Aroostook County artist explores the edgy side of tie dye in new business

3 months ago

HOULTON, Maine – Christina Carroll’s art comes from a generational soul running through her family’s Irish roots.

She easily talks about the long line of family musicians and artists. A musician uncle on Spotify who’s music was on a Netflix show and others. And now she adds to her family legacy with her own unique creations that reveal her Asian and punk rock influences.

“I definitely come from art,” Carroll said while still setting up her new shop, True Cyan, in downtown Houlton. 

Carroll just decided two weeks ago to open a physical shop, True Cyan, in the Shiretown Gaming Center Building in downtown Houlton and she credits the bold move to a recent Aroostook Creative Network micro grant from the Maine Art Commission and the help of gaming center building owner Roxanne Bruce.

“She is just a great cheerleader and she just really looks at people that are trying and she finds places for them,” Carroll said. “This is a perfect spot for me for what I do.”

Bruce, who owns the Shire Ale House and Shiretown Gaming, has been working to promote local entrepreneurship in the community. And over the past year, artist businesses have been cropping up all over downtown in what the town is seeing as a new business renaissance downtown. 

Carroll’s pieces of wearable art upend traditional hippie tie dye shirts with edgy patterns and colors. And as part of her preparation for this newest adventure, Carroll studied color, color mixing and color theory along with aesthetics and bodies to create pieces that flow and flatter, she said. 

She picks soft and mostly cotton fabrics for her scarves, shawls, tapestries, shirts, wraps and more. Her scarves were woven in a little town in Bangladesh by men.

HOULTON, Maine — Nov. 24, 2023 — Christina Carroll just opened a new shop, True Cyan, in Downtown Houlton for her wearable art creations. These are some of her creations.  (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

“I see a lot of tie dye from the hippie ideology and it’s all so stiff and not flattering for the body,” she said. “I look at the flow.”

In a spontaneous move in the midst of COVID-19, Carroll, her partner, two children, three cats and a dog moved to Houlton from Cincinnati three years ago, seeing their home for the first time when they moved into it. 

Shortly after their move, she tie dyed shirts for the first time with her children from a kit.  

“I loved it and so I started researching better materials,” she said. “I thought of the endless possibility.”

It’s the colors and color theory that she loves, especially the mysterious true cyan part of color theory and how it is not immediately visible. 

“I think it’s so interesting that there are colors out there we can’t see without tricks.It’s something special that you have to look hard for it,” she said.

And that’s why she named her business, True Cyan, she said. 

Having to work hard for something like seeing that color intrigues Carroll.

“The things you have to work for, the people hardest to get to know are usually the best,” she said. “The same with colors, they are just breathtaking.”

HOULTON, Maine — Nov. 24, 2023 — Christina Carroll just opened a new shop, True Cyan, in Downtown Houlton for her wearable art creations. She was awarded a Wintergreen Microgrant to create 2024 Eclipse art. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Right now she said she is trying to make a T-shirt that creates true cyan and even a tapestry where the color is visible.  

Different from tie dye kits, Carroll uses fiber reactive dyes that do not fade. And the process includes first soaking all the fabrics in soda ash and dying them while damp.

Additionally, she uses dyes that are environmentally conscious and she refuses to use any colors with heavy metals, she said. 

Next week she will throw a tie dye party from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Shire Ale House. Open to the public, they will make tie dye bags and bandanas and making an additional T-shirt is an option for an additional fee, she said. Tickets are adults $19, youth $16 and additional T-shirts are $7 adult and $5 youth.