21 Grams is a sex toy that contains
the ashes of a dead partner


Milan 2015: Dutch designer Mark Sturkenboom has created a "memory box" containing a dildo with a compartment for storing the ashes of a deceased partner.

21 Grams by Mark Sturkenboom

Called 21 Grams, the box is made from layers of wood, which are glued together and hand-sanded to create the final shape then coated with a pale grey matt finish. It opens using a gold-plated brass key that can be worn as a necklace, and incorporates an amplifier for playing music from an iPhone that slots into the base.

It also contains a scent diffuser and a small gold-plated urn that holds up to 21 grams of ashes inside a blown-glass dildo.

21 Grams by Mark Sturkenboom

"21 Grams is a memory-box that allows a widow to go back to the intimate memories of a lost beloved one," explained Sturkenboom. "After a passing, the missing of intimacy with that person is only one aspect of the pain and grief. This forms the base for 21 Grams. The urn offers the possibility to conserve 21 grams of ashes of the deceased and displays an immortal desire."

"By bringing different nostalgic moments together like the scent of his perfume, 'their' music, reviving the moment he gave her her first ring, it opens a window to go back to moments of love and intimacy," he said.

When unlocked, the front of the box forms two panels that fold out. One of these holds a built-in perfume container with a rubber diffuser attached.

21 Grams by Mark Sturkenboom

A drawer in the base of the box can be used for keepsakes like a handkerchief or small scarf. The inside of the lid also features a round storage compartment for a ring, which is hidden behind two hinged flaps that form the shape of a shield when closed.

The hollow glass dildo rests at the back of the main compartment, and the small golden urn is slotted in to the bottom of this and closed with a brass seal.

Music from the user's iPhone is amplified by the box, with the sound transmitted through perforations arranged in the shape of two forget-me-not flowers on the inside of the box.

The device was shown during Milan design week in the Ventura Lambrate district alongside other products by Sturkenboom. These included a table-clock called Watching Time Fly, which has no hands and tells the time with a small model of a fly made from a €500 note that completes a full revolution around a glass dome every minute.

21 Grams by Mark Sturkenboom

The Utrecht-based designer graduated in 2012 from the Netherlands' Artez Academy for the Arts, and has since focused on producing limited-edition pieces that reinterpret familiar products to examine themes of love, time and value.

The idea for 21 Grams, which is handmade to order and can be personalised to the requirements of the customer, grew from his relationship with an elderly widow.

21 Grams by Mark Sturkenboom

"I sometimes help an elderly lady with her groceries and she has an urn standing near the window with the remains of her husband," said the designer. "She always speaks with so much love about him but the jar he was in didn't reflect that at all."

"In that same period I read an article about widows, taboos and sex and intimacy and then I thought to myself: 'can I combine these themes and make an object that is about love and missing and intimacy?'"

The name of the project refers to a belief that a human soul weighs 21 grams. This is based on a series of early 20th-century experiments by an American doctor that recorded weight loss in people as they died, which have since been widely discredited.

21 Grams by Mark Sturkenboom
Early design sketch

"I tried to open a new window for the way we reminisce about someone and find a dialogue for these feelings people are struggling with when somebody passes," said Sturkenboom.

"We live in a time where we are able to manipulate life, adjust the way that we look, where the possibilities are endless if it comes to body enhancements, but there is one thing we still cannot answer, the unavoidable passing of life. But I can sure try."

  • John

    PR stunt aside, would this not classify as necrophilia at best, and domestic rape at worst?

  • kris

    Form follows absurdity.

  • Alejandro Mulder

    Diseño de mal gusto.

  • aga

    One step too far, Dezeen!

  • Xaya

    Maybe I am too young or too old to understand the designers intentions. For me this reflects just how twisted our times/the designer handles with lost/death/intimacy.

    Maybe he should have asked the lady why the “not-reflecting” jar is important. And maybe designers should better create stuff they can build on with experience not with mere observation and how to combine X&Y.

    I am not even talking about the iPhone connector…

    • This has got nothing to do with the designer’s way of handling with grief. The designer believes there’s a gap in the market and seeks to, pardon the pun, fill it.

