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Fortunate to have art beauty from Synergy Metalworks
by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · May 18th, 2017

One of the very talented artists who has contributed to Marion's Uptown Artway and other wonderful creative endeavors in the area is Cara Briggs Farmer of Synergy Metalworks.

We talked last week with Cara at her new shop, located at 731 9th Street. She showed us some of her most recent pieces as well as some of the methods and raw materials that go into her creations.

Originally from Clinton, Cara has lived in Marion full-time for the last three-and-a-half years. She has been welding for 17 years and actually started building things even earlier when she played with her grandfather's tools as a child.

Not only did her grandfather encourage her to find out how things went together, but an uncle designed highway billboards for a living. Various family members back through the generations had artistic natures, and she mentioned in particular an aunt who made pottery.

Cara has a great sense of humor, which was apparent when she told us about the first time she saw windsurfing for the first time ever. It was on TV, she was in 6th grade, and she had to try it. So she nailed a bunch of boards together, and her uncle gave her some of his heavy-duty billboard paper for the sail. She took off on her roller skates with her handmade version - and then about killed herself, she chuckled.

Cara was in theater groups throughout high school. She majored in theater at UNI, primarily in the building, designing and engineering of stage scenery. She spent eight years doing that kind of work in the Twin Cities and then decided to create art "on my own terms."

When asked where she looks for inspiration, Cara responded, "Nature." She loves the bright colors of this time of year, and her work reflects the energy, colors and shapes she sees around her.

Why did she ever take up welding, we asked? In addition to being sturdier than wood construction, metal is faster and easier to work with.

Cara was one of many artists from across the country who submitted design proposals for Marion's Art in the Alley projects. Her submission was accepted and is now one of the first pieces a visitor sees at the entrance - a large archway and nearby planters, screens, lighting and benches.

Cara said it was quite an involved process. First she envisioned her initial concepts and provided sketches and descriptions to the selection panel. Its members responded with feedback and she revised her ideas. She said she and the panel talked back and forth a number of times until everyone was

satisfied. Although she spent many hours, Cara is pleased with the result.

The archway was installed last November, with help from friends who wheeled it face-down to the opening where it would become a permanent fixture. Her bold colors, shapes and materials are perfect for the entrance to the artway. (We aren't sure the members of the panel had expected her "monkey business" on the gateway the day it was set into place. See picture.)

Once the archway was completed, Cara turned her focus toward fixing up her new location at 731 9th Street. It needed lots of fixing, including a new roof, but now it is tidy and well lighted. The space is the size of a large garage, with a curtain between her workroom and her display/office areas.

One of her favorite sources for materials is Marion Ironworks, where she gets a lot of scrap materials which she bends and/or cuts. She showed us shelves of metal rods and flat pieces and demonstrated how she uses a machine to curve their lengths into circles and twists. Near her work bench stood a beautiful piece of stainless steel pipe, probably 10 feet long and six inches in diameter, from which she has already cut a number of slices.

In one corner sat a dark brown set of shaped rods jutting up from a base and curving gracefully.

The studio holds more artwork, most ready for sale. There is a huge wall-sized screen dividing the completed works from Cara's office, which consists of a roll-top desk, drawing board for geometric designing (CAD drafting), and a conversation area for talking with friends and prospective customers.

The free-standing screens in her studio can be used inside or outside, such as on a patio for privacy or just to make splashes of pleasing color to emphasize an area. It is particularly nice that many of the specially painted panels she uses are made of polycarbonate so they won't be damaged by hailstones if the weather should turn bad.

Cara has a good variety of pieces, some to fill wall-sized spaces and some as small as a graceful shoulder-height tiki torch from a wine bottle. Some of her pieces incorporate big rocks wrapped in metal frameworks. If you don't see it there, she can create it for you.

One of the items we REALLY want is the side table made from pieces of a radiator welded together with a glass top for the surface. The accompanying bench is also made from a radiator and has a comfortable upholstered seat. This is but one sample of Cara's skill and whimsy as she creates unusual and exciting items.

Guests are welcome to visit with Cara any time she is open. Just drop by at 731 9th Street or give her a call to see if she is in. You can look at her website (SynergyMetal), contact her at or call her at 319-775-7013.

Cara is going to be open part of the day during this coming Saturday's Arts Festival, so feel free to visit her. She also will be at Uptown Artway for its formal ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday at 9 a.m.

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