Jodi Wittenberg is not the passive type. Well known as co-owner of kosher food market The Spicy Peach in Toco Hills, she was determined to combat the malaise she was experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic. Using her love of tie-dyeing and desire to share fun and hands-on experiences with others, she retrofitted her garage and recently launched Jo Dyes, an upbeat tie-dyeing studio, with the capacity to accommodate parties and group DIY activities.
For years, Wittenberg applied her energy, skills and resourcefulness as an imaginative volunteer for Congregation Beth Jacob and Atlanta Jewish Academy. Exuberance and originality are her calling cards. “I love creating for events, parties, food, new ideas, crafts. I like making things happen.”
When Wittenberg was a student at the University of Georgia in Athens, she learned to love tie-dyeing. She was a fabric design major, working with batik dyes on silks and other materials. “My studio design teacher used to say that if I put as much effort into my fabric as I did my social life, I would be one heck of an artist! However, even though I had lots of friends and thoroughly enjoyed college life, while other kids were at the Bulldog games, I was tie-dyeing on my apartment deck. I have always had buckets filled with an array of Procion dyes, rubber bands and plastic gloves.”
The isolation and uncertainty of COVID-19 and being over 50 caused Wittenberg angst and high blood pressure. She frequently felt that she was experiencing a heart attack. “I was either at my doctor’s office, a cardiologist’s office, or the emergency room. I panicked constantly while being told to relax, assure myself that I was OK, and take a high blood pressure pill.”
Wittenberg knew she needed a foolproof release from her constant anxiety and the monotony caused by the pandemic’s restrictions. That’s when she decided to use her love of tie-dyeing for her own recovery and to offer a hands-on maker venue for others. She originally set up shop in her backyard with buckets of tie-dyes. She invited neighborhood families (with masks) and other groups to join her as she guided them to make creations of their own.
Her entrepreneurial and philanthropic skills soon kicked in. She started raising funds for the AJA basketball team by tie-dyeing masks and selling them for $12 each at her store, The Spicy Peach. Without advertising, she quickly raised over $500 for the basketball team from shoppers who were drawn to the one-of-a-kind washable cotton masks.
The only drawback was the messiness of the activity, so Wittenberg moved the operation into her garage, where she was able to organize materials, expand work space, and maintain a safe and clean environment. Her project expanded into tie-dyeing cotton caftans. Then the caftans became coveted art-clothing among friends and neighbors. Currently Wittenberg is scheduling tie-dyeing parties, as well as fulfilling gift orders.
Jo Dyes is advertised mainly by word-of-mouth, and one of the Wittenbergs’ two daughters, Zoie, living in Israel, handles Instagram connections from her apartment.
“I live in my caftans,” Jodi Wittenberg said, adding that her friends do too. “I call us the Muumuu Mamas of the Shabbos Caftan Club. We’re mainly women, but my greatest fan is a man who adores his caftan. I also enjoy doing baby onesies, which have become my signature baby gift.
“At night I turn on great music or Netflix and do my thing. In addition to my manicures, my hands are usually stained with multi colors. I am excited as I watch the colors bleed and swirl together. I love sharing my space with others during these crazy times, and I run experiential COVID-protected parties. I have something to look forward to at night. My husband Josh has supported this project all along, and our three kids are grown up, so I have the time to do what I love.” Wittenberg welcomes others to join her in doing what they, too, will surely love!