Writer / Austin Benjamin
Potter began drawing at a young age, mostly race cars because his family has been in racing for generations under the team name Potter V6. The Potter V6 team mainly raced sprint and quarter midget cars, which were popular in the 1990s and once included retired NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. These were the same cars Cole took up drawing at a young age.
When he was 13 years old, he began welding and learning how to make small items used for decoration. As he grew, so did his passion for art, and it started to mesh with what he wanted to do for a career. Cole is the grandson of the founder of Ralph’s Muffler & Brake Service. Growing up, Cole knew he wanted to work in the family business and took his knowledge of welding to do so. As he got older, he continued to work with more car parts and old metal items, figuring out how he could create each piece with only a simple list of tools including a welder, hammer, cutters and vice grips.
“I started out doing small things like scale replicas of cars,” Potter says. “I wanted to continue to make cool stuff. So once I started seeing other people make things, I thought to myself, ‘I could definitely do that.’ As I got older, things started to be more detailed and a lot of what I was doing was being created on a larger scale.”
As this hobby continued to grow, Cole decided to turn it into a business opportunity. He made items for friends and had them spread the word that he would be willing to do small things like lawn decorations of animals and cars. Even his very first creation, which he calls Tiki Guys, has been purchased from time to time.
Potter takes pride in the fact that he is up to any task. As his hobby began to gain popularity, his wife created him an Instagram account to not only help spread the word but gain the trust of customers by giving them visual examples of his talent.
“Most of the stuff I use other people find to be junk, so when I hear about it I tell them to bring it to me and I’ll put it to good use,” Cole says. “A lot of friends have helped me get things like giant chains and other items. I see so much junk come off these cars every day at work, and the owners have no use for it, so I make art with them.”
Recently, Potter’s talent was put to the test. He entered the Indy Furniture Challenge — a contest amongst 15 different artists who create furniture. Even though he didn’t win, Potter placed fourth — a tall task to accomplish considering he was one of two guys in the contest who created his furniture entirely out of metal. Soon after, he was contacted by Avon High School to help make pieces for the band in their competitions. It’s a task Potter considers to be his hardest ever.
“A girl who actually plays the cymbals for the band contacted me,” Potter says. “She’s the one who put in the word for me, and that’s really how I got the gig. It was a tough one. They only gave me about a month to create the props and every one of them are 12 feet tall.”
The high school’s band still uses those props today. They’ve also been used in several shows, including one at Lucas Oil Stadium, putting Potter Metal Arts on a big stage and proving that one man’s junk can truly be another’s treasure.