Meet the Makers

You think. You imagine. You use creativity, passion and knowledge to make something that didn’t exist before. You’re a maker.

These six alumni are master makers, devoting themselves to painting, cooking, furniture design and more.



This is a story about chemistry. It’s about lab work, but also the chemistry of the soil, air and water at the heart of a successful farm. And it’s about the chemistry between two Central College students who met, married and started a life that would be full of adventure.

Jocelyn McCracken ’00 met Tim Engman ’98 in class when both were students majoring in chemistry at Central (Jocelyn was also an English major). They graduated, married and moved to Chicago, where both worked as chemists. Everything seemed to fall into place.

The couple could have built a nice life in Chicago, earning substantial salaries. But they wanted something more. “We’re entrepreneurs at heart,” Jocelyn says. “We didn’t enjoy the 9-to-5 part of working as chemists, and we wanted to run our own business.”

Jocelyn grew up on a farm in southeast Iowa, and her family had 13 acres of organic land that was available. She and Tim decided to take the plunge and become organic farmers. In 2004 they moved back to Brighton, Iowa, and began growing herbs. “We started out as market gardeners,” Jocelyn says. They sold their produce at farmers’ markets around Iowa—herbs like basil, oregano, sage and rosemary. In 2006 they officially started Pickle Creek Herbs, making infused olive oils, and eventually expanding their line to include vinegars, soaps, lip balms and more.

Now Jocelyn focuses on running Pickle Creek’s kitchen, while Tim manages the farm. Her first creation was Greek basil and garlic olive oil, which is still the best seller. Jocelyn says her chemistry background is invaluable in producing her recipes. “I’ve developed a process to make sure what we do is safe. It’s also helpful on the bath and body products side, in learning what the herbs can do for the skin,” she says.

A few products available from Pickle Creek Herbs.

Today Pickle Creek Herbs products are available online and in about 30 retail stores, including the tasting room in Fairfield, Iowa. They also continue to sell at farmers’ markets. “The farm has got to be one of the hardest things,” Jocelyn says. “But when you grow up on the land, it’s your heritage. We only have a 100-acre farm, so we have to be creative. And we want it to be sustainable.”



Mary o’leary’s business name—Simply French—is also the handle of her Instagram, where she posts mouth-watering images of life in Paris and French cooking. Her travels take her around France, so you’ll find photos of the seaside, gardens, elegant bistros and more.

In her first career, Mary O’Leary ’86 was an environmental consultant in Honolulu working for private and government clients.

After marrying her French sweetheart and moving to Paris in 2009, O’Leary completed a second education—her culinary diploma from Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Now she is private chef to four U.S. Embassy Defense Attachés, as well as a private instructor in French cooking.

Mary O'Leary '86

O’Leary says French family cuisine is her new passion— especially cooking with her belle-mere or mother-in-law. She combines classic French techniques with her belle-mere’s wisdom to create her unique classes. And, of course, it’s a balance to catering formal VIP dinners and cocktail parties!

Mary O’Leary’s business name—Simply French—is also the handle of her Instagram, where she posts mouth-watering images of life in Paris and French cooking. Her travels take her around France, so you’ll find photos of the seaside, gardens, elegant bistros and more.



An example of work by Carl Vogelaar '48

“I’ve done woodworking all my life, but I haven’t had much time to do it,” says Carl Vogelaar ’48. Born in Pella and educated at Central and New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Vogelaar has pursued various careers during his life.

His father owned a hardware store across from the present Vermeer Windmill, and Vogelaar worked there during high school, college and afterward as the owner. In between high school and college, during WWII, Vogelaar trained to become a B-17 combat pilot. He was discharged when the war ended in 1945, just as his training finished, and headed to Central College.

Carl and Joan Vogelaar sold Carl’s crafts at many shows.

Carl and Joan Vogelaar sold
Carl’s crafts at many shows.

In 1960, at the age of 35, Vogelaar started a new path in answer to God’s call, attending seminary and becoming a pastor. He served in churches across the country and even on cruise ships after retirement, which included going around the world seven times. Throughout it all, woodworking was a passion.

Vogelaar first started making things from wood during a high school shop class. He crafted a solid walnut bedroom set that still graces his and wife Joan’s (Ver Meer Vogelaar ’48) bedroom. But his woodworking didn’t kick into high gear until Vogelaar retired from the ministry in 1988. “We were at a county fair and I saw a scroll saw being demonstrated,” he says. “I told my wife I saw my Christmas present.”

