Yankin creates metal masterpieces
Watching Allen Yankin, 10, shape a piece of steel with a mallet is like looking over the shoulder of an experienced painter. He moves swiftly and efficiently around the rusted steel, held by a vise, hammering out a form only he can see in his mind, until his product is complete: the leaf of a 7-foot-tall steel flower.
Outside of his family’s barn, four of the giant metal blooms – each with its own unique form – stand firmly on the ground. Every one, even the flower Yankin works on, is spoken for by neighbors and friends, at roughly $150 a pop.
“Me and my husband are going to retire and have him support us with this,” joked Yankin’s mother, Susan.
Unfortunately for future customers, Yankin is no longer fabricating flowers for sale; He needs to focus on school.
In a little more than one month over the summer, Yankin sold several of his metal flowers, made of reclaimed materials: corrugated roofing steel scraps, old rusted poles from a wrecking yard, rusted flat steel and “stuff that’s laying around,” Yankin said.
David Woodhead, who lives next door to the Yankins, said he bought 10 of the flowers for his yard.
“You see the work and you immediately think it was Mom or Dad, and the child just did a spot weld or something,” Woodhead said. “We bought smaller flowers like these in Healdsburg and Napa before. I just though his (Yankin’s) work is so superior.”
Yankin’s creations are much like those seen in highway-side gift shops, but the metal isn’t machined, so the jagged edges created by the plasma cutter give the flowers a more life-like quality.
Since he was about 6 years old, Yankin has been pulling steel from the Yankin-family forge and welding. He’s made cabinet handles and candleholders for his teachers.
One day, his father was working on a flower in the shop, and Yankin walked in to lend a hand. By the time the project was complete, Yankin had taken over. He made the subsequent flowers completely on his own.
Now Yankin can crank out a flower in a half-day.
“My mom and my dad do it,” he said. “It just runs in the family, I guess.”
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