Designer Stephen Burks | In Conversation with Est

Stephen Burks | In Conversation with Est

Our friends at Est Living recently caught up with American multi-disciplinary talent Stephen Burks to chat about his design philosophy, unique artisanal approach and latest collaboration with DEDON

Catch up on the full article below written by Megan Rawson. 

American creative Stephen Burks was already gaining momentum in the global design community when he was awarded the Wallpaper Outdoor Living Award for his now-iconic KIDA Hanging Lounger design. A multi-disciplinary at heart, Stephen is also the founding principal of Stephen Burks Man Made, a ‘hands-on, collaborative design studio invested in the transformative power of craft techniques that challenge the limits of new technologies within industrial production.’

With an impressive portfolio encompassing furniture design alongside installations, lighting, packaging, and product design for some of the world’s leading brands, Stephen’s dedication to preserving the future of artisans and handicrafts has influenced his design thinking and resulted in a compelling body of work, including three award-winning collections for DEDON. Available exclusively at Cosh Living in Australia, Stephen Burk’s Kida Hanging Chair and his other collections for DEDON are available to experience on the Cosh Living showroom floors in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

Speaking with est from his New York-based studio, Stephen talks us through his design philosophy, processes and the inspiration behind his latest collaborations with DEDON.

Stephen Burks’ Kida Hanging Lounge Chair for DEDON, available at Cosh Living

Stephen Burks’ Kida Hanging Lounge Chair for DEDON.

You are considered a leading talent in American design. Where did your passion for design stem from?

Stephen Burks: I’ve always been interested in things. Things, not objects, have a soul and are embedded with the experiences of our lives. They help define us, our ways of life, and our histories.

How did your foundational training in industrial design and architecture inform the creation of your collaborative studio, Stephen Burks Man Made?

Stephen Burks: I’ve always believed everyone is capable of design. The studio and our workshop-based practice are collaborative by nature. In a conscious effort to eschew the 20th-century notion of the designer as auteur, we focus on our relationships with the communities of artisans we work with to develop the work. If industrial design is defined as design for industry, then my education taught me what to resist in a sense. Industrial design lacks humanity to me. I’m interested in how industry can also be crafty to create objects that say more than the industry can say alone.

Stephen Burks’ Kida Hanging Lounge Chair for DEDON, available at Cosh Living.

Stephen Burks’ Kida Hanging Lounge Chair for DEDON.

Honouring timeless craft techniques, materials and culture all play equally important roles in many of your designs. Can you talk a little more about why these principles are influential to your pieces/collections?

Stephen Burks: The principles of technique, materiality, and culture define what design is for me. Outside of the Western notions of what design is, the rest of the world is more in touch with the connections between communities and what they produce. There is legibility of culture that fascinates me. The way a thing can tell you how it was made and by whom.

What do you often consider to be the most overlooked element in crafting a new product?

Stephen Burks: The body is probably the most overlooked aspect of a new product. Design is often made without considering its interaction with the body or the activities of the body. I try to remind myself to start with the body rather than with a material or material innovation. It’s the body and the hand that we attempt to express and that we hope to communicate.

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