Book Reviews

Samuel Yellin Metalworker
Jack Andrews; 2000

SkipJack Press,
6 Laport Court,
Ocean Pines, MD 21811
116 plus 11 index pages; Paper Back
ISBN Number 1-879535-17-3.
$19.95 plus S&H.

Samuel Yellin Metalworker was originally published in hard cover and has been out of print. I am pleased to see it released again in soft cover and at a reasonable price. This book is sort of a history of the Samuel Yellin organization and a tribute to the man's genius at creating beautiful ironwork. I especially like the quotes on the back cover of the book: "The true craftsman should know every branch of his craft and a piece of work can only be either good or bad. If one small part of the grille is bad, the whole grille is bad. For a piece of craftsmanship to be good not the smallest part should receive adverse criticism. And even though twelve men work on one pair of gates, they must appear when completes as though they were made by one man." That is requiring pretty exacting work from all of his help in his shop and is no wonder that he achieved such great stature as an Art Metal Worker. With this sort of attitude about the work from his shop, it is no wonder that this man achieve so much stature in only 55 years on earth.

The beginning Chapter talks about Yellin's shop and business. The second chapter talks about and profusely illustrates the Yellin Wrought Iron. The next chapter presents Yellin's views on Craftsmanship being a reprint of a talk that he gave before the Architectural Club of Chicago on March 9, 1926. Interesting stuff. The next chapter is a group of Wrought Iron Selections that shows the great variety and wide range of the metal art that was created in the Yellin shop. This chapter alone is probably worth the price of the book because of its content of so many different types of objects. Through viewing such objects, one's mind becomes inspired and makes one able to do what Yellin says, "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." I would say that this transformation takes place because of images that the ironworker has seen in the past, which tend to influence the way in which he or she sees the current project. By viewing many fine works, your mind can take on an appreciation of such work and help you to also produce similar works. Yellin urges the ironworker to "look to the past at fine works, but not to copy them."

The final chapter talks about the Yellin Job Cards and shows a graph of jobs, job cards, and number of employees. It appears that Yellin's number of jobs peaked in 1923 and his number of employees peaked just before the stock market crashed about 1928. Everything sort of went down hill from there probably because of the great depression of the 1930s. Yellin died in 1940. An excellent book that every blacksmith and decorative metal worker should have in their library.

Reviewed by: Fred Holder, Editor

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