The tie-dye guy
Cody Foust’s office is in the basement of his house, situated comfortably between the water heater and the washer and dryer.
Dye-stained plastic and newspaper cover the floor beneath him, with one lamp providing all the light he needs. A speaker blasts his favorite music while he works, usually something rooted in rock.
His workspace may not be the most elegant, but Foust didn’t get into the tie-dye game for glitz and glamour. Over the years, the junior has grown his hobby into a company equipped with an official business license.
Lizard and Dye Co. was created in 2014 when Foust was a freshman living in Ridgeway Kappa. The term lizard first came from an episode of Beavis and Butthead he and his friend watched in high school, but eventually grew to be part of his identity.
Despite creating a company, Foust said he likes to think of himself as an artist rather than a business man.
“What I’m doing is art,” Foust said. “I want people to have something they can be represented by.”
Foust is a sociology and social studies major from Cle Elum. For the last two summers, he has gone home to work as a firefighter, but is foregoing that in the future to focus on his tie-dye business.
He plans to build up an inventory of tie-dye products in hopes of mobilizing his business. Foust wants to find a van big enough to sleep and store his guitar so he can travel the country and sell his dyes along the way.
Foust had never tie-dyed anything before his freshman year of college. He attended an event in Ridgeway Kappa celebrating the end of fall quarter.
There were palm readers, people playing pool and lots of candy. However, he was drawn towards a table with big bowls filled with cheap dye people were spooning onto white shirts.
He tie-dyed a few shirts thinking they would make good Christmas gifts.
“It felt like I was giving out a heartfelt gift,” Foust said. As a broke college student, finding an affordable gift to give to his friends and family was important.
After that, Foust began to tie-dye more regularly.
Living in the dorms ended up working in his favor. He spent a lot of time in the Ridgeway Kappa laundry room running his newly tie-dyed shirts through the washer, taking full advantage of the amenity while his tuition still paid for it.
“That was a big-time perk for me,” Foust said.
Almost all of Foust’s tie-dyeing supplies were stored under the sink in the laundry room. Foust said anyone could have stolen it, or at least started tie-dyeing themselves, but people were just curious as to what he was doing.
Another benefit of living in the dorms was access to all the recycling, where an abundance of plastic water bottles could be found. Foust would innovate the bottles into makeshift squirt bottles by punching a hole through the lids.
Junior Stephen Baddeley, Foust’s best friend, would help him experiment with new designs their freshman year.
Baddeley designed the official logo for Lizard and Dye Co. on his computer and said Foust gave him complete artistic freedom. He knew there had to be a lizard in it, though.
The completed logo, which Foust now heat-presses onto all of his tie-dyes, is a lizard sporting two hang-loose signs.
Now that Baddeley and Foust live further away from each other, Baddeley said the tie-dyeing has become more of Foust’s thing. Although he isn’t as involved anymore, Baddeley said Foust’s success has inspired him to start selling prints of his own artwork.
“We were making tie-dyes in crappy little dorm rooms,” Baddeley said. “It’s cool it was that grassroots.”
Tie-dyeing was a learning process for Foust. After going home for winter break his freshman year, Foust decided to tie-dye more shirts for fun.
He went to Goodwill and bought mismatched white T-shirts along with rubber bands and cheap dye from the drugstore. Ignoring the directions on the back of the dye bottles, Foust got to work, finding himself with a product that wasn’t the most visually pleasing.
“The first couple of dyes I did on my own were super-duper saturated, like sopping wet, kind of gross tie-dyes,” Foust said.
The disappointing results didn’t deter Foust, who brought extra shirts and tie-dye supplies back with him to college.
“It was a struggle starting out,” Foust said. “My craft wasn’t very good yet.”
Foust said he originally didn’t plan to sell anything he made until one day a girl down the hall from his dorm saw one of his dyes and asked if she could buy it.
After his first sale, Foust started getting more inquiries about what he was doing. He would let people know he was tie-dyeing then offer to dye one of their own shirts for five dollars.
“I’d have my own stock of shirts, and I’d try to pitch them to people,” Foust said. “I’d go to the dining hall and try to display my shirts.”
Foust began improving the quality as his business became more popular. He ordered shirts in bulk rather than buying them second-hand and got better quality dye.
With higher quality tie-dyes, Foust raised the price of a T-shirt to $20.
He also began incorporating more variety, offering tie-dyed sweatshirts and tank-tops as well.
Foust said he is 100 percent a people person and one of his favorite things is when people actually come over and get involved in the process of tie-dying with him.
“You can get a really personal dye,” sophomore and roommate Greer Smith said. “Cody actually talks to the people.”
Smith met Foust through mutual friends, and one night she messaged him asking if he’d make her a tie-dye. Now that they are roommates, Smith said she and Foust have collaborated to make new designs and patterns.
“I really think he can make it into a full-fledged business,” Smith said. “He’s really passionate about it. He’s got a lot of new ideas.”
Once you start tie dying, you develop an eye for it, Foust said. Whenever he spots someone wearing a tie-dye, he instantly starts trying to decode how it was made.
“Everyone has their own little style. Everyone has their own flavor,” Foust said. “I just want to a find a shirt that is somebody’s flavor.”
Foust said business is going well and he plans to just have fun with it while he can.