Through his New York–based industrial design studio, Readymade Projects, Stephen Burks has developed products for brands like B&B Italia, Estée Lauder, and Missoni. Burks will serve as the keynote speaker at Dwell on Design 2014 in Los Angeles, where he will discuss that work as well as his efforts to bridge the worlds of ground-level craft and high-end design.
This work has reached its fullest expression in Burks’s Man Made collaboration and with Senegalese basket weavers and, more recently, his DALA line of outdoor furniture for Dedon. The lounge chairs, ottomans, and stools in this collection are made by weavers in a factory in the Philippines. Burks encourages the artisans to introduce subtle variations in the weaving, making each piece unique. He sits down with Dwell to tell us more ahead of his appearance at the show.
Tell us about the artisans you worked with for your Man Made series.
Man Made is specific to Senegalese basket weaving. I said, Let me start with one country, one people, one craft, and apply it to objects I might be making for the home. I tried to design the patterns but it is really a collaboration. There is no way of controlling what the artisans are going to make. They weave not only the pattern and form, but also the color. It’s very improvised and, technically, super difficult to do! If they can make your laundry basket, why not your coffee table or pendant light?
What about your collaboration with Dedon?
The Philippines has the highest level of weaving craft in Asia, and a brand like Dedon epitomizes a level of investment in technique to make a product that is unique and fully recognizable in the language of contemporary design. The collaboration has been very symbiotic and has gone really well. I insist on going to the Philippines and working hand in hand with the artisans for at least a week instead of staying in my studio and sending drawings. The closer we get to the making, the more influence we have as designers, and the closer we get to the artisans, the more we can help maximize their expression.
Hear Stephen Burks in conversation with Dwell Editor-in-Chief Amanda Dameron on Friday, June 20, at 6 p.m. at Dwell on Design.