Industrial designer Stephen Burks founded his studio, Readymade Projects, in 1997. He has developed products for major commercial firms such as Boffi, Calvin Klein, Cappellini, Estee Lauder, and Missoni. He was the first African American designer to work with any of these companies. He has also served as a design consultant for the nonprofit Aid to Artisans and the Nature Conservancy in South Africa, Peru, Mexico, India, and Australia, collaborating with local artisans to find international markets for their products. As a result of those experiences, Burks has developed an interest in a new production model wherein machine parts are combined with handmade elements to create unique objects that can be distributed globally through major brands.