Back in 2019 Andrea Carneiro noticed tie-dye goods slowly creeping into stores. So she and a friend experimented with the dye method one Sunday as a way to unwind and have a little fun.
What started as a creative outlet turned into a passion for Andrea. “I got hooked, and it started to take over all my free time.” Ten months later she quit her job as a magazine editor to focus on her new business, Live & Let Dye. We chatted with the maker to learn more about her vibrant venture.
Artisan Joy: How did you get started as a maker?
AC: I’ve always been creative. I worked as a magazine editor for 20+ years, which is a super visual job, and also worked in the styling world in New York and Miami. Once I had kids, I started doing a lot of art and craft projects at home, so it’s always been a big part of my life. In early 2019 I noticed tie dye slowly creeping into stores, and my friend and I decided to have a “tie-dye Sunday” at my house. I got hooked, and it started to take over all my free time.
Friends and family began asking to buy my sweatshirts, and then a friend put them on the floor of the boutique she was working in. They sold right away and a business was born. For ten months I basically worked two jobs—writing and editing during the week and dyeing on nights and weekends—until it got to a point where I had to jump in and focus on Let’s Get Dye full time.
AJ: When did you realize that you could turn your craft into a business?
AC: After the sweatshirts sold, the owner of the boutique asked me to be a part of a trunk show she was organizing. Even though I had zero inventory I agreed to do it and spent two weeks nonstop dyeing. I had such great feedback at the show that it convinced me I could have a viable business. I decided to go very slow, starting just on Instagram in early 2019 and then launching a website a few months later.
AJ: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
AC: I find inspiration everywhere. I love fashion, so I definitely draw a lot on interesting color combinations from runways or old editorial styling. I love to see mixed patterns and mashups of texture and color. I also love art and crafting Instagram. I went through a phase where I was obsessed with looking at yarn dyeing. Some of the colors they create are unreal!
AJ: How do you apply that inspiration to your work?
AC: A lot of what I aim to do is to take the classic idea of tie dye and then modernize it. The spiders are such a great example because the pop of black just immediately takes it from camp to cool. There are no rules in fashion anymore, so I try to always remember that and not get bogged down in how to do a fold or where to band something. Some of my favorite ice dyes were color combos that would never seem to work on paper.
AJ: What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
AC: Probably that I wear a lot of black! My closet is pretty heavily neutrals, but I think thatʼs most of my customers. I love the idea that my hoodies or tees would be that fun pop of color in someoneʼs closet. When you have a closet full of denim itʼs great to have those one or two pieces that are really special and different.
AJ: As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism?
AC: Thatʼs a tough one! I’ve gotten better about it. I still can get caught in that spiral of wanting the pink to be an exact shade or obsessing over spacing, but I’ve learned that what I see and what a customer sees can be totally different. I have a good friend who will always love the one piece Iʼm unhappy with. We laugh about it all the time—we just have different eyes. When all else fails, Iʼll ask my mom or my younger daughter for their opinion—they always tell me when I need to just move on.
AJ: When it comes to running a creative business, what keeps you going through the ups and downs?
AC: Definitely my customers! Instagram has changed so much about how we interact with businesses and brands, and I think itʼs for the better. Getting DMs and feedback from my customers on a daily basis is an amazing motivator.
AJ: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in putting their work out into the world but feels vulnerable about it?
AC: Thereʼs nothing to lose by sharing your work. The longer you wait the harder it becomes.
AJ: Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?
AC: Iʼm sure they have! I used to get a lot of “Oh, I could make that at home,” and it would drive me crazy, but you have to let it go. I know how much time and effort I put in and how much I’ve planned and studied and tested. Fabric dyeing is such a fun activity—I understand why sometimes people have a hard time seeing the skill part.
AJ: Creatives are often very in tune with what’s happening in the world. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming. If this happens to you, how do you cope?
AC: Walking is my meditation. I love podcasts (I have a whole list of recommendations on my blog). So, Iʼll listen to an episode of something while I walk and it will help me clear my head and refocus. I also try to meet friends once or twice a week to walk together— itʼs such a great way to relax and catch up.
AJ: Are you passionate about a cause?
AC: I am passionate about a lot of causes but animal rescue is up at the top. I have two rescue dogs, my parents have two and my brother has two. I would adopt 100 if I could. There are so many small rescues that need support; I would encourage people to Google ones in their area—they often have Amazon lists set up for dog and cat supplies, food, leashes, etc.
AJ: And, of course, we have to ask you this: What brings you joy?
AC: My family! (ok and my dogs) .
This interview has been edited slightly.