Spinning colors into cotton
CARBONDALE-Memorizing ROY-G-BIV is about the only lesson on art that John Busscher remembers being taught.That’s because high school art classes didn’t interest him. In college, he didn’t major in art and he doesn’t consider the famous painter Pablo Picasso his inspiration. But, he does consider himself an artist – and the T-shirt is his easel.Busscher is a tie-dye artist. For the past 20 years, understanding how colors flow from red, orange and yellow to green, blue, indigo and violet has made it pretty easy for Busscher to make a living as a tie-dye artist, especially since he never meant to make art his profession.Living in Frisco before moving to Carbondale in January, Busscher found himself waiting tables and working in the kitchens of various mountain resort restaurants, staying as far away from the city and as close to the music scene as possible.In the early ’80s, it wasn’t uncommon to catch Busscher spending all of his paychecks on a Grateful Dead concert. When his friends mentioned how much he traveled and how great he would be at tie-dye, Busscher picked himself up and began cooking up T-shirt creations and now has his own tie-dying company called Dye-Namics.
Crediting Grateful Dead lead singer Jerry Garcia for drawing out the artist inside him, Busscher said tie-dye for him is just something that fuels his passion.It’s passion not paychecks that remains his inspiration.”You know, I’ve probably sold a million shirts, but I’m not a millionaire,” Busscher said. “It’s just something I got into, and sometimes you get into something and you find that it just works for your lifestyle.” An avid skier, Busscher said selling his tie-dyed products at various festivals like Mountain Fair in the summertime allows him to take to the mountains and hit Colorado’s snow-covered slopes in the winter season.For Busscher, working 14 weeks from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with just two weekends off, isn’t all that bad when he considers the winter wonderland waiting for him later in the year.”I’ve always thought it’d be nice to be the middle man and not work so hard, but I guess I’ve been pretty lucky,” Busscher said.
For anyone who might wonder how much work a full-time tie-dying artist actually does, just ask Busscher, who might pull out a T-shirt or two, 10 years in the making.That’s right, it took Busscher 10 years to bring out the psychedelic colors in the perfect arrangement of one of his “mendala-patterned” shirts.”It’s all trial and error,” Busscher said. “But the trick is consistency in the folds.”Folding, twisting, dipping and squirting his fabrics in the brightest and boldest colors reveals an array of patterns that Busscher sells to people everyday. From the traditional peace sign to the more contemporary mendala or guitar, Busscher said his patterns have stacked up to the competition since 1984 when he was one of only two tie-dye artists in Colorado.”Sure it’s competitive,” Busscher said. “But everyone has their own style and I don’t mind going head-to-head with people, because I’m confident in my product,” he said. Now gaining his inspiration from living at the base of Mount Sopris, Busscher said the economy and people in the valley have been quite kind to him, making 12-hour days of tie-dying totally worth the effort.
“I like the positive feedback I get from people,” Busscher said. “I get lots of return customers, and it’s where you get your reinforcement from,” he said.Like a comfortable pair of jeans, Busscher said having a piece of tie-dye in the closet is just something people need to have. For years he’s had one or two hanging in his closet, and more than a few displayed at his booths during the summer. Tie-dye for Busscher is just a part of his colorful lifestyle.”Some people say tie-dye’s coming back,” Busscher said. “But really it never left.”Vail, Colorado