For the past 25 years, Darrell Poteat has worked at Piedmont Sheet Metal in Winston-Salem, NC, making custom ductwork for customers. In this day and time it’s hard to find people who enjoy what they do and love those they work for, but Darrell does both. “I’ve been here for a long time, and I have always felt like a part of the Cook family, the owners of Piedmont Sheet Metal. They are good people who care about their employees, and I like what I do. We build custom duct work for each job, which makes a difference in the efficiency of the systems we install. I also work with other metals, especially copper, to make custom chimney caps, as well as a few other things,” said Darrell.
For those who are unfamiliar with sheet metal products, a chimney cap is a covering for the top of a chimney, and it usually includes wire mesh, preventing animals from entering your home, keeping moisture out and protecting the roof from burning embers, which could start a house fire. Sometimes they need to be functional, and others may just be an added decoration to finish off a chimney. The ones that Darrell Poteat builds aren’t just functional, but architecturally pleasing to the eye. “Builders and homeowners come in with the dimensions, and we work together, so I get a feel of what they have in mind, then the magic begins! I come up with the design and which metal product is best and create yet another ‘masterpiece.’ Sometimes I use copper, but we have other options, too, that can work. It just depends on the job,” Darrell commented. Darrell also uses copper to make lanterns and bird feeders. If it can be designed and made from metal, Darrell can do it. The sheet metal shop at Piedmont Sheet Metal is a busy place, making duct work for customers and a enjoying a steady business in chimney caps, but Darrell also gets to be a copper artisan on occasion, especially around the holidays.
“Sometimes the ladies in the office have an idea of something they’d like me to make, so I get some copper or brass, usually, and see what I can come up with. I design bracelets made of hammered brass that look like a leaf, flowers that look like roses, tulips, and sunflowers, but by far the Christmas ornaments I make are the most popular. We sell them in the office to customers. I am experimenting this year with some new designs, but in the years past, I have made snowmen, gingerbread men and women, as well as candy canes and angels,” stated Darrell. Connie Miller, Corporate Officer and General Manager at Piedmont Sheet Metal visited the sheet metal shop to make a special request. “Connie asked me to make an angel tree topper, similar to one she’d seen before, so I drew a pattern and made it. They’ve been very popular,” Darrell noted. The copper ornaments and angel tree toppers give a tree the feeling of yesteryear, a holiday warmth of knowing that someone put time and love into making your tree look special for the holidays. Darrell has become quite the tool designer, too, because he can’t always find the exact tool, so he has to make the tool before he can make his creation.
“You just don’t always have what you need lying around when you are making a rose from copper or a tulip. The petals need to have a certain way they fan out and attach, so I had to design a way to make them look as natural as possible. A couple getting married outside used the metal tulips to line the aisle and placed a tea light candle in the middle of it. Then gave the tulips as gifts to the wedding party. I liked that idea,” commented Darrell.
If you are looking for a little something different this year to place on your tree or to give to a friend, drop by Piedmont Sheet Metal and check out Darrell’s ornament creations. There’s something about looking at an ornament and knowing the story behind it. Handmade items are so rare, as are the feelings that come when we own them.
Piedmont Sheet Metal is located at 801 N. Broad Street, Winston-Salem, NC. Hours of operation: Monday-Friday, 8 am-4: 30 pm. For more information call 336-724-7439.