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Stephen Burks, Roping Stool, designed 2011, this example made 2017

By Maeve Coudrelle | October 16, 2017
A photograph of a circular stool made of multiple pieces of thick rope dipped at the base in black rubber. The rope is wrapped in a patterned textile band with fringe at the bottom.

Stephen Burks, Roping Stool, designed 2011, this example made 2017, rope, polyurethane coating, assembled sections of woven polyester, rayon, polyacrylonitrile and linen ribbon, brade and fringe assembled and stitched together, plastic (zipper)

Collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Gift of Dedar SpA; 2017-28-3

New York-based designer Stephen Burks is known internationally for his innovative synthesis of industrial manufacturing and hand-made craft traditions, often gleaned through partnerships with artisans in developing countries. Roping Stool is a collaboration with Italian fabric house Dedar Milano’s co-creative directors, brother and sister Caterina and Raffaele Fabrizio. The stool features Manila rope dipped at its base in black rubber, and wrapped in brightly-colored patterned fabric. By sourcing Manila rope—from the abacá plant native to the Philippines—and working with an established high-end brand, Burks allies raw material and artisanal craftsmanship, with functionality, luxury, and modern technology.

Stephen Burks for Dedar. Dedar Milano, 2012.

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Burks is the first African American recipient of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Product Design (in 2015), and the first industrial designer to have a solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem (in 2011). Born in Chicago’s South Side, Burks studied product design at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design, and architecture at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture.

Stephen Burks: University of Michigan Taubman College Future of Design Conference, 2009.

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I have a very Modernist background. I never thought there would be this substantial return to the hand for me. It’s interesting that my Modernist background allows me to mix high and low ways of making for mass and luxury, while still remaining culturally connected.

Stephen Burks