Tie-dye artist Jess Raap-Johnson [Photo by Caroline Toth / Moab Sun News]

Nearly all off-road enthusiasts wear face masks to keep from inhaling dust and dirt. But the tie-dyed masks strapped to faces of local drivers reflect a trend unique to Moab.

“They saw the head wraps I sell, and asked if they could be used as dust masks,” Jess Raap-Johnson explained. “And it turns out they can.”

Raap-Johnson, a current tie-dye artist and former sculptor and photographer, created LoveWorks Tie Dye while living in South Dakota in 2015.

Two years and a few states later, her business has bloomed to colorful heights in Moab. Despite the popularity of her apparel online and overseas, her favorite clientele can be found at the Moab Farmers Market at Swanny City Park on Friday afternoons.

The name of her business is not an accident.

“I named it LoveWorks Tie Dye because I’m putting some good love and energy into each piece of artwork,” she said. “I truly believe that love does work and that we could all use a little more love and light in this world.”

And the love goes both ways.

Marie Charleton, the volunteer coordinator at the farmers market, said that Raap-Johnson has “really great” positive energy

“It flows into her designs … and that just draws in everybody,” Charleton said. “You get more bees with honey. She’s got some good honey.”

Since moving to Moab, Raap-Johnson said, she has been profoundly influenced by the local nature and landscape of red-rock country. Her love for the vividness of Moab’s most striking scenes often inspires her artwork. Among those designs is a series of black and rusty red patterns – a pattern achieved by the absence of color rather than its deposition.

“You just remove dye from it,” she said. “It’s actually bleach.”

The resulting garment is a dynamic panorama. But despite the absence of dye in this particular design, Raap-Johnson is no stranger to the more sophisticated techniques of organic fabric chemistry.

Ice dying, one of Raap-Johnson’s more popular techniques, involves applying powdered dye to a folded garment, and placing blocks of ice on top to allow for a slow percolation of color, which binds to the fabric in unique and unrepeatable designs. She learned how to ice dye from a fellow artist at the Moab Arts Festival earlier this year.

It is in this way, Raap-Johnson said, that she is able to draw upon the connection of people and place to find inspiration for her kaleidoscopic vistas.

“It feels like you’re giving your energy,” she said. “And that’s what it’s all about to me, is connections – sharing the art. It gives me a creative outlet to keep doing it. And it gives other people cool art.”

This act of bestowing tie dye and therefore creative connections between people has become something of a ritual in Moab, especially for those who are welcoming new life. Her line of baby and toddler tie-dye clothing has a special place in the hearts of grandmothers and doulas alike who are eager to provide newborns with their first tie-dye onesie.

“I think this place is mind-opening for people,” Raap-Johnson said. “It’s beautiful.”

Raap-Johnson and her tie-dye clothing can be found at the Moab Farmers Market every Friday through Oct. 27 from 4 to 7 p.m.

Farmers market vendor finds inspiration in Moab

“I named it LoveWorks Tie Dye because I’m putting some good love and energy into each piece of artwork.”