(918) 935- 5150
Who is this mysterious Tulsa legend? Kelly Killion has been Tulsa's premier tie dyer since 1993. Although her tie dyes are famous the world over, she is best known for her outrageous vehicles. During the last decade, she has passed from notable neo-hippie to T-Town legend.
(The Tie Dye Lady in 1983 with James Doohan and friend Carl Neal)
After graduating from Oklahoma State University, Kelly launched Tie Dyes of Tulsa in the summer of 1993 from her parent's house in Tulsa. In 1995, she took a risk and opened her store front on Route 66 in Tulsa. Within the first hour of renting the store, sales began to roll in. Her business is now a Tulsa tradition and travelers from across the globe trek down 11th Street to visit the famous shop and, most importantly, to have their picture taken with the Tie Dye Lady in front of the hippy bus or car she's most recently painted.
(The first bus - boy did it leak in the rain!!)
In 1996, the universe reached a crucial juncture. While Kelly was away, a mysterious man crept into the store and spoke to her employee from the shadows. "Do you know anyone who needs a Volkswagen bus?" That was all he would say. Finally, a tattooed hand was thrust from the shadows. The smell of patchouli oil was overwhelming and as the employee neared unconsciousness, the mysterious figure slipped out the door and escaped into the night. The card he had left, with only a phone number, still reeks of patchouli to this day (although the number quickly faded away).
As the Tie Dye Lady attempted to wake her employee, she saw the card and called the number. As she listened to the phone ring, a fog descended over the shop. Both Kelly and her employee stood transfixed as fog covered the outside of the glass storefront. While still listening to the mysterious figure's phone ring, a bright light illuminated the fog for a moment, then everything beyond the windows returned to normal.
Normal except for the strange vehicle that now sat parked before the front door. Just as suddenly, the phone that been ringing now chimed "we're sorry, the number you have called has been disconnected". The 1978 VW bus was rough. It had rust and a horrible brown paint job. The inside was filled with debris, but even through all of that, it was clearly something special. Soon, Kelly and her totally artistic mom Barbara were painting. Ignoring all advice from car "experts", they plowed ahead and painted in all weather and without regard to anything aside from their artistic vision. That bus was the first of the famous rolling paintings that Kelly and Barbara would create.
(Passing the torch - the first bus finds a new owner in a new generation)
Although that first bus has been handed to the next generation (and may it have a long life with them as well), Kelly's current ride is far cushier and more befitting a local legend. The 1989 Wulfsberg Edition bus has trekked around the nation with comfort and style. Kelly's various vehicles have been sold on eBay, used in parades and rented by local groups for parties and fund raising events. She will also paint your vehicle - if the price is right!
(The first bus and the current bus in their final moment together)
Better yet, the next time you're heading down Route 66 in Oklahoma, stop by and visit. The address is 3443 E.11th Street or you can call (918) 835-9020 if you need detailed directions. If you live in the Tulsa area, call Tie Dyes of Tulsa and schedule a tie dye making party. You can have your picture taken with the bus at the same time!
Don't be shy if you see the Tie Dye Lady in traffic. Wave, honk or whatever you feel the need for, just don't hit the bus! The paint is unique and any body damage requires a lot of thought before repairs can be made.
Beyond painting buses and bugs, Kelly is a part of the local music scene both with jams at her house for local musicians and her history of helping local bands. Not only has she had a hand with the Tulsa Teeny "mmmBoppers" named Hanson, she works with local acts even today. Although her work at T-Town Music Hall was cut short by the fickle finger of fate, you can bet you'll see her with a live music venue again one day. You never know when you might run into her at a concert - just look for the glow of tie dyes.
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