Erin Cassell is 35 but looks younger, with an unlined face and a soft halo of wavy brown hair. She says “groovy” and “rock on” a lot and wears flared jeans and a long-sleeved tie-dyed shirt of her own creation in vivid blues, greens, oranges, purples and pinks.
Cassell, the owner of to Roll Up N Dye!, uses high-quality dyes and sophisticated techniques to make the tie-dyed clothing and tapestries she sells. The Elkridge resident also hosts tie-dye parties for children and adults. She can bring the party to the participants or host events at her studio on Red Branch Road.
In an otherwise drab building, her space exudes color and energy. Every wall is painted a different color — deep orange, minty green, creamy blue. One wall is patterned with paint handprints of all sizes and colors. On another, a rainbow of painted toilet paper rolls is beginning to take shape.
Cassell’s parties are particularly popular with children 7 to 11 years old. She helps each guest make a tie-dyed shirt and organizes a dance party for as many as 15 children, plus parents.
“If you tie-dye with me, you get to put your handprints on the wall,” she says.
Jennifer Lara, 44, lives in Laurel and has attended a couple of parties at Roll Up N Dye! “It’s fun,” she says. “You walk into her studio, and it just exudes personality.”
Cassell grew up in Gambrills and went to Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College). She graduated with a theater degree and did voice work for radio commercials while working at a fitness club in Severna Park.
When she was pregnant with her now-6-year-old daughter, Cassell made her baby a tie-dyed onesie. She also began making and selling other tie-dyed items, including bibs and burp cloths. She opened Roll Up N Dye! in 2012.
She’s been researching tie-dye techniques for years, even flying to New Mexico and California to meet people who have been tie-dyeing for decades. Her tie-dyes are so bright because she uses a fiber-reacting dye called Procion, and she’s learned to wash white shirts in 140-degree water, then coat them in soda ash so the color adheres better. She doesn’t dip the shirts in dye but instead colors them directly with squeeze bottles.
“It’s nice to teach folks that tie-dye is really an art form and not just a kit on the shelf at the craft store,” says Cassell.
Sarah Granai, 34, who lives in Columbia, works part time at the studio and helps with the parties. “I learned everything from Erin,” she says. “I thought of tie-dye like most people do — tie on some rubber bands and drop them in a bucket, like we did at camp. I never knew there were so many techniques and designs. It’s amazing how much you can do with it.”