There’s no doubt that the world of MX and Supercross is already plenty colorful. Colorful gear, colorful bikes, and colorful characters. But we’ve always had an admiration for the people who put their personal stamp on the sport by customizing one of the most personal (and visible) pieces of a rider’s gear¿their helmets. Over the last couple weeks (and especially since the start of the Supercross season, we’ve seen Tagger Designs show up in a few different spots, so we gave a call to the man behind the name, Tag Gasparian.
What’s your background? How did you get started painting?
I started as a professional surfer in the ’80s, and I started painting my own surfboards. Then I started doing boards for all my team riders and friends. Then I started working at the shop, painting. That’s how I learned to airbrush. I did that for over 15 years. Then I worked for two other paint companies. That’s when I got into motocross, and started doing helmets.
How about Tagger? How long have you been in business?
I opened Tagger Designs about a month-and-a-half ago. We’re here in Lake Elsinore in the industrial units near Langston Racing and the track. It’s a good location, as long as the track stays open.
You’ve landed some pretty high-profile gigs lately.
I’m stoked. I did the Motocross des Nations helmets this year, when I was still at Platinum. I guess Fox liked my work, and now that I’ve started my own thing, they’ve started coming to me, and I’m doing a lot of helmets for Carmichael and Stewart. I just put a little signature on the back.
I painted Villopoto’s helmets since he was 13, and I just lost him because he went to Pro Circuit, but I’m proud of him that he made the team. I’ve got Langston, and I’ve done Chad Reed’s for the U.S. Open when he won. Windham¿tons of guys. I have a big book full of photos of all of them in the magazines. I’ve been painting for a long time, just under someone else’s name, so I never got recognition. But a lot of people knew who I was, and who was doing the work, but now I’ve finally started my own business, which I should have done a long time ago, I painted for other people, and they got the credit.
Who else in on your client list?
Besides the guys I already mentioned, there’s Grant Langston, Yamaha of Troy with Brett Metcalfe and Andrew McFarlane, Moto XXX and Tim Ferry, Michael Sleeter, and a bunch of others.
How do you come up with designs? Doodling on a sketch pad? Computer?
A lot of them I just kind of sketch them out, and other times I just wing it and start taping. My employee here, Erin Cavner, he’s really good on the computer. We just bought an Apple, and he does a lot of them on the computer. I worked with him at Platinum, and he knows a lot of people in the industry, too, so we’re getting the word out there. He’s a good designer, too, so it helps out.
How does it work with clients? Is it back and forth on approval? Do they close their eyes on let you run with it?
Some customers come in with doodles, and I just ask them what kind of bike they ride and I go with those colors. I also do a lot of replicas for all the major companies, like Bell and M2R. I’ve done all of No Fear’s. They send me artwork that they’ve done on a computer, and I paint it on a helmet and they send it overseas to be replicated. I do a lot of those that way.
Do you primarily work on helmets? Or are there other kinds of projects that you paint?
Helmets are what I’m known for, but I’m going to try to branch out and do everything. That’s why I was stoked to get James’ bike to work on. Whatever I can get. Sand rails, golf carts. Whatever pays the bills and gets the name out there more.
Where do your design influences and inspiration come from?
I always look up to Troy Lee’s stuff, obviously¿everybody does. He’s the origginator. Then just looking at other people’s work, kind of little bits and pieces from that, and looking at materials, and through magazines¿design layouts¿just always looking for something different and new. Trying not to be like everybody else. I try to mix it up and do new stuff. That’s the hard part about it, coming up with new designs all the time.
What’s it like seeing your creations out on the track?
It puts a smile on my face, and it’s cool when I hear compliments. I started riding late, but when I was getting in the industry I thought it’d be cool to someday see the photos in the motocross mags. That’s been really fun.
31879 Corydon St., Unit 110
Lake Elsinore, CA 92530