Scout Ehrler

 

T

ie-dye needs no introduction. Since the mid-60s, people have been selling, making and expressing themselves through tie-dye. Today, companies like Tulip produce cheap DIY tie-dye kits, generally used for a one-time craft.

Tie-dye has remained steadily popular throughout the decades and Jake Patch has made it his life’s work. The 19-year-old entrepreneur began to tie-dye as a hobby with his two older sisters at age 14.

“We were looking for a new hobby to do and we always knew about tie-dye, so we went to Hobby Lobby and got a kit,” Patch said. “We took it home and did a bunch of shirts and we were so excited about it.”

After about a year, Patch had accumulated at least 15 or 20 shirts and his mom directed him to, “Monetize it, start a business now or slow it down.”

The hobby sat on the back burner as a result of a busy high school schedule, but upon being pestered by family friends and relatives in regards to his college plans, he decided to take the bull by the horns. He went back to tie-dye and opened his Etsy shop, Jake’s Tie Dye, on January 28, 2018.

2019 has been a good year for Patch’s business. Events like Art in the Park and Flagstaff’s Urban Flea Market allow vendors like Patch to share their work with the community and beyond.

“At Art in the Park, there were people from Sweden, Turkey, Idaho — which is not as fun as Sweden and Turkey — Utah, Kansas, people were coming from everywhere,” Patch said. “It’s really, really great that those people came to my booth and are taking that stuff home with them.”

Patch’s shirts go for $15 for a short-sleeve, $20 for a long-sleeve at in-person events and sell for $14.95 and $16.95 on his Etsy shop, which can be found at jakestiedye.com.

Patch’s set-up is a full-fledged workshop. Upon walking in, there are approximately 200 shirts of overstock, waiting to be sold — not to mention a black bin overflowing with one-of-a-kinds and test shirts.

While tie-dyeing in its simplest form may be a five-step craft, Patch takes DIY practices and professionalizes them. By using the highest quality dyes and a thorough, consistent process, he guarantees quality and longevity for all of his products.

His process begins with soaking a pre-washed shirt in “soda ash,” or Sodium Carbonate. According to Patch, this limits the chances of fading. Most tie-dye fades over time, but Patch makes sure his don’t.

“I try to provide the shirt I would want to wear. I don’t like them to fade and the problem a lot of the newbies have — and that I had too, I just had to figure it out — is their shirts are washing out,” said Patch. “And it’s really the lack of using soda ash or the good quality dye.”

To help people out with this common issue, Patch is looking to release his own line of tie-dye kits in the fall.

“You’ll come to my shop and I’ll give you the portioned colors, the soda ash, the shirt and all the instructions of how I would do it,” he said. “I want to cater to people like me who want to do it themselves, who love other peoples’ stuff, but want to do it themselves.”

Beyond making the shirts, Patch manages his online store, in-person booths and social media.

“I was attracted to the online option because I’m very introverted,” he said. “Being online has really helped, especially with conversations and explaining everything I need to. If a customer comes to me about something they’re wanting, I can take the time and make sure I have everything I need to respond.”

Patch was drawn to Etsy because they focus on handmade goods — when someone comes to Etsy, they’re looking for items made with TLC, which is definitely in Patch’s wheelhouse. Etsy allows Patch to expand his business from the comfort of his own home, providing connections and promotion.

“It’s a struggle to get strangers — not just your family and friends because it’s like, you can be my friend and you don’t have to buy my shirts,” Patch said. “What I’ve found helps is your own personal online presence. Having Instagram and Facebook and being consistent and making it interactive. People like the person behind the stuff.”

Patch’s mother, Denise Vibbert has been one of his biggest supporters since the beginning of his creative journey. 

“I admire his heart and the way he genuinely loves what he does, loves what he creates and absolutely loves offering his best to his customers,” Vibbert said. “People matter at Jake’s Tie Dye, and it matters to Jake that his tie-dye brings so much happiness to so many.”

Recently, Patch’s cousins, Sharayah and London Hettle, who work at Starbucks here in Flagstaff hooked him up with the local stores upon the new Tie-Dye Frappuccino release. Patch produced T-shirts for the staff at both of Flagstaff locations.

“It’s really who you know, fortunately and unfortunately,” he said.

You can see all of Patch’s creations at jakestiedye.com or visit him at the Flagstaff Urban Flea Market, every second Saturday at City Hall from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m until October 12.