Pennsylvania has an abundance of the materials necessary for forging iron, and many many blacksmiths. Ornamental and decorative ironwork is a craft you’ve probably seen everyday in swirling gates, fences and furniture. Samuel Yellin(1885-1940), apprenticed as a blacksmith in his native Poland and then moved to the US in his early 20’s. Eventually, he had 200 metalworkers in his shop, and crafted iron for an amazing array of buildings. In an article Yellin wrote for the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1925, he uses the wonderful image of “sketching in iron,” as quoted by Anna Fariello – © Metalsmith Magazine – Fall 2003:
[A] real study of details can only be accomplished on the until…. This actual study in the metal … can only come from a deep knowledge and love of the material. The making of beautiful ironwork cannot be fully described and illustrated on paper; it is often necessary for the craftsman to make sketches in iron.
Later, speaking to the Architectural Club of Chicago in 1926, Samuel Yellin asserted that:
There is only one way to make good decorative ironwork and that is with the hammer at the anvil, for in the heat of creation and under the spell of the hammer, the whole conception of a composition is often transformed.
The photo of Yellin in his studio, shows him at the anvil, in a long coat, hammering away. I am drawn to the detail of his work, the birds that evoke the Pennsylvania German Distlefink, the squirrels and bunches of grapes, the grace that can be drawn out of iron with heat. I was intrigued to discover on a recent trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum, a room of ornamental ironwork from Italy, which came from the Samuel Yellin’s own collection. His creative eye was at work when making his craft, but also in making a collection.
A Video Tour of Pittsburgh’s The Cathedral of Learning, which is full of Samuel Yellin ironwork.
For more metalwork photos, check out the HiP Passions Pinterest Board.
Margaret makes glass mosaics to catch the eye and delight the soul. She works from a one-bedroom-two-studio rowhouse in Lansdale, with her husband Wayne Stratz, and together they are Nutmeg Designs: Fine Glass Craft. Discover her blog, etsy shop and tweet @margaretalmon.