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Monterey heritage helped inspire tie-dye creativity

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By Molly Haines

From Switzerland to Bronx, N.Y. and all points in between, tie-dye lovers have a little piece of Owen County to showcase, thanks to Earthshine Tie Dye, a New Liberty-based side business operated by Jon Figgins and Jenny Urie.
Figgins, a maintenance man for Owen County Schools, and Urie, a sophomore history teacher at Owen County High School, began the venture about eight years ago. Today, their wares can be found across the United States, as well as in countries like Australia and Germany.
It all began a decade ago when Figgins learned the basics of tie-dye from an instructional DVD while staying with a friend who dabbled in tie-dye themselves.
Before long, Figgins taught Urie the process, and the couple began selling their tie-dyed items at local craft fairs and art shows. In 2010, the two opened an Etsy shop online, where they’ve found much success from an ever-growing fan-base.
“We just sold something to somebody from Bronx, N.Y.,” Urie said. “Every time we get something from somebody that’s way far away it really blows me away here in little old New Liberty. It’s pretty cool.”

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A creative upbringing

Both Figgins and Urie hail from Monterey, where they were surrounded by the creativity of their parents as well as others residing in the area.
Figgins, 34, is the son of Mike – a retired OCHS math teacher and musician – and Mary Rose Figgins. Urie, 38, is the daughter of Paula Nye and Tony Urie. Paula ran Jubilee Candles, a small candle-making business located in Monterey, for more than 20 years, while Tony enjoyed writing poetry and painting.
“We’re both very creative people,” Urie said. “When Jon learned how to do (tie-dye) it all just kind of fell together as far as a creative outlet.”
The couple married in 2011, and have a 5-year-old daughter, Ilena or “Lena,” who has already picked up on her parent’s skills and enjoys helping them create their products.
Urie describes herself as having an “abstract brain,” while Figgins, she says, has more of a “concrete brain” – attributes that aid them in the creative process.
“Jon is really good at the technical part of it, the folding,” Urie explained. “I’m more abstract, I like colors and putting the colors together. A lot of times he folds, and I dye. I do all of the marketing on Etsy. When we go to shows he goes with me; it’s a lot easier with two people.”
“I’ve always been more mechanic-oriented,” Figgins added. “I like building stuff; I worked in construction a lot – always working on a car – the dexterity and stuff it takes to fold tie-dye got me into it.”

‘There’s so much chemistry to it’

While tie-dye kits are readily available at just about any craft store, Figgins and Urie have their technique down pat, beginning by pre-washing the item in an enzyme soap.
“There are all these chemicals, so you have to strip it a little bit, and then you soak it in soda ash, which is the fixer that fixes the dye,” Urie explained. “Then you fold it, dye it – we usually let things cure for at least 24 hours – there’s so much chemistry to it.
In the summer on a 90-degree day, 24 hours is great, but during the winter we need to let things set for about three days so the dye will bond all the way. Then we rinse it out and wash it three times.”
Once completed, the shirts are posted for sale on the couple’s Etsy page, or taken to craft fairs and art shows.
Figgins said once he learned how to tie-dye, he almost immediately began selling the items, setting up first at the bi-annual Monterey Fair. The couple has created the official Monterey Fair T-shirt for the last three fairs.
Additionally, Earthshine Tie Dye has created T-shirts for causes such as God’s Special Little Hearts Inc., among other causes.
The two say there’s not much they won’t tie-dye. Their Etsy shop boasts an impressive list of items for sale, including dresses and skirts, kitchen towels, bandannas and scarves, handbags and totes and sweatshirts and hoodies.

Carrying on a tradition

In addition to their day jobs and their tie-dye business, Figgins and Urie have 12 hair sheep on their small farm outside of New Liberty.
“That’s basically the extent of our farming,” Urie said. “We raise a vegetable garden and that kind of stuff too. Lena really likes it when we get bottle lambs, little orphans, she likes to feed them and take care of them.”
Saturday, Lena was anticipating the purchase of two new bunnies, one of which she said would be named “Marshmallow.”
While being a mother and teacher is her real passion, Urie said it’s satisfying to know she’s carrying on a tradition of creating a product with her own two hands – much like many of those who once called Monterey home.
“I can remember seeing my mom really proud when she made something really beautiful,” Urie said. “We’re certainly trying to do our part in carrying on that tradition.”
Earthshine Tie Dye can be found on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/earthshinetiedye; on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EarthshineTieDye/ and on Instagram by searching “Earthshine Tie Dye.”