ST. PETERSBURG—On the beaches, it is all about having fun; in perspective and clothing. When it comes to beach fashion, nothing is more fun than tie-dyed clothes and Missie Garrison is an expert in tie-dye.
Garrison’s company, MaD Family Ties, is truly a family affair. Missie and husband Donny (the M and D of MaD), along with their children Brendan, 15, Skyelan, 12 and 5-year-old Gavin design and make one-of-a-kind tie-dyed clothing and material. The family has been selling their distinctive attire along the Pinellas Beaches.
“It’s all hand dyed at home and family operated, locally in St. Petersburg,” Garrison said. “I don’t have your traditional tie-dyes; I literally do everything from underwear to blankets.”
Garrison has been tie-dyeing clothes, blankets and other fabrics for 15 years and selling them professionally since 2009. She is one of eight to 10 local artists making up The Artist’s Loft, located on the second floor of John’s Pass Village, 12969 Village Blvd.
“We are in the shop in John’s Pass,” Garrison said. “I also do a lot of craft shows at the Paradise Grill on Pass-A-Grille.”
MaD Family Ties is the result of a hobby Garrison began 15 years ago, resulting from a dramatic stage in her life. As an infant, Brendan was born premature. For a while, he was cared for in the Natal Intensive Care Unit at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
“All I had bought when he was a preemie was white and boring, so I tie-dyed everything when he was in the hospital,” Garrison said. “That’s what started everything.”
Now, as the busy mother of three, Garrison said most of her work began through the relationship with her children. Everyone pitches in to help.
“I work with local schools,” Garrison said. “I will go in and tie-dye for their field day shirts. I also provide tie-dye clothing for Munch’s on Fourth Street South.” Her work can be seen prominently online at Munch’s Tie Dye Tribe Store, as well as when the popular south St. Petersburg restaurant was featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives.
“During season,” Garrison said, “we will do pretty well. We have a lot of tourists that come year after year, and every year, I try to do a new design.”
Garrison also has a line of shirts called “Bling Boutique,” with unusual shapes such as spiders and clovers. Other well-liked designs are Christmas trees and snowmen, “mostly for the irony” of walking around the beaches with holiday shirts. She also has a shirt with a pink ribbon, for breast cancer awareness.
It is difficult to pinpoint the designs that are the most popular, said Garrison.
“My favorite is the snowman,” she added. “It’s hard to say which sells the best because everything sells.”
“I do a stingray,” Garrison said. “I also have another called ‘Mad Momma’ for pregnant women. It has little feet on the belly.”
“Many people get stung by the stingrays,” she said. “So they are popular.”
When asked what the most remarkable thing she created, Missie turned to her husband.
“They are all kind of unusual,” Donny replied. He leaves most creativity to his wife.
“I’m just the muscle of the operation,” he added.
Garrison creates all the clothing in the garage of her St. Petersburg home. On one side is a dyeing table, with several bottles of dye. Garrison only uses non-toxic dyes, and all of her products are kid friendly.
It takes anywhere from 24 to 36 hours to complete a shirt from start to finish. Garrison starts with a closet filled with white t-shirts. She doesn’t buy wholesale, usually getting value-sized packages of white t-shirts at Wal-Mart and Bealls Outlet.
“I get the best deals there,” Garrison said.
Garrison first soaks the white t-shirts—or whatever object is the newest creation—in a soda ash solution, to prepare them to take the dye. Then, the item gets tied in specific patterns, often using rubber bands. For precise lines in some designs, Garrison uses dental floss stitched tightly around pinches of the fabric. This allows for detailed, sharp outlines.
Next is the dyeing table, where bottles of brightly colored dyes allow the clothing a particular neon colors. These are the vibrant colors so iconic in tie-dyed clothing. After applying the stain, the material is set to rest for a period of time; she lets it cure before the next step.
Outside, on the side of the house, is a rinsing table. The material gets a thorough soaking, before they are washed twice, to get rid of all excess dye, and then dried in high heat.
A tall stack of plastic containers in a corner of the garage holds the finished product, to be sold at the Artist’s Loft or the Pass-A-Grille art market on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Garrison has become a regular fixture at the Beach Bazaar at the Paradise Grill on 900 Gulf Way.
The Garrisons are so popular in the beach community, some residents and visitors call Gavin the “Mayor” of Pass-A-Grille. He has been wakeboarding at the beach since he was a baby.
What began as a labor of love for her infant son continues to be her passion.
“I was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years, so this has given me something to do,” Said Garrison. “At first it was gifts for friends and kids, now it has turned into a business.”
For more information about fun tie-dye clothing, call Missie Garrison at (727) 743-6682 or email Missie@MaDFamilyTies.com.