Foster studied silversmithing at the Art School, ANU, founding the Canberra-based jewellery and household object design company F!NK + Co in 1993. In 1997, Gretel Harrison was a partner in FINK + Co. Foster was elected to the Design Institute of Australia's Hall of Fame in 2019.
Silversmith Robert Foster set up F!NK and Co in 1994, joined by partner Gretel Harrison in 1997. Foster wanted a business that would support his one-off handmade works, starting with production of his now well-known aluminium F!NK water jug.
From the outset, F!NK was envisaged as a company of designers and many acknowledge Foster’s generosity and enthusiasm in providing them with a start. He insists on a close connection to the tooling part of the process to ‘maintain the sensitivity and integrity of the design’.
F!NK objects are now sold extensively in Australia and overseas. Increased demand for the F!NK water jug led Foster to explore offshore manufacturing, and he proceeded to have jug forms made in China, mostly for assembly in Australia.
Foster’s work is in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum, and was included in the Museum’s 2007 exhibition 'Smart works: design and the handmade’.
FROMTHEDESIGNINSTITUTE OF AUSTRALIA’S HALL OF FAMEAWARD 2019:
Robert Foster was born in Kyneton, Victoria to art teacher parents who also painted and made pottery. He studied gold and silversmithing at the Canberra School of Art, now ANU School of Art, under renown silversmiths Ragnar Hansen and Johannes Kuhnen. He graduated in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts (Visual) and a Post Graduate Diploma of Arts (Visual) in 1986. He went on to establish a studio, Fink & Co in 1993 and rapidly became a major figure in the ACT and national design industry.
Best known for designing tableware, lighting, furniture and other objects, he also had a number of major sculpture commissions including Ossolites in the foyer of the ActewAGL building in Canberra. Each piece he made is imbued with a distinctive personality and movement; objects ‘that might, Nutcracker-suite style, come to life as the owner sleeps.’
Foster’s iconic Fink jug epitomises his design ethos and technical prowess and is a landmark achievement in Australian design. When commissioned to create the jug by Canberra restaurant The Republic, Robert took aluminium tubing, an everyday yet sustainable material, and fashioned it into a sleek, economically-viable product. The original tooling involved old pieces of steel from his father’s tractor and wood from a fence post. The Fink jug now features in collections both nationally and internationally including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and major Australian institutions including the National Gallery of Australia.
He won numerous awards including the ANU Alumnus of the Year award in 2015. He regularly lectured, gave specialised workshops and was a key-note speaker at international conferences.
Following his untimely death in 2016, two grants were set up in Robert’s name to ensure his dedication to helping others continues. One is the ANU Robert Foster Gold & Silversmithing Honours Scholarship and the second is the Capital Arts Patron’s Organisation’s Robert Foster Memorial Award.