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Feb 8, 2012
If there's anyone in the African American community (and the design community in general) who is really making a name for himself these days, it's got to be Chicago native Stephen Burks, Design Director of NYC-based studio Readymade Projects Inc. In fact, he's a standout.
Readymade Projects creates everything from products to interiors to packaging for such brands as Missoni, Ligne Roset, Target, and Cappellini. With degrees in product design and architecture, and a background that includes growing up around architecture and art, Burks brings a unique perspective to design; but most interesting is that Burks isn't just making modern products and interiors, he's bridging a gap and paving the way.
As the "first and only African-American designer to work with companies such as Calvin Klein, Este Lauder, Boffi, [etc]," Burks is a Character Approved game changer in more than one sense. He told MAD blog, "I hadn't really stopped to think about it, because I'd become accustomed to the fact that there are far too few African American working in the arts, especially design and architecture."
Working with partners such as Aid to Artisans and the Nature Conservancy, Burks has traveled the globe to recruit artisans whose traditional craft and techniques he uses in his contemporary pieces, bringing the developing world and developed world closer through design.
For example, he has employed West African artisans' weaving technique to modern chairs, vases and other pieces, as well as designed Moroso's M'Afrique exhibition in Milan during the Milan Furniture Fair in 2009.
Burks told the New York Times, "We have so much to learn from places like India, Thailand and Africa, which have centuries-old traditions in making that go much deeper than our mid-century ideal of design."
When other designers are using polypropylene, steel and aluminum, he's using materials like shredded recycled magazines and fabric discards. We just can't wait to see what he'll weave next.
[Images: Stephen Burks, portrait By Danny Bright]