From Trash to Treasure

DESOTO, TX — A famous artist was once asked how he created a famous work. His response was quite simple. He noted that all was well when he had a brush or chisel in his hand. He wasn’t happy unless he was working on a piece of art. His joy came from creating.

113sw2The same can definitely be said of local artist George Cole. He has found truth in the phrase about creating. When he looks at what someone else might consider to be discarded metal or rubbish, he sees a work of art or what might become of a lump of clay as it is turned on a potter’s wheel. Then he sets out to do his magic for the rest of the world to behold. Just like the famous artist, he is happiest when he’s working on such projects.

George has been an architect for his entire adult life, working in the Dallas area and throughout the state, as well as other parts of the country. He has lived in the DeSoto area for the majority of this time, but his career also allowed him and his wife, Donna, to live in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. George has also had the opportunity to do some design work in London. Like most people in the profession of architecture, his mind is always working and his hands are always moving.

For George, it all began when his father came home from World War II with some magazines featuring house plans. From that point on, George was hooked, and there was no turning back. He had found his calling. “I just kept looking at those magazines,” George said. “For me, that was it. I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”

After earning his degree in architecture from Oklahoma A &M (now Oklahoma State University) in 1955, George worked in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for five years before he and Donna moved to Dallas in 1962, and then to DeSoto in 1971. They later enjoyed a four-year stint in Philadelphia and three years in Houston before George retired, but maintained their DeSoto house.

George is a man who enjoys making the most out of each waking moment. He does not like to have idle time. In trying to keep himself busy, he first began taking continuing education courses in Philadelphia where he was introduced to fire modeling clay as an art material. This sparked an interest that he still carries with him. And whenever he gets a chance, he pursues it with his whole heart. Upon retiring in 1997, George began working with the Texas Baptist Men. “I got to actually help build, not just design, 11 or 12 churches,” said George, an active participant in Hampton Road Baptist Church. “It was very rewarding work.” After that, George headed to Cedar Valley Community College and began taking art classes again. At first, he was particularly looking for watercolor classes but he soon found himself taking pottery classes. Since they offer six hours of free tuition for senior citizens, he has become a mainstay in the art department on campus.

The Cole property is full of George’s artwork — from pottery bowls to larger metal sculpture and bird feeders. George uses Donna as his litmus test for most of his work. “I’ll bring a piece home and set it in the kitchen,” he explained. “If she likes it, it stays in the house. Otherwise, it goes to the garage.”

When George and Donna are traveling, he will often see other pieces of artwork and think to himself, I can do that! As soon as he gets home, he attempts to recreate what he saw. Other sources of inspiration George uses for his creations include pottery magazines, books and art exhibitions. He finds various ideas for future projects as he turns the pages. “I like to pick up scrap metal or railroad spikes. I will find old lamps or wall tiles,” George said. “I can always find things others have discarded and use them for my artwork.”

Some of George’s work is sold at local craft shows, some is given away and other pieces are simply discarded. I don’t make a lot of money from sales, but enough to buy more clay and materials. He has also entered works in competitive shows and exhibits, with over 75 awards earned over the years from the State Fair of Texas, DeSoto Art League and other local and regional competitions.

113swGeorge, however, looks at his physical condition in a different light. “Everything changes when you turn 80,” he confessed.

He finds various ideas for future projects as he turns the pages. “I like to pick up scrap metal or railroad spikes. I will find old lamps or wall tiles,” George said. “I can always find things others have discarded and use them for my artwork.”

Some of George’s work is sold at local craft shows, some is given away and other pieces are simply discarded. I don’t make a lot of money from sales, but enough to buy more clay and materials. He has also entered works in competitive shows and exhibits, with over 75 awards earned over the years from the State Fair of Texas, DeSoto Art League and other local and regional competitions.

If George’s artwork wasn’t enough
to keep him busy, he also works with Donna in the bereavement ministry at their church. “We cook and serve all
the bereavement dinners,” Donna said. George also sometimes accompanies her when she goes to the nursing home to sing or run errands with Meals on Wheels. She even lets him help with the yard work.

For the most part, George thinks anyone can learn to do the same type of artwork he works at on a regular basis. However, he believes his is mostly natural ability. “But it can be learned,” he said.

George’s early fascination with learning how things were made continues, and more than likely, it’s not going to go away anytime soon. Most people may walk on the side of the road and see an old railroad tie or a bent piece of discarded metal. But, George isn’t most people. Like Michelangelo, all George sees is a masterpiece in the making. He takes someone’s trash and turns it into a treasure.

Written by Rick Hope.