Stephen Burks

A Progressive Partnership: Crafting Diversity in Design

Stephen Burks & Berea College Student Craft

In the spring of 2018 we at Student Craft began discussion with an informal working group consisting of:

Glenn Adamson: Curator, writer and historian who works at the intersection of craft and contemporary art.

Jon Prown: Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Chipstone Foundation, an organization devoted to advancing the field of Decorative Arts and Material Culture Studies.

Meghan Doherty: Director of Berea College’s Doris Ulmann Galleries, Curator of the College Art Collections, and Associate Professor of Art History.

These discussions centered around how best to build on the incredible legacy and contributions that Student Craft has been making to the world of craft since 1893. Early in those discussions we identified the need to link the work of the Craft program more closely with the work of the College’s Centers, tying the objects that our students create directly to the College’s Great Commitments through strategic design.

By early 2019 the group had identified industrial designer Stephen Burks: Principal of Stephen Burks Man Made and Design Critic in Design Engineering at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

As the ideal candidate for helping us bring this vision to life, we recognized Stephen’s career has long been built on a pluralistic vision of design inclusive of all cultural perspectives. Stephen’s hands-on experience with artisans all over the world as well as his strategy for collaborating directly with the students perfectly suits our goals for new products that are representative of our diverse student body.

“Berea Student Craft is an essential part of the labor work/study program at Berea College where the students learn by making objects that teach lessons in the manipulation of raw material into finished goods. I’m excited to be working with them to help guide the program through the design process of producing contemporary collections that represent the character of the student body and their ideas.” ~Stephen Burks

During the 2019-2020 academic year, Stephen traveled to Berea for 5-week long participatory workshops with the students developing new products that utilize the skills of broomcraft, ceramics, weaving, and woodcraft.  This groundbreaking creative partnership between Berea College Student Craft and Stephen Burks Man Made is ongoing as both Stephen and Berea College continue working to increase representation and expression through the work they create.