In a shared studio space at 1709 Chicago in West Town, cozied up with Volume gallery and DOCUMENT, that is next door to the Rhona Hoffman Gallery, David Salkin Creative makes rugs. Handmade, hand-knotted rugs from Nepal woven with wool, silk, cotton—anything that’s durable and beautiful. David Salkin, an architect by training, is deeply invested in the aesthetic and material durability of his work. Each and every pattern and illustration he designs for his clients are for them and only them. After he creates a piece, the client owns the work and the design is retired.
During a visit to his studio, we asked the artist if he’s ever been stumped trying to create new designs. Salkin replied that the only time he’s encountered barriers is when he doesn’t have a direct line of communication with the client. He reflected on one instance with a rug for a physicist, “All I have to do is get them on the phone. Within five minutes I will know exactly what to do, ‘Oh yes, you like navy and mid-century light fixtures.’” There is an extensive amount of research involved in the genesis of all of David Salkin Creative textiles. In another project, the artist noticed a correlation between the layout of North Sudanese communities and the pattern of coral reefs. This type of serendipitous discovery on the relationship between the organic and the urban landscapes is normal in Salkin’s work. He received his master’s degree in architecture from Tulane University in 2008, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. According to the artist, a large portion of his studies focused on relief works and the effects of one’s surrounding landscape.
The importance of creating a habitat of your own is perhaps the biggest takeaway from Salkin’s university days, a theme that continues in his textiles. This is why a close working relationship with the client is an important supplement to his creative process. Salkin is eager for the day when his work can have further reach, outside of the elite. “The biggest decision I’m grappling with right now is what the difference is between selling out and making design truly accessible to the public.” As of now, his business model is dependent on the value of his work. His pieces are sold at their true cost, to ensure the quality of material and labor practices. Currently, the studio displays five of his rugs, each one remarkably different from another. One was inspired by city zoning maps; the mauve, gray, and blue squares pushing and pulling like a Cezanne painting. Another looks like highway bypasses that loop back and forth over each other. A third is a swatch of creamy white with soft splats of color, like an elegant synthesis of Nickelodeon in the nineties. Yes, the work at David Salkin Creative is masterful, personal and unique, but for the designer it is about making sure you leave with a piece of work with a design that suits you.