MICHEAL ASHFORD, BETTER KNOW AT TATER, OR MR. TOT, IS A LONG TIME RESIDENT AND ARTIST OF NEW ORLEANS WHO SPENDS HIS DAYS AND NIGHTS MAKING ART INHABITANTS FOR PEOPLE'S HOMES. MICHEAL'S DEDICATION TO TO DETAIL CAN EASILY BE SEEN IN THE COLORFUL WORKS HE PRODUCES FOR ART FAIRS AND SMALL BUSINESSES IN NEW ORLEANS AND THE COLORING BOOKS HE'S CREATED FOR ALL AGES.
What's your name?
Micheal "Tater Tot/ Mr. Tot" Ashford.
How did you get the name Tater, Mr. Tot?
The legend is pretty uninteresting. I had been on a hiatus from the skate scene and I was coming back to a new shop opening up. Earlier in the day my friend Ben just looked at me and said "you look like a Tater Tot." I didn't think anything of it but when we meet the new shop owners before I had a chance he said "This is Tater Tot" and so the saga begins.
Where do you live?
NOLA! New Orleans, LA
How long have you lived there?
8yrs or so.
What got you interested in making art?
It's always been apart of my life. From drawing, coloring, or building things. Even in regular schoolwork I would draw elaborate diagrams or pictures from the book to study.
Do you think drawing a visual helps you gain a better understanding of things?
It's a therapy for me. My mind is constant whirlwind of noise and pictures. It all slows down just a bit when I'm working.
Have you seen any differences in the way you make, or promote images you've made for yourself and for others, like Sever Provisions, or the Slapstik deck you designed?
There's a definite difference. You have a outside influence that you're trying to cater to and a lot of time you have to water down your work. It's a practice in telepathy or mind melding in a way. As far as promotion goes when it's in collaboration with a company I try to promote myself more because it's not just for me. You have to help the company too who is kind enough to invite you in on a project. I'm pretty lax in self promotion. I just get stuck in the work.
How do you define art?
I think anyone can be an artist because I feel like if you put your all into something and people recognize that and appreciate it then you're an artist in your field, in your art. I guess I define art as a need, want, passion, etc.
How do you participate int the arts community where you live?
I participate in the Magazine Street Art Market and pop-up shows. I'm an artist for a local outdoor life company called "Sever Provisions". Really anytime I have a chance to help or promote art I'm ready.
How do you define success in art?
It's not so much a monetary thing. A little helps just for more supplies but like I was saying earlier to see someone appreciate and feel the love you put into something. Like you've made something someone else wants to love and take home. Marrying off kids.
Who are some of the artists or people who influence your work?
There are sooooo many. All of my parents are hard workers and have crafts that they're artisans themselves. My friend Andrew at Midcity Handmade. His dedication, work ethic, and the pieces he puts out are simply extraordinary. Marc Fresh has been putting out stuff in BR for a long time and I use to think "whoa! Who is this person? I want to do that!" Obviously skate art growing up. I didn't go to art school or anything so getting a catalogue was my school and there was so much input. It was great. I feel like back in the day there was more art on boards as opposed to more of graphic driven boards now. Years later I got Andy Howells book 'Art, Skateboarding, and Life' and grew up loving his work and then I read the book and was like I need to change everything and keeping me on the trail I'm trying to blaze.
What would you like to do with your art in the future?
I have tons of ideas and they grow everyday. So really to be able to delegate my time better so I can get to all the projects I have planned and to just keep refining my work.
Where would you like to see it and what do you think is the best way to get it there?
I don't have a end game or specific place I'd like to show. Each time someone purchases and loves a piece that does it for me. Everything else is happy lagniappe. Seeing stuff on people's walls, on stuff for Sever, and the "Forest Entry" are happy surprises that I never thought would happen so it's really humbling.
Are there any closing words you'd like to add?
Let your heART burn I guess. Blah.
Any people you would like to thank?
Oh my. My mom! Nothing would happen with out her. All my parents and family. Paul at Sever. You (Shawn) at Slapstik. Emily, you’re so cool. Chimento has done so much for me. All of my friends! Anders, Molly, Ben, Amy,Nah, Hannah all amazing supporters and artists in they're areas. Rukus, Chief, and Heartthrob for being my first platforms to put work on things. Also The Duke and Randa! And Hey! Cafe. Andy Howell and really, so many more. Doing a "thank you" list is my worst nightmare. I'm going to have to write a book on day. I love ALL of you with ALL! Merci!
To see more of Tater's art and designs visit Mr. Tot's Markings, Sever Provisions, and Slapstik Skateboard Art.