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Racecar builder makes a transition to fine arts sculptor

“I didn’t just want to weld on a piece of metal,” Thomas Patsis says as he defines an imaginary piece of steel with his hands. “I wanted to weld on something that maybe I would keep.”

Patsis is seated at his workbench in his Brownsburg studio describing how he learned to weld while working on racecars for Don Schumacher Racing. The mere practice of welding together the fuselages of funny cars and motorcycles transformed the metal fabricator into a standout artist.

“I started dabbling in metal art,” he said with the reflective smile of a man realizing his dreams. “I did build something and posted it online and then it just kinda snowballed from there.”

“Snowballed” may be an understatement. Patsis and his wife, Amanda, are now at the helm of the hugely successful Brownsburg-based Cold Hard Art. They make uniquely solid racing trophies coveted by racecar drivers and motorcycle competitors nationwide. This gearhead sculptor also does individual sculptures on a commission basis. When injured NFL quarterback Alex Smith’s wife requested that Patsis make a creation from her husband’s infamous leg brace, Patsis created a mock Lombardi Trophy from parts of the brace. No money changed hands over that creation. Smith’s wife had Alex sign a Washington jersey for Tom’s wife, Amanda, who is a huge sports fan.

Patsis is a visionary artist, but he’s particularly proud of the heavily constructed, steel trophies he makes for motorsports events. To pick one of the trophies up is to lift an anvil from the floor. The trophies are solid and heavy.

“I think the idea of something heavy and tangible when you spend this much time in a year and money to win races and someone gives you like a lightweight plastic trophy, there’s just something lacking there,” Patsis muses thoughtfully.

Patsis is a fine artist defined by a workman’s sensibility. He creates tirelessly, sometimes staying in his Brownsburg workshop until two or three in the morning to perfect a piece.

“I really like accomplishing goals.” For Patsis art is channeled through a process of hard work and imagination that is child-like in its unfailing joy.