The Studio Museum in Harlem is pleased to present Stephen Burks: Man Made, a unique project that furthers industrial designer Stephen Burks’s ongoing exploration of the global economy of artisanal craft.
In an age of mass production, Stephen Burks’ exhibition Man Made presented in The Studio Museum in Harlem, in New York is a welcome distraction, which makes us reconsider both the conceptual and the aesthetical value of a handmade object, or design product
Inspired by Burks’s collaboration with Senegalese basket weavers based in New York and Dakar, as well as projects with artisans in South Africa, Peru and India, Man Made starts with the traditional basket-weaving process as its core concept.
Man Made shows, that the craftsmanship of these people could be used in industrial design in a very impressive way!
The use of natural and industrial materials such as Tyvek and polypropylene is one of the most important elements of the exhibition. This combination of materials shows in a way that the traditional or the natural can be successfully merged with the industrial
Handmade objects translated into contemporary forms, which are tied to the culture of the people who create them and to Burks who conceives them, explore and present to the wide public the talent and the impressive skills of these cultures.
The exhibition includes photographic and video documentation of Burks’s travels, as well as his own drawings and prototypes, so that audiences can experience the entire design process from inspiration to completion.
On one hand, Man Made is an interactive design exhibition, and on the other, it is an active platform for working with a collective of West African artisans whose objects and presence have become a significant part of the Harlem community.
Organized by Associate Curator Naomi Beckwith, Man Made is Stephen Burks’s first solo museum exhibition in New York and is accompanied by a new monograph designed by Burks with Studio Lin.
With Man Made and the new book, audiences will come to understand Burks’s singular vision of making, a vision committed to the expansive notion of design as an authentic basis for the production of culture in a contemporary, global context.
Working closely with Stephen Burks and the The Studio Museum in Harlem, Studio Lin came up with a list of criteria for Stephen’s exhibition catalog.
“First and foremost, the catalog should feel “artisanal.” Much like Stephen’s work, the catalog should strive to be an amalgam of different influences, textures, pictures, colors, layouts and materials.
There should be no right or wrong way to read it, as the entering point for each reader will vary. The biggest challenge here was to create a mass produced object (in this case, 2,000 catalogs) on a limited budget that felt like each one was artisanal; hand-made and unique.
The book needed to be printed and produced in a total of 1 month and we had about 6 weeks to design it.
In approaching this challenge, we looked at all the variables we could play with to achieve maximum variation with each catalog.
We structured the content into 5 categories: Text, Image, Essay, Collage, and Sketch. Each of these five categories were then limited in length to 16 page signatures, so that we could use a different paper stock for each category. Paper stocks were chosen based on creating maximum contrast. By binding the signatures together in 5 different sequences, we were able to introduce even more variation. In order for this difference in sequences to be apparent, the cover and back cover needed to be clear, so we chose a plastic material which allowed the different front and back pages to show through. The title was then silkscreened onto each cover.
For binding, we used a vinyl coated cloth material normally used as gaffer’s tape. This material came in many different colors, but we limited our selection to 10. Each book was then bound with 1 of 10 different color tapes.
By working within these constraints, we were able to produce over 25 different variations of catalogs without incurring much addition cost.