler, and the two concentric holes in the center act as a hopper to feed peppercorns down to the grooved base below.”
“The aluminum base is CNC-milled and inscribed with six lines, giving it the appearance of a wheel or a star. The grooves are sharpened to cut pepper kernels, and there’s a ring around the edge of the base for collecting the ground pepper. The top face of the base is also conical with a convex taper that mates it to the underside of the stone.”