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Margie Iraci is shown with her art work. Submitted Photo

Bemidji artist completes project

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Usually people don't associate welding with art.

Margie Iraci fuses these trades through her welding art, an eclectic assortment of pieces ranging from garden art to custom-made requests.

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Iraci is a Bemidji artist who has been making and selling her art for 15 years. After having gone to college to become a teacher, Iraci began welding as a side job. What started as a way to make some extra money eventually became her vocation.

"I loved welding so much," Iraci said.

She graduated third in her class from Dunwoody Technical Institute with a degree in welding. Iraci went on to work as a high-pressure steamfitter and certified welder in the pipe trades in Minneapolis.

After 10 years as a steamfitter and 10 more years as a parts manager at Toyota, Iraci felt drawn to art and design, and made it her main profession.

Now an accomplished artist, Iraci recently has been commissioned by Babbitt Library in northeastern Minnesota's Iron Range.

The artwork comes in three pieces. A granite b ench will be set in an area designated for reading, while two complementary pieces will be hung on the building. A lake scene adorned with a large moon will stretch almost 6 feet tall and nearly 10 feet wide.

"This is the largest commission I have received," she said.

The materials Iraci used in the art vary: aluminum, heat-treated stainless steel, and chemically treated copper.

Iraci also utilized resources that were specific to the Iron Range. Using recycled metal from the mining community, including taconite pellets from the range and three rocks from area lakes, Iraci created a historical salvage for Babbitt.

"They wanted to incorporate things from their community," she said. "They are thrilled to have a piece of art that is representative of what people like - the outdoors."

Funding for the Babbitt Library artwork comes from the Minnesota Legacy amendment, from which libraries have benefitted.

"This fund is very important," Iraci said.

The Babbitt project has opened more possibilities for Iraci. The library staff in Virginia, Minn., has since contacted Iraci to create a similar wall piece to the lake scene for their building. The artwork will be installed during the town's annual Land of the Loon Festival.

"I am very happy with this," she said. "I feel fortunate."

Along with working at Kelsey's Jewelry, Iraci sells her art at KD Floral in Bemidji and Something Original, a shop in Grand Rapids, Minn., that sells artwork from Minnesota artists.

Although she is still producing garden art, Iraci wants to focus on larger pieces.

She plans to get involved in a local art tour in the future and sees opportunities for local artists to succeed.

"There are so many locally talented people here," she said.

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