Stubborn determination keeps the midnight oil burning for Rayna Parks as she sweeps another coat of homemade fabric paint onto a thrifted jean jacket to be shipped and sold the next day.
Alternative-rock melodies bounce throughout the room, dissipating the world around her. The only distractions are her husky named Atlas and her cryptic black cat named Loki who linger nearby, observing curiously and occasionally stepping a paw too close to the vulnerable paint around them.
“When I start something,” Parks said, “I want to finish it.”
Parks is behind the one-woman business Dragon Denim, an online store that sells up-cycled custom-painted jeans and jean jackets. After graduating from the University of Florida in August 2018, she created the business the following December to help her finances while pursuing acting.
As of Sept. 23, the creative had about 80 orders to fulfill, thanks in part to a shoutout from famous Youtuber Niki Demar. The vlogger discovered Parks on Instagram and asked to collaborate. Demar purchased a custom order of “Halloweentown” mom jeans and showcased them in a video.
However, this was not the first time Parks gained praise from someone of celebrity ranking.
Parks also owns Old Soul Quilts, selling personally sewn and painted quilts ranging from 60 x 70 inches to king-sized lengths.
The company started after she spent over three days sewing and painting the cover art of Lorde’s album “Melodrama” amidst humid spring break boredom.
Coated in florescent blue and highlighted in a mélange of oranges, reds and purples, the detailed cloth-painting demanded to be seen. Parks’ homemade fabric paint – a mixture of acrylic paint, water and vegetable glycerin – maintains a shiny coloration that withstands time.
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In a swirl of magic, Parks witnessed alternative singer Lorde raise her quilt like a flag to a massive audience at a concert in Tampa, Florida. The crowd enveloped her in screams of awe. Lorde clutched the quilt around her shoulders like a cape as she sang, “And you know, we’re on each other’s team.”
Parks also gifted former One Direction member Harry Styles a quilt detailing the cover of his self-titled album at a concert in 2018. After tackling entrance and permission from security guards and stage managers, Parks got word from the head of security that her quilt found its way to Styles’ arms.
The first jacket Parks sold was a jacket painted with the red cover art of Billie Eillish’s song “When the Party’s Over.” Since then, Parks sold jackets featuring Lana Del Ray, Kacey Musgraves, Marvel’s Avengers and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
She said she does her best to purchase thrifted jackets from Goodwill and Value Village. Due to the large influx of orders recently, she’s resorted to fast fashion retailers to buy denim in mass quantities.
Parks talent is obvious. Her experience in painting and sewing are minimal, previously only painting letters on posters and sewing needles with thread.
Her spunk is obvious. Her self-declared style is a cross between a band member and a pirate. She insisted she has all the ingredients to become a rockstar, minus the vocal talent.
Parks speaks with confidence and her results validate it.
A customer, Ashley Hanks, a student at the University of Alabama, ordered a custom-designed “Supernatural” jean jacket. Hanks said that she discovered Dragon Denim on Instagram and was amazed by the designs.
After saving up cash, Hanks sent Parks a custom picture of the show’s featured Impala with the lyrics “Carry On My Wayward Son.”
Hanks said the jacket cost about $80 and shipped in two weeks. She wore the jacket to Creation Entertainment’s “Supernatural” convention to meet the show’s actors.
Hanks said the quality has not diminished since buying it.
“It’s the coolest thing in my wardrobe,” she said.
Yana Grebenyuk, a 22-year-old writer for TV Fanatic, owns a quilt from Old Soul Quilts and jean jacket from Dragon Denim.
“It’s going to be my go-to for buying other people’s gifts,” Grebenyuk said in a phone interview. “She puts so much hard work into everything she creates.”
Parks’ tenacity fuels her businesses to success.
“If I get something in my head,” she said. “It’s more than likely going to happen.”