He bought the saw and started creating, focusing on intricate fretwork. He made thousands of objects over the years, selling many at craft boutiques and giving many away. Vogelaar estimates he has created about $27,000 worth of wood carvings.

When he and Joan moved into a retirement home in Santa Rosa, Calif., Vogelaar’s son-in-law moved his scroll saw and tools along with his shed full of wood, allowing him to continue his hobby in their garage until age 92, when he recently sold his saw. “The last things I made were 36 small praying-hand magnetic figures to give away,” he says. Vogelaar remains active in many ways. This fall he returned to the San Jose Reformed church he pastored—Church of the Chimes—to help celebrate its 60th anniversary.



Brian Franson creates a variety of useful designs at KEM Studio.

Brian Franson creates a variety of useful designs at KEM Studio.

Brian Franson ’07 doesn’t like to be bored. And there’s not much chance of that happening these days, as Franson is occupied with both his work as an industrial designer, as well as numerous creative side projects.

Even as a kid, Franson says he loved the visual arts. “In school, I always kept going back for more (art-related classes),” he says. “I love trying new mediums.” His dad was a carpenter, so Franson also gained experience making things with his hands out of wood. This 3D experience “helped me make the transition into sculpture and other three-dimensional art forms,” he says.

As an art major at Central, Franson knew he wanted to pursue art, but he wasn’t sure of the exact path. So he explored. “Central gave me a broad experience trying different avenues in the art world,” he says. “It was pivotal to me in finding out what I wanted to do.”

An example of work by Brian Franson '07After graduation, Franson worked in the glass studio at Wheaton Arts and Cultural Central in New Jersey, then as an artist assistant to a professional artist, Kiara Pelissier. “I was trying to find where I fit in professionally,” he says. “For me, every new craft is my favorite at that moment.” His work led him to an interest in industrial design, and he enrolled in a master’s program in industrial design at North Carolina State University.

Franson loves industrial design because of the many skills involved. Drawing, 3D modeling and prototyping all come into play. And he enjoys solving problems through his designs—creating things that help people in various ways. In his current job as an industrial designer for KEM Studio in Kansas City, Franson has created designs for everything from interior home spaces to a giant slide for a playground.

His side projects are equally impressive. Franson and a friend recently won a competition sponsored by Kansas City Power & Light to design a new façade and green space for an electrical substation. Their design is currently in production.

In the future, Franson isn’t sure what type of design he will focus on, but he’s ok with that. He’s not done exploring—and hopes he never will be. “I’m a pretty driven person,” he says. “I always want to evolve and get better.”



Emily Lupita designs in multiple mediumsEmily Lupita Plum-Güçlü ’00 grew up in a trifecta of cultures—combining Mexican and rural Iowan heritage—and cultivated her artistic style while traveling the world. Now she owns Emily Lupita Studio in Marietta, Ga., and Emily Lupita Studio Press, where she creates jewelry, paintings and illustrated books.

“I’ve always been an artist,” she says. “When I look back, I’m not sure how I managed to keep painting, but it’s something that I love, and I somehow found a way to keep doing it.”

Emily Lupita (the name she uses professionally) started her first watercolor journal as a child—a gift from her mother. While spending four of her Central College semesters abroad, she continued to constantly paint her way through Mexico, Spain and Wales. During the next 15 years, Emily Lupita added new techniques to her art journals while teaching English in Japan and leading study abroad programs in Mexico, Ecuador, Spain and Turkey.

Emily Lupita Plum-Güçlü ’00

Now she has a new dream. With two children’s books already printed, Emily Lupita has journals full of stories and sketches—plus a new skill set in publishing, sales and distribution.

“This is a new and different challenge,” she says. “I’ve participated in many art festivals and gallery shows over the years—those were amazing experiences that led me to this new creative dream of writing, illustrating and publishing my storybooks.” Emily Lupita decided it was time to slow her rigorous travel schedule when her son Charlie was born. “He has special needs, and I decided I would stay home full time and manage his professional care and therapies,” she says. “I just devote myself to Charlie and create my books and artwork in the morning before he wakes up.”

No matter the season, however, Emily Lupita says she is forever an artist.

“Everything I learned at Central and since helps me create an artful life,” she says. “Being a writer, an artist, a teacher, a traveler, a mother—all of those pursuits are art forms. It’s not always possible to sit and make art for hours at a time, so we have to sprinkle art and creativity wherever we can in our lives. Everything is part of the greater art—who we are.”

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