Made in Iowa: Finding Synergy

Artist trades dough for metal

Cara Ullrich photos
Cara Ullrich photos

Cara Ullrich, 38, of Marion, always has worked with her hands. These days though, she’s traded her full-time job as a pastry chef for a somewhat less pliable medium — metal.

Ullrich learned to weld as a scenic carpenter at History Theatre in St. Paul, Minn.

“There I was surrounded by the most creative minds and biggest personalities in the Upper Midwest,” she says.

Ullrich scaled back to part-time pastry chef work and has launched Synergy Metalworks. She specializes in custom — and often commissioned — garden structures and home furnishings using reclaimed iron and granite.

Q: What three words best describe what you do?

A. Custom, innovative, kick-ass.

Q. What inspires you?

A. I like math, particularly the Golden Ratio. I like walking around the salvage yard — it reminds me of Tatooine. The boys at Marion Iron Co. are fantastic, and I always leave with interesting shapes. I love the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Art Nouveau, the Prairie School, Craftsmen, and Arts and Crafts are all design movements I love.

Q. What’s the best part about being a crafty/creative person?

A. I’m seldom bored.

Q. What do you enjoy most about the creative venture you have chosen?

A. What I love about doing ironwork is the same thing I love about being a chef — starting with raw materials and finessing them into something beautiful. While food is fleeting, ironwork stays around for a few hundred years.

Q. Do you remember your first craft project?

A. In sixth grade I saw windsurfing for the first time and decided I needed a sail for my skateboard. I built that sail out of wood molding and billboard paper I found in our garage. The sail didn’t work for my skateboard, but it worked on roller skates. I got one really fast and scary ride before it broke apart. It was totally worth it.

Q. When you become rich and famous for your work, what will you do?

A. First, travel. Then start a non-profit centered on arts outreach and nutrition education. Then build an adult-sized 1970s-era jungle gym.


Ogle it: Art Cellar, 1221 First Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids; Phelan’s, 728 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids; Brucemore Gift Shop, 2160 Linden Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids

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