Meet the Makers: Stephen Burks
Stephen Burks is a multi-hyphenate to the point you just might run out of hyphens. The world-renowned interdisciplinary designer is an architect-industrial-designer-anthropologist-educator-world-traveler-community-creator-and-the-list-goes-on… And all of these things continue to inform every project that Burks works on, including the latest Anwar Lighting collection for Parachilna, available exclusively through YLighting.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Burks to talk about his global approach to design, the namesake of his new lighting collection and his new community-based studio project in Brooklyn.
How did you get into design?
I always knew I wanted to make things. It just took me a while to figure out what, not to mention how.
For many of your design projects you’ve chosen to work closely with artisans across the globe, how has this influenced your approach to design?
Working globally with artisans in the “majority world”, as well as global brands around the world has only further proved to me that everyone is capable of design. Understanding that no one place or culture can dictate taste liberated me from trying to design with a particular style in mind. My work starts with people, activities, and technique. It’s form is a result of these.
Knowing the story—and artisans—behind traditional art and design is important, not just from a technical standpoint but to honor the cultures and places from which they come. How do you begin gathering the story, or inspiration, that informs your designs?
I suppose I don’t think of it as a story, but more as reality. Understanding or learning new ways of making is always inspiring. I carry ideas with me for weeks, months, or years from a place or experience and apply them when craft, community, and technique come together.
So, what makes for good lighting—is there more to it than simply illuminating a space?
Good lighting illuminates an activity and makes us feel at home. It brightens our day and feeds our imagination. Good lighting creates more space than it consumes.
And how does something go from an idea to a design to an actual product?
Ideas are cheap. It’s how they’re manifested that matters. It takes more than a good idea. It takes a visionary manufacturer, a productive collaboration, and a strong brand.
We love the almost industrial-organic woven look of the new Anwar pendant lights you designed for Parachilna, that just launched on our site. Can you tell us more about the designs?
Anwar was born from a desire to make the invisible yet dynamic energy of light visible. I imagined it as a coil unraveling inside itself lit from within where the structure itself is the light. Anwar means luminous and is named after my son.
And, finally: What’s next?
We’re working on a new storefront studio project space in Brooklyn to welcome the general public to encounter not only our work but the work of our friends. We believe now more than ever we need to be of our time and support our community, so it’s called Contemporaries. Stop by and say hello.
Najib chooses to see the good in every design—from Rococo, to Bauhaus, to, yes, even the Memphis Group—but he always keeps coming back to those sweet, sweet, clean lines and studied minimalism of modern design. As Content Marketing Manager, he’s only content when creating content.