Monday, April 10, 2017

Meet the Maker: Tad Pierson

Published in the Spring 2017 issue of Edible Memphis

Tad Pierson’s imagination has always been inspired by the Highway. From early road trips with his grandfather in a 1950 Buick Roadmaster, to countless desert expeditions in pickup trucks, all the way through to his current occupation as a tour guide driving a 1955 Cadillac around Memphis and Mississippi, Tad appreciates the curve and the chrome of vintage Americana. The Road and all the objects strewn along its path are his source of inspiration. It was no great leap to move artistically into the realm of tire painting.

What inspires your work?

I’ve always appreciated the work of Howard Finster in Georgia, Simon Rodia and his Watts Towers, Dr. Bob in New Orleans, Jimmy Descant and his rocket ships — people who take the detritus and casual remains of our existence and turn them into beauty. The raw material for an artist to work with in the 21st century is the material that is most abundant — the discarded and the abandoned. I suppose some of it started with Red Grooms, Jaspar Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg. Warhol had a lot to do with it. But also the unnamed rural artist selling homemade weather vanes at the county fair has left a fingerprint on my psyche. I’ve been inspired by all of that.

Favorite thing about being a maker?

To be surprised by my own creations. It’s often the case I will begin a piece with a solid image in mind of what I want the outcome to be. In some ways I feel I have very little control over the final look of the tire. Once the paint starts to go on and the tread formation and distressed nature of the tire emerges, then the piece takes on a life of its own. Whatever theme might develop is often inspired by the work itself. That’s my chance to encounter the mysterious as I move along my path.

How does being a maker help you look at other artisan products?

I consider myself first and foremost a craftsman, a blue collar artist with a work ethic. I like to work with my hands. I believe any artist at the base of their work has to be good with their chosen tools. When I observe other artists’ work, I look at the skill that went into the construction of the piece. I might like the statement the piece may make, but for me, the quality of the craft is important. I know there are long hours of solitary work and concentration in an under-heated studio where hope is often at a minimum. If executed well, that struggle and overcoming and accomplishment will become a part of the piece. And it will show.

Outside of your work, do you “make” anything else?

I’m an entrepreneur. I’m an inspired inventor. I don’t have a normal “home” life. I live in a large warehouse of a building that is my studio, my indoor trailer park where I sleep, and my garage for my tour vehicles. So there really isn’t a life “outside of my work.” When I hit the floor in the morning with a cup of coffee, I’m in my space — an architect of one’s own life. There’s plenty of room for my imagination to move around. I have ideas, I experiment, and I follow through. I’ve created and marketed a bloody mary mix called Memphis Mary. I’ve created souvenir ideas such as the King’s Collar — a paper replica of Elvis’s 70s collars. You could say I’m always on the make.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Stay true to your Muse.

What was the first thing you made?

In regards to my efforts in tire painting, my first piece was a simple white lettering of misspellings that created a pun — “NO FISHING ALOUD” — a bit of rural humor if you will. After that I immersed myself quickly and fanatically in the construction of fairly large scale assemblages of shredded tires and tire shards that I would find along highways while out “tire hunting.” In keeping with my appreciation for craft and skill I began to design and create more usable and practical pieces that were functional yet artistic — tire chairs, tire trash cans, large lobby settees, and garden planters. I do graffiti tires with slogans that hang from chain link fences. I have a new line of tire ties and fashion (trashion) accessories. And of course each holiday season lends itself to the decorative arts: Christmas wreaths and trees, Fall cornucopia displays, St. Valentine Tires of Love, anywhere a splash of contradictory color can add to the scene.

What are you regularly making?

I take orders. I like commissions. But on a regular basis I am in my studio thinking of and working on prototypes.

Top sellers?

My two top selling items are my Tire Chairs, of which I have several designs. And my Tossit Tire Trash Cans.

New products?

In addition to my standard line of orders and commissions, I am constantly imagining and making prototypes that often emerge as great hits. A recent example is the Tire Tie. Made from bicycle tires, it is fast becoming a local fashion craze.

Where can we see your work around town?

My designs are currently sold exclusively through my own studio and gallery, Tire Art Design. Many of my Tire Chair designs can be seen in private homes and personal collections. The ubiquitous Tossit Trash Can can be seen in places of business in the Edge District, bars such as the Dirty Crow, and on display at numerous BBQ events around town.

Tire Art Design


Art is available for sale through the artist’s studio.

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