Metal endures. It can be hammered or melted but it is resilient. Such qualities also help form the character of the people who work with it; men such as third-generation metalworker Marcelo Galvan.
Galvan immigrated to the United States from Argentina as a young man and built up a successful business creating ornamental ironwork, only to see it crumble in the 2008 recession. But he has restored the business and it’s doing better than ever.
Galvan learned his trade from his father in Buenos Aires. “I’ve been doing this since I was 12-years-old,” he says. “I had to learn — it’s not like I have a choice to do whatever I want. The business of the family was metal,” he remembers.
In his hometown, he met missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and was inspired by their descriptions and stories of Salt Lake City.
“I admire how the Mormon people started in a state where it seems impossible to live. It motivated me to see how they can create this beautiful state — I admire the sacrifice they made. And look how it is now in Utah: a beautiful state and good people.”
Galvan came to Utah in 1994, alone and with nothing but a small backpack of personal belongings and a few dollars in his pocket. During an overnight layover in the Denver airport, he saw snow for the first time in his life.
The first few years in Utah were tough, he says. He slept under a bridge for a few weeks and struggled to communicate with very limited English. A new friend helped him find a job as a dishwasher at a Chuck-A-Rama restaurant. He later worked cleaning windows for a construction company and eventually saved enough money to bring his father to the US. They kept working and later bought a house with a small garage, which Galvan declared would be his metal workshop. He scoured pawn shops for inexpensive metalworking tools.
Once he had the means, Galvan and his father went back to what they knew: working with metal. They made decorative candle stands and centerpieces that sold well around the holidays.
In 2000, they started a company called Artistic Ornamental Iron and over the next few years expanded to three shops that employed 14 people. The 2008 recession forced Galvan to close two of the shops and let go almost all of his employees, except for Paul Mork, a close friend whom he says is more like a brother. The business was also renamed as Studio Artistic.
Through hard work, Galvan was able to also bring his mother, his three sisters and his nephews to the United States. While building his business, he also had a son, Junior, who he raised as a single parent. Galvan took Junior everywhere. He remembers the baby sleeping in a nest of blankets under his desk while he worked into the early hours of the morning.
After the struggle of the recession, Studio Artistic is thriving, since his team has built up a reputation for quality work.
“In the last five years we’ve been swamped. I think it’s because we’ve been doing this for so many years. We care about the quality and we think about the customer. Everything is created and designed by me and my team.”
Clients can visit the shop with sketches or photographs illustrating what they want, and Studio Artistic can create the design. They make a variety of items from railings to furniture, sculptures and vehicle roof racks. Galvan says lately they’re getting more high-end clients: basketball players, movie stars and large hotels. Galvan adds that the family will always be thankful to the local clients who gave them their start, and they’ll always work with those customers.
Galvan plans to retire soon to a ranch he owns and shift to doing the kind of work he likes best: artistic sculptural work with a western theme.
Junior is now the manager of the shop and a fourth-generation metal worker. Both father and son are very proud of how far the business has come.
“As an immigrant, I really love this country,” Galvan says. He became a citizen in 2012. “I was so happy and so grateful. I live in the land of making my dream … I hope I inspire other people. Everything is possible with hard work.”
Learn more about Studio Artistic and see photos of their work online.
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