• 06.10.11

Stephen Burks Proves That Do-Gooder Design Can Be Gorgeous [Slideshow]

Stephen Burks’s designs result from a partnership with Senegalese basket makers, but they’ve got a signature funkiness that’s all his own.

These days, you’re just not a star designer if you haven’t collaborated with craftspeople in a developing country. (To say that we’re jaded is probably an understatement.) Stephen Burks is no exception to the trend. But unlike many others who attempt to leverage craft skills into a viable economic model, he’s simply interested in fostering a sense of community. The results of his partnership with Senegalese basket makers comprise Man Made, the New York-based designer’s first solo show, at the Studio Museum in Harlem.


Everyone is capable of design,? Burks says. “Design isn’t something that should be exclusive.” And he makes the design process understandable by including drawings and prototypes. Photographic and video documentation of his travels detail his collaboration with the West African craftspeople, whom he calls “hand factories” for their machinelike reliability. All the items, including lamps and tables, are handmade using the same traditional basket-weaving techniques, but they display a modern, Burksian twist.

Man Made is on view through June 26.

About the author

Belinda Lanks is the editorial director of Co.Design. Before joining, she was the managing editor of Metropolis.