David Salkin

September 18, 2017

David Salkin is a Surface Designer living and working in Chicago. He received his Masters in Architecture from Tulane University in 2008.


David Salkin
David Salkin, photo by Paul Levack 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I moved from New Orleans to Chicago about 9 years ago to work for a big Architecture firm, and then I formed my own business shortly thereafter. My studio David Salkin Creative focuses on pattern design, generally used for custom rugs, wall surfaces and installations. Aside from my practice, I draw, design parties and invitations, collect contemporary art, tend to our orchids, make chili, and hang out with my partner, Dirk.

What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other designers are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? Putting your work out in the world, yourself. Sending it off to the internet without citation, where it can be copied. But remember you can always keep making new work. The jump from intimate custom design to a mass-produced model has me concerned as well, what it means to the ‘seriousness’ of the work. But if you only propose/submit concepts you are proud of, and remain an integral part of the process, then let more of the world see your work.


How did your interest in art and design begin? I was born and raised in Sarasota, Florida, which has a legacy of seminal midcentury architecture, most notably homes and public buildings by Paul Rudolph. Instant architectural appreciation. We were lucky kids, because for being such a small town, it holds a remarkable amount of culture: The Ringling Museum of Art, Galleries, Public Sculpture, Ballet, Opera, Symphony. My mother indulged artistic curiosities (letting me drape my bedroom ceiling in scarves, buying me books on Fazlur Khan), and my art teachers, Mrs. Leonard and Mrs. Ewell, let me experiment beyond the prescribed assignments. I chose to study architecture in college, knowing I could use that education for the design of furniture, bridges, graphics, cities, textiles… all the things I was interested in as a kid.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? The patterns and compositions almost always start out as new strategies for city planning, or proposals for circulation networks, figure/ground relationships, and cellular growth. To me, they are maps and they are inhabitable. But they are flattened and simplified and can then be read as just an interesting design. These patterns can be applied to any sort of surface at any scale, from a placemat to a facade, to a new city. The potential for limitless applications is still intimidating to me, but somehow I developed an expertise in custom rugs. I love it, working directly with a client and making something special for them that will last for centuries. They are hand-knotted in Nepal in wool, silk, and hemp. But I also work with commercial fabricators in nylon, viscose, vinyl, or whatever the project calls for.


What artists or designers are you interested in right now? Soshiro Matsubara, Barbara Kasten, Georg Herold, Benas Burdulis, Sterling Lawrence, Rolf Nowotny, Matthew Angelo Harrison, Axel Einer Hjorth, Gunnar Birkerts, Marianne Strengell…

Favorite thing about Chicago? 600 feet above sea level and an immense supply of fresh water. Argyle-26th-Randolph-18th-Devon-Milwaukee. And generous, dedicated people. It’s a nice life here.

What was the last show you saw that stuck out to you? The Pierre Chareau Show at the Jewish Museum, sumptuous style, detail, and fabulous fetishized exhibition design by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Also David Hammons at Mnuchin, Michael E. Smith at Michael Benevento, Jim Hodges at Gladstone, Moholy-Nagy at the Art Institute of Chicago, Sadie Benning at the Renaissance Society, Derrick Adams at the Stony Island Arts Bank.


What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? Veggie Burrito from Tacos Veloz, a few doors down. Iced coffee from wherever.

Favorite places to shop? Uniqlo. Also the MCA store, Wright Auction, ABC Home, Opening Ceremony, Stout Books, Gethsemane Gardens, Green City Market.

What are you really excited about right now? Embossed vinyl wall coverings and etched acrylic panels, possibly for the hospitality industry.