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Dead on Dyes

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

 Dead on Dyes’ Auston Brown and Ashley Osborne didn’t realize what they were getting into when they did their first tie-dyed shirts. They were just looking for a fun date-night activity when they bought a kit at WalMart, Brown explained. They didn’t know that a year later they would be making custom designs for folks – like putting a guy’s car on his shirt or designing a mermaid for a tapestry – and setting up booths at festivals. 

Brown did know he was hooked right away. 

He said he knew he was ready to start making more shirts, “within the first ten minutes.” 

“As soon as I did it I was hooked,” he said. 

“It took me a little longer,” Osborne said. “But I think the business kind of kicked off when one of our friends wanted to buy a shirt.” 

That friend, a musician, had other friends and fans who wanted their own shirts too, and it blew up from there. Now the duo are doing custom shirts and shipping their items to customers as far away as Ireland. Not bad for a business that has had most of its growth occur during a pandemic, when many of the festivals and community events where they might normally set-up have been canceled or scaled back. 

It’s the attention to detail, and the unique designs, that make Brown’s and Osborne’s work stand out. 

Brown and Osborne explained that it’s a combination of their dye technique, which gives them more precise dye coverage along with brighter colors in a shorter time, and their folding techniques that make their shirts different. 

“It’s actually really technical,” Brown explained. “You have to get your angles just right and the pleats the same size or it won’t turn out, so a lot of math is involved. We actually have stitched some shirts (instead of tying) and dyed them.” 

They also use a dye process called hot water irrigation, where they put down a powder based dye that is sprayed with boiling hot water. This lets them get the same results overnight that can take 24 to 48 hours of sitting to achieve with liquid dyes. 

“It makes the dye brighter and sets in quicker,” he said. 

As far as they know, they’re among the few who use hot water irrigation for their tie-dyes. They’ve also made the dye powder into a fabric paint that they’ve used for painting in fine details on some shirts and other creations. 

Brown isn’t sure how many shirts they’ve made since they started. In addition to their custom orders, he explained, they do general shirts and designs that interest them so they can have extra shirts for events. 

“We have at least three totes full of tie-dyes at all times,” Osborne added. 

They eventually hope to open a store, somewhere on the other side of the pandemic. Currently, though, they are just looking for the other side of quarantine when festivals and events pick back up and they can find more opportunities to network and let people know about the work they do. 

“It’s been very, very weird,” Brown said of starting a business during the pandemic. “You can’t hardly meet people. There for a while it was hard to get dye.” 

Osborne explained that once dyes were available again, shipping times on supplies was slowed down because of the backlog of orders and demands on the supply chain. 

Osborne also added she was pleasantly surprised when they went forward with the It’s Fall, Y’all festival in Olive Hill, and the opportunities that event provided for them. 

As for the name of the company, the origin of that was as serendipitous as their first foray into dying. 

“We went through probably ten names before we finally settled on that,” Osborne said. 

While you could be forgiven for thinking it was a play on the Grateful Dead, and the penchant that band’s fans have for tie-dye, it actually came from all those precise pleats, folds, and the attention to detail that exemplify the duo’s work. 

“Someone ordered a shirt,” Brown continued, picking up where Osborne left off, “and said, ‘Man, that’s not perfect. That’s dead on. That’s exactly what I ordered.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, man! That’s it. Dead on Dyes. DOD.’” 

You can see more examples of the precision work that inspired their name, and commission your own work, by searching for Dead On Dyes on Facebook, or visiting them directly at: www.facebook.com/PrecisionTieDyes/

You can also email them at dye.tieindod@gmail.com for more information, pricing, or to commission work.

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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