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INTERVIEW: Kevin Burke and David Kimelman

By Kira Heuer

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Here is the first aesthtic activist interview! For the occasion we picked the amazing and creative couple from NY, Kevin Burke and David Kimelman, the two faces behind BURKELMAN to answer a few questions about our most precious resource, water:

Do you have a strong relationship with water? Do you take any artistic inspiration from water?

Kevin: David and I are both Astrologically water signs. I’m a Cancer and David Scorpio. It’s emotion and creative. I’m definitely ruled by the Moon and feel it’s energy pulls at the water within me.

David: I find water endlessly mysterious and beautiful. Water has been a subject in my photography on a number of occasions. My “Broad Channel” series is a group of documentary photographs all shot on a small urban beach in Jamaica Bay, Queens. The photographs intimately document various human interactions with the bay. More recently, I have been shooting high-speed freeze frames of water in motion, like in a waterfall, a fountain, or the break from a moving boat. These images will be featured in a new project I am finishing up on now.

Does water help you handle stress and pressure?

David: I find being fully submerged in an outdoor volcanic hot spring quite relaxing. A hot tub works too when a mountainside Japanese onsen isn’t available. 

Kevin: Yes. Hydration is key. When I used to style the windows at Bergdorf Goodman and would be working overnights and feeling just so tired…. I would drink tons of water. More than coffee it gives you a level of clarity, the power to make it through and add a pep in your step at 4 am.

What is your favorite water activity?

David: Snorkeling. I love being able to see what’s going on under the surface.

Kevin: Watering my gardens in the early morning.

What is your favorite water memory?

Kevin: Scuba diving with a prehistoric looking giant ray off of St John. I faced a life long fear of being in the open ocean and it was worth it.

David: When I was around 11 or 12 my family and I were on a ferry boat to Block Island that ended up in some rather rough seas. My sister and I were standing on the very tip of the bow clutching the railings as the boat rose and fell with each giant wave, the spray soaking us to the bone. We almost got pitched overboard on a couple of the bigger swells. It was absolutely terrifying, but also such a thrill. The boat’s crew had to eventually come and pull us inside where we both promptly vomited.

Who is the one person (alive or dead) you would most like to have a seaside escape with?

Kevin: Carly Simon. I would love to hang out on Martha’s Vineyard with her. David can come too.

How do you evaluate success?

Kevin: Are you doing what you love? If so, then you are succeeding.

Who have been some of the individuals to inspire you over the years?

Kevin: Courtney Love. Passionate, powerful, creative and relentless. Also, a fellow Cancerian.

David: For our shop, Murray Moss is often on my mind. I worked at his store in Soho when I was in college and saw what a home design shop can be. At the time, I had no idea how relevant that experience would end up being 15 years later when we decided to start BURKELMAN. Murray is masterful at bringing together fascinating objects in an unexpected and amusing way. I loved that despite the super elevated, museum like, context he displayed his merchandise in, the shop always had a sense of humor. We aim to strike the same balance at BURKELMAN.

For photographers, Richard Avedon and Wolfgang Tilmans are my favorites to look at.

Justin Vivian Bond, Obama, Ru Paul, Louis CK, Brad & Angelina, and John Waters are all people whose lives and work inspire me.

From an interview with Susan Sontag: “Yeats said famously that one must choose between the life and the work. Do you think that is true?”

David: No. It’s all the same to me and it’s all important. Work, Leisure, Family, My Marriage, Business, Passions. They’re all interdependent.

What drink do you like to offer your guests? What is your favorite cocktail?

Kevin: Wine. Always wine… Red for me, and it seems white for everyone else these days. Favorite cocktail is absolutely anything with Tequila in it.  Neat, On The Rocks, from the bottle, in a Bloody Maria and David’s new cocktail concoction he named “The Spicy Frog”.

David: Like Kevin said, we’re winos. We love exploring the endless varieties of red wine. I also love making a guest an espresso. We get great beans from a local coffee roaster.

What is your favorite form of water? (river, ocean, lake, waterfall) Do you think water is friendly?

David: The ocean is my favorite, but I don’t think it’s friendly. It’s playful at times, but you just can’t trust it.

Kevin: Ocean. I like my water vast and deep and I find it terrifying and beautiful.

We have a glass collection with the option of engraving personalized quotes, what would you want your carafe to say?

Kevin: “I’m having it all”

David: “I’m having it all”

If you had one word to describe water, what would it be?

David: “Flow”

Kevin: “Life”

Any secret talents?

Kevin: I can make a whistle out of an acorn top.

David: I’m wicked good at giftwrapping and I love doing it. It’s such a satisfying result. If you receive a gift from BURKELMAN, there’s a good chance I wrapped it. 

About The Kira Heuer

  • Great interview! Very insightful and fun, I want to drink red wine with Burkelman out of ‘I’m having it all’ carafes! As a lover of the sea and a coral conservation activist the water theme hits home, plus I’m an Aquarius; not a water sign but I do pour water from a hefty jug.
    Bravo

  • hannah

    This is a fascinating peep into two handsome and complex human beings. I love how they come across as intimate and planet-minded at the same time. I drink water too, all day every day, I owe it to myself to have some really beautiful glasses made by artists.

btt