Anyone who thought they needed talent to be a successful artist should sit down with C.B. Tatum and they might be in for a shock.

Tatum, 75, has been a folk artist for the last 22 years. He has created works of art from license plates, bottle caps, and just about everything else laying around.

Look around Farrago beauty salon in Winston-Salem and you will see walls plastered with his creations, which include a fish made from a tin can and several license plates. Perhaps most amusing is a birdhouse in the shape of a church which is attached to the end of a shovel.

Before getting into folk art, Tatum owned the first backpacking store in Winston-Salem from 1968 to 1992. He said ultimately it was the entrance of large scale competitors like Eddie Bauer and American Eagle that forced him to close the business.

“I could see the handwriting on the wall that it was going to get diluted,” he said.

Tatum also painted motorcycles in the 1960s, which he thinks is what later got him interested in folk art. He started by creating antiques and worked to fashion the inside of the River Birch Lodge out of old canoes.

He taught pottery at Forsyth Tech for five years and frequently teaches art classes around the Triad. He thinks art is more academic than people realize, and that people can acquire the skills if they put in enough time and effort.

“I teach method, and I teach people that all you have to do is have an idea,” Tatum said. “Have the desire. You don’t have to have talent. I said that is not six inches of magic, it’s six inches of work.”

“When I do a piece it’s ugly, ugly, ugly, fantastic. I said you’ve got to wait. You’ve got to learn the tricks. You’ve got to experiment.”

Tatum is entirely self-taught, having never gone to college. But you’d never know it from the way he discusses how the left and right sides of the brain work differently and how this plays out in an artist’s mind.

While Tatum claims he does not have talent, his work has risen to a level of prominence that caught the eye of Eddie Bauer about 10 years ago at a furniture market. He declined the offer.

“I’m already retired, I want to have fun, I already paid my dues, “ he said. “I don’t want to get involved in all that business. I want my life to be simple at this age because I may not live another 50 years.” !