McArthur Chism was born in Glendora, Mississippi in 1942 and grew up in Water Valley. As a child, he became interested in drawing and sketched many aspects of his community, including houses, trees, cars, and other objects. During this time period, his grandmother gave him a couple of vases that had been made by wiring a series of bottle caps together. He played with them until they were broken. He remembered the vases while a teenager and tried to make one himself, using only wire and bottle caps. He sold the first pieces he made and bought a pair of wire cutters to make the work easier.
He soon began experimenting, creating several different items out of bottle caps, including ashtrays, birdhouses, doormats, and American flags. For several years he sold his work primarily to neighbors in Water Valley.
In the late 1980s, Chism and his work came to the attention of artists based around the University of Mississippi. He began showing his work at Southside Gallery in downtown Oxford in 1993 and has demonstrated at numerous festivals and events in the town. He lived briefly in Jackson but has recently returned to his hometown to live.
Chism gets his bottle caps from a variety of sources, including local bars and drink distributors. He uses only a few tools in his work: a hammer and punch to create the holes in the caps and wire cutters for cutting the wire hangers and other scrap wire he uses to hold the work together. He makes use of the different colors on the caps to create unique designs on the work. Chism also uses spray paint on some of his pieces to modify the colors.