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Family business forged by fire

Two generations work the steel in Watkins for Parker shop


In 2008, when Chris Franklin told his wife, Vivian, he wanted to buy a plasma steel cutter and go into business making custom metal artwork, she didn't approve.

He bought the enormous, costly device anyway, and showed her his work.

“He had cut a circle, a square and a line,” she says with a smirk. “So I learned how to use it, and it actually was a lot of fun.”

One sleepless night she decided to tinker with the device and cut a clock face with a flatbed engine design, and she was hooked.

“I'm crafty, I like crocheting and doing other crafts and playing piano. I didn't think I'd like working with metal,” Vivian says. But “I get to be creative and it's exciting to see the finished product.”

The Franklins, their daughter Cassie, and Cassie's boyfriend, Doug Hancock, all live and work together at their home and metal shop in Watkins, just south of Denver International Airport, making custom pieces of steel art to sell at their store, Cassteen Ironworks, at 10941 S. Parker Road.

Chris spends this Sunday making deliveries while Vivian cuts outlines of elk, birds and trees into a six-by-four-foot sheet of metal, and Hancock grinds, torches and polishes the pieces she's prepared for him. Cassie goes between the two to make sure everyone's on the same page, while her sons, Luke, 10 and Giovanni, 7, play outside.

Finding time to design and finish orders is a challenge. Vivian and Hancock both work other jobs full time during the week while Cassie and Chris man the store Monday through Saturday.

But they love what they do, even if it took some convincing to get Vivian on board at first.

“She didn't want to do it, but she did it anyway because she loves me,” Chris says. “Now she does it because she loves it.”

For more information on Cassteen Ironworks, visit their webpage at metalartcolorado.com.


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