What’s in a basket? Students explore industrial weaving in Stephen Burks’ workshop
“I think I have a basket, but is it one?” asks first-year Master in Design Studies student Jimmy Pan as he considers the multi-colored vessel he's fashioned out of interlocking card stock and tape. Pan is one of five students to participate in the J-Term workshop “Making the Industrial Basket at Three Scales” led by 2019 Loeb Fellow Stephen Burks. Over two weeks in January, students focused their attention on the ancient craft of basket weaving, taking a close look at how baskets have been made over the centuries and studying how traditional methods can be translated into digital fabrication systems without losing their artistry.
In order to achieve this, Burks, an industrial designer whose ongoing project Stephen Burks Man Made seeks to bring artisanal methods into the future, had students each bring a basket into class. Baskets came from their homes, second hand shops, and, in one case, from the netting used to hold fruit in the grocery store. They then made a series of drawings to better understand the design elements of their chosen basket. From the drawings, students decided on a part of the basket—scale, materiality, legibility—to study through building their own handmade basket. The final products, created from everyday materials, used techniques gleaned from the original baskets but were not meant to be recreations. “The only goal is to for them to arrive at a basket, and an original one. One that has a little bit of invention,” said Burks.