SANTA CRUZ — Jeremy Carlson’s first customer at his tie-dye store A Brighter World was an 8-year-old girl custom-coloring a dress. A few weeks later, she brought her grandparents visiting from Ohio to the Walnut Avenue shop.
“I guess over dinner the previous night, she said, ‘We’re going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium this week? Well on Friday, I’m taking grandma and grandpa to Jeremy’s store,'” Carlson, a Santa Cruz resident, said with a laugh. “She was also my first repeat customer.”
A Brighter World, which officially opened this month, brings a burst of color to downtown. While Carlson provides a large selection of clothing, tie-dyeing classes and watercolors for painting garments, his philosophy goes beyond the material: tie-dyeing ultimately makes the world a better place.
“People have fun in the store, and they get to release their creativity,” Carlson said. “The sun might not be out, but there’s a rainbow in the store.”
Carlson started tie-dyeing 25 years ago as a way to pay for Grateful Dead tickets. He’d set up a booth outside the concert with other Dead Heads, vending various swirled shirts before and after shows.
“It created a community of traveling people who made things by hand and then got to go enjoy the show,” Carlson said. “They were the mechanism that allowed it to be sustainable.”
After a few years following around the preeminent jam band, Carlson became a groundskeeper at UC Santa Cruz for 10 years.
“It’s a beautiful campus; how could it get better?”
Still, Carlson continuously heard the siren song of tie-dying, and felt the need to strap on gloves and squirt out dye onto material, selling his shirts at different festivals over the course of eight years. He decided to quit groundskeeping and open A Brighter World a few years back, applying for a loan and developing a business plan.
Carlson currently offers a variety of beginning and advanced classes at the store including selecting colors and folding (Carlson shows people how to create shirts that feature peace signs, stars and other shapes). He provides all materials at the store including rubber bands, gloves and a large selection of dyes for the hour-and-a-half classes.
“Different colors make you look a lot different,” Carlson said. “It’s not just your mood in general or your personal preference; it goes beyond that.”
So what’s Carlson’s go-to shirt?
“Rainbow spirals,” Carlson said. “That’s my signature.”