For Beth Melfi and Kathy McGovern, the sister/owner team at Silver Hippopotamus Gallery in Swansea, hunting for unique artifacts is just as exciting as uncovering their history. At the gallery, the sisters combine their passion for industrial relics with their background in fine arts and marketing to redesign their finds into contemporary furniture, art, and home decor. They’ll also add modern and vintage accessories to their pieces, “which makes for a great juxtaposition against the industrial artifact.” One of their favorite finds, for example, is a hand-painted Chevrolet sign from 1950s Wakefield “with a beautiful patina of yellow, red, and black chipped paint, with rusted metal accents.” The sisters added a two-part resin to lock in the color with a modern twist.
The gallery name came from a dream: Beth dreamt that she and Kathy owned a store but couldn’t see what they were selling except for “a life-sized silver hippopotamus in the middle of the space.” The hippopotamus is regarded as the “keeper of the river, with great power hiding just beneath the surface,” Beth explains. Similarly, the sisters feel that “their pieces have great strength, are keepers of the past, and have become as unique as… a Silver Hippopotamus.”