It seems everywhere I turn these days I’m hearing Stephen Burks’ name… and that’s a good thing. Burks has long been heralded for his work from within the design community but always seems on the verge of something bigger. 2011 has been a good year for Burks, once labeled the “Barack Obama of design” by a member of the press. Currently his show Man Made is on exhibit at the Studio Museum in Harlem and is his first solo show. Later this spring he mounts another show Are You a Hybrid? (opens May 3) at the Museum of Art and Design in Manhattan. His contributions to the show Design for the Living World will be featured in Chicago starting next month. Burks also has a piece in collaboration with Swarovski that was featured at Eurolace, the design runway for lighting fixtures in Milan. Ladies and Gents, this man has been busy.
Burks is unique for many reasons, including his varied path that makes him kind of a design jack-of-all-trades. Obtaining degrees in architecture and product design at the Illinois Institute of Technology and a Masters in Architecture at Columbia University, Burks tackles the worlds of architecture, industrial design, furniture design, and fine arts in one fell swoop. Burk’s Brooklyn based studio, Readymade Projects, Inc. serves as headquarters for all his work, and what an impressive resume it is.
He has designed for internationally renowned design brands like Artenica, B&B Italia, and Cappellina as well as more noted luxury icons like Misonni, Audi, Calvin Klein, Target, Triple Five Soul, and Swarovski. His designs are unique due to his desire to mix the artisan detailing of handicrafts with the benefits of mass production to make pieces available to consumers. He has been interviewed and profiled in major design magazines like Dwell and is featured in this month’s Salt Magazine, the official trade magazine of Swarovski (available online) as well as the New York Times and popular online sites like Gestalten and Dezeen. Burks’ work has been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in addition to his shows this month.
Burks is a pioneer for his technique’s and approach to design, which often involves the communities and an eco-conscious mindset. He has worked extensively in Senegal, Peru and South America, collaborating with local artisans in the creation of his furniture and pieces. He draws inspiration from the lifestyles and materials from the various places he travels which gives his furniture a sort of authenticity and also allows them to serve as functional art, standing apart from what you typically see on the market.
Burk’s stance on design as a singular entity, not divided by discipline allows him to draw inspiration from every field as well as include aspects of each in his creations. Looking through his work you see the detailing so enforced in architecture, but the textures and color more akin to fashion, but the functionality of product design all encapsulated in on stunning object that looks so different from what you see everyday. Burks has the ability to take an item like a chair and make it tell its story of creation and identity in the way it came together.
Burks is a design inspiration to us and exactly the type of thinker we here at All Black Everything like to celebrate. His commitment to sustainable materials, community involvement, preserving the rituals and tradition of handicraft, and the elegance of design will continue to make him standout as a world class designer. 2011 seems to be his year and it is just April and I know I personally am excited to see where he will go and what he will create from here.