  • M. Vitruvius

    There is a fine line between madness and genius.
    And sometimes it’s just madness.

    • If only

      I’m afraid this doesn’t even come close to either genius or madness. It’s just a display of the designer’s shallow vanity.

    • Dubli

      Imagine people stealing or buying celebrity’s ashes for this!

  • dieter

    Why not make the dildo directly from the femur, the upper part could be a separate anal toy. Also, I could imagine using your iPhone as a backlight? Great work, abord xoxo Dieter Rams.

  • O4

    All the bad taste aside this owes a lot to the work of Ted Noten. Both in its provocative nature and in its formal language (see for instance: http://www.frameweb.com/news/7-necessities-by-atelier-ted-noten ). It fails however to reach the level of Noten’s work in either.

  • S. Hermitage

    Dezeen rapidly becoming the Onion of design.

  • Chaille Chaille

    It’s crazy to see how a talentless designer draws shocking objects to create buzz around them…

  • Ferdinand

    At this point Dezeen has reached another low point.

    I realize that this macabre object draws attention and makes you therefore publish it, but nevertheless I believe you could make a stronger statement by not publishing it. Where is the dezeency?

    There is no need for a discussion about sh*t like that. Make designers realize that only by creating absurdity and provocation, one is not granted fame or publicity, but the opposite.

  • ramzi su


  • Bazv

    Utterly depraved.

  • Stephan

    The tip of a decadent decade in which man thinks he’s just a body.

  • Dubli

    Thats is creative but insane! Lol.

  • BeggarBoy

    What the hell is going on with Dezeen these days? A lot of the articles just reek of the desperation of ‘click bait’ publishing.

  • Nicoline Van Enter

    Ashes to asses…

    • gpa

      Bust to dust.

  • Young Money

    The colour is a bit ridiculous.

  • djnn24

    “When I die I want to be a dildo”.

  • LocoCabasa

    Sexuality and grief are not things to mock. This is love.

  • TFO

    I never though I was a prude until Dezeen KEPT PUBLISHING OVER-DESIGNED SEX OBJECTS.

  • Is the Dezeen bible full of prude and narrow-minded readers?

    • oh come on

      If the designer’s intention was to ruffle the feathers of the ‘prude and narrow-minded’ readers, he may have succeeded. If his intention was to start a discourse on ‘love and missing and intimacy’ he has failed.

  • Sybil_Crewes

    This is just sick.

  • Mario

    As one can read in all the already posted comments, it’s mostly a matter of taste. I’d like the readers and commenters to post their opinions from a slightly more holistic approach. What is the value of a new product in a wider perspective? That also counts for the next hipster bicycle, the next sofa etc.

    • oh come on 2

      See ‘oh come on’ above. If the object doesn’t provoke this conversation (which could be an interesting conversation!) then that’s that I’m afraid. The value of the object seems very limited in that sense.

  • Shava Lava

    Sex and death are two things you don’t want to combine. I hope the designer is just exploring an idea.

  • Ed

    WTF of the month.

  • Emanuele Pizzolorusso


  • Andrew

    What a perfect embodiment of the Modernist movement for all it’s in-humanism, instrumentalism, materialism and morbidity.They will likely come up with a recipe for Soilent Green soon so that we can further desecrate our loved ones and make modernist life even more bleak.

  • hearsetrax

    Whine whine whine and not a drop to drink.

  • Jessi

    I want to buy one for each of my closest married friends. I’m serious. How can I order?

  • CM

    Uhmmm in practicality, this is quite the invention. Pretty well thought out! Lol. I’m sure he’ll make tons of money out of it as well, and I have to agree with the comment that this basically classifies as necrophilia.

    • MadameMidlifeCrisis

      From what I understand, the inventor has sold ONE of these. Not quite the money maker you’ve imagined.

      • AndyFelder

        I don’t think we will see it on shark tank.

  • Brocka

    Sounds like a stream of thought, with well intention, gone way too far.

  • Brocka

    Why are you people bitching at or of Dezeen? All this publication is doing is sharing, we’re all the ones who clicked on the link and read the damn thing.