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August 3, 2011

Art: Salvaging identity

Salvo showcases regional art, design and accessories

Salvo, which is British slang for salvage, is the name of the latest home design and accessory store to join Market Street’s creative retail revolution.

The name came naturally to Salvo co-founder and woodworker, the Birmingham, England-born Nathan Morgan.

“It’s visually catchy. The shape of the letters are interesting,” says the design-minded furniture craftsman. “It sounds cool. It’s easy to remember. It’s relevant to the product, and it’s from where I’m from, so it was kind of perfect, yeah.”

Morgan and his business partners had no problem picking the location.

“Market Street is the center of everything new and fresh that’s happening in the art and design realm,” Morgan says. “That was the neighborhood we wanted to be part of.”

If you’ve sat down for dinner or a drink at Eiderdown or Wiltshire on Market, you’ve experienced Morgan’s work. He designed all the furniture for those and several other Louisville eateries.

Morgan got Salvo going with a team of friends and Louisville art-world leaders, including his business partner, Forecastle veteran David Levine; creative director Savannah Barrett, who is also education programs manager for the Louisville Visual Arts Association; artist and craftsman David Metcalf; and Gill Holland.

One of the elements that sets Salvo, dubbed a “hand to home artist collective,” apart from Red Tree, Scout and the other home design stores just steps away, is that Salvo only sells work by regional artists. They also emphasize the materials and process behind the pieces.

“The objects have an identity,” Metcalf says.

Plus, practically all of the work — from Metcalf’s lamps fashioned from bicycle rims, to tough, chic leather belts and purses by Sue Schofield, of Inherited Leather — is made from recycled materials.

About 30 artists, including Jonathan Swanz, Alex Adams and Kathleen Lolley, are involved in the Salvo collective. Items cost anywhere from $50 to $4,000.

Salvo also represents lesser-known Kentucky craftspeople and assists them in promoting their work. Useful art and accessories are Salvo’s focus.

“We’re looking for things that function,” Morgan says. “We want chairs, we want bowls, we want vases, tables, kitchen accents …”

Adjacent to the retail area is a spacious showroom currently featuring a dining room setting crafted by Morgan, Metcalf and other Salvo artists. The installation has already been reserved for a wedding rehearsal dinner.

The display will change regularly, and customers can work with any Salvo artist to commission custom pieces.

In preparing the store, Morgan demonstrated his talent for smoothing out rough edges. The 3,200-square-foot space had lived several lives, including incarnations as a firehouse and church, but had been derelict for several years when the Salvo team decided to use it. It was in need of some serious salvation.

“It was completely barren,” he says. “There was plaster falling down from everywhere; the ceiling was falling down; there was tons of leftover ramshackle electrical work that needed to be cleaned up. The floors had an inch-and-a-half of grease and dirt on them.”

Morgan and Metcalf scraped, painted and polished the space into a gorgeous gallery-like environment with a sleek, industrial feel, featuring a beautiful stone floor, high ceilings and teal-colored columns.

Several of the artists, whose work completes the concept, were already part of Morgan’s creative circle. For instance, he was casually acquainted with jeweler Marlon Obando Solano. The two had chatted at many events.

“We talked all the time about wood and what we do and art, and then a year ago, he told me they were trying to make a store, and he wanted to sell my art,” Solano says. “I was pretty excited. I like the concept of community and sharing ideas, and I like to tell people where my materials come from.”

Solano treks to his native Nicaragua several times a year to scour its lush landscape for seeds, woods and other organic materials. Solano’s items for sale at Salvo include rings, earrings and necklaces made from natural ingredients like smooth black coyol seeds, which he collected on an island in Lake Nicaragua.

Jeweler Jamie McPherson, whose delicate feather and fringed pieces, accented with sterling silver and plated gold, had a business relationship with Morgan well before Salvo came to be.

“He had previously bought things from me for other girlfriends of his,” says McPherson, who added that she appreciates how Salvo looks at the rustic beauty of nature.

Savannah Barrett goes beyond Louisville’s creative class and explores Kentucky to discover amazing artists in more isolated areas. “My interest has always been in rural arts and art access,” Barrett says. “I love to focus on local artists working in a craft tradition but with a fine art aesthetic.”

Among the talents she’s found throughout the state are charcoal artist Kimberly Owsley and craftsman Mark Whitley. “We really pride ourselves on being a place centrally located that connects these fine craftsmen with another customer base.”

Salvo is located at 216 Shelby St. For more info, call 614-6381 or visit

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