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Artisan: Genuine Article

A metalworker refines his craft with innovation and design artistry.

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Permanence is innate in Yeager’s work. His arching steel staircases, solid metal doors, bronze sculptures and custom furnishings take on a timeless but modern edge that withstands the strongest scrutiny. His work wins praise from purists. Architect Chris Foltz, who designed the mausoleum project and several structures involving Yeager’s work, describes the gentle artisan as a kindred spirit: “He’s not only the most talented craftsman I’ve met in this city, he’s hands down the most humble, genuine person. He has an incredible eye for detail, he thinks like an architect, and he is a perfectionist. The way he approaches each project — he pushes himself to explore new materials and new ideas and to do things he never thought possible.”

Yeager, pulling off a face mask after finishing the weld in his studio, says simply, “I enjoy being involved in the process from start to finish, to focus on doing top-quality design and fabrication.”

That could be drawing a glass-and-steel floating stair for an Irvington residence, or brackets to hold a concrete countertop, or a sculpture to memorialize sacrifice. For the UNOS headquarters in Richmond, he’s at work on a copper fountain and a bronze pair of hands that will hold water. Again, the spiritual quality of the work and its importance to memory is a factor that intrigues him. Each opportunity to create, to solve a problem or construct a new idea, is a challenge that satisfies the artist.

Yeager holds degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and the Rhode Island School of Design. He taught in VCU’s furniture design department for 10 years. He worked in wood until metal captured his attention. Now he works with concrete artisan Chris McBrayer in a firm called Five Point to create residential and commercial projects with unusual dimension and singular vision. The two are involved in house renovations, new construction and a number of custom creations for clients.

“Beyond the work as a complete object,” observes architect Randall Kipp about Yeager’s constructions, “are the connections, how things go together. These are as much a celebration as the work itself. That’s where he’s particularly successful. He has a meticulous eye, a meticulous brain and meticulous hands that bring things together.” This, in Kipp’s view, involves the creation of artistic tension and negative space, qualities that aren’t always harmonious but that cause people to think about what they’re seeing. These are unconventional pieces, individually designed and crafted of enduring materials. Kipp calls them lyrical in their rugged beauty.

Word of mouth brings Yeager his business, and clients tend to return once they’ve examined the painstaking process with which he attacks the work. Photographer Lee Brauer commissioned a metal table and banquette for a multifunctional space; Andy Thornton required stainless steel railings that would complement his La Difference sensibilities.

“I find what the client is looking for,” Yeager says of the design process, “and try to come up with three or four variations and get their response. The more I do, the more people trust me. I try to be innovative. It’s a little bit of a push-pull when you’re dealing with clients, but I’ve been lucky to work with people who think the way I do. Richmond is a good town for talented people to work together.” HS

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