Meet the Maker: Teresa Bettelley from Shirley Rainbow
Textile artist Teresa Bettelley has had a long love affair with thread and fabric, beginning in primary school and encouraged by the creative women in her family. Taught to sew by her mother and inspired by her grandmother’s embroideries, Teresa went on to specialise in embroidery at university before launching her own creative business, the cheerfully named Shirley Rainbow, making beautiful hand-stitched textiles and embroidery art. Teresa talks to fellow Folksy seller and ceramic artist Hannah Berridge about her textile techniques, her creative inheritance, her attic studio and how she fits making around her young family…
I used the name ‘Shirley Rainbow’ for my Folksy shop because it seemed like a cheerful and optimistic name, like my products.
Why do you call your shop Shirley Rainbow and do you create your work as a full-time professional?
Shirley Rainbow was a name I heard years ago and really liked. While I was working for a social care team a few years ago, some of us used ‘fun’ names to cheer ourselves up on difficult days, and I became Shirley Rainbow. I used the name for my Folksy shop because it seemed like a cheerful and optimistic name, like the products I was intending to sell. I am a full-time mum and I work from home, so I’m able to fit my making time around my children.
I love to play around with colour, mostly with balls of yarn or paint swatches, which is how I create the colour palettes for my embroidery pieces.
What’s your background? Have you done any courses in embroidery?
I’ve always loved working with thread and fabric, from primary school up. I was taught to sew by my mother, and I’ve always dabbled in different textile mediums. I had a great textiles teacher at school who always encouraged us to use embroidery on our work. After college (where I did a lot of machine embroidery on paper) I studied textile design at Nottingham Trent University, where I specialised in embroidery. It was great, we had a lovely studio with lots of threads, beads and sequins, amazing sewing machines and a huge table we used to spend hours sitting around while we did our hand embroidery. We were taught lots of hand embroidery techniques alongside creating a collection of designs.
I like to see the textures the stitches make, the way the colours work together – I feel it’s quite amazing that it’s all done with simply a needle, a piece of thread and some fabric.
What inspired you to turn it into a business, and do you have any plans as to where you’d like your work to lead you?
It’s always been an ambition to sell my own textile work, so when I started becoming more creative again after having my children it seemed like the perfect time. I’d read about Folksy in a magazine and thought I would give it a go, as it sounded like the perfect place to start. I was thrilled when I made my first sale soon afterwards! At the moment I’m preparing for a community exhibition in Nottingham where I will be displaying my work alongside other local artists, which is a new direction for me.
My favourite piece is what I call my embroidery doodle which now lives on my mantelpiece. It started as a sampler, with me trying out different stitches, textures and quality of line.
What’s your favourite piece of embroidery that you’ve made? What makes it so special to you?
My favourite piece is what I call my embroidery doodle. It started as a sampler, with me trying out different stitches, textures and quality of line. It’s all in one colour, teal, on grey linen and now lives on my mantelpiece. The various doodles and motifs have been incorporated into many other designs and I often look at it for inspiration. It’s definitely not my most accomplished piece but it means a lot as it shows the beginnings of a style of embroidery I really enjoy and that feels very natural to me.
All of my designs are hand drawn before transferring them to the fabric. A lot of the Victorian houses in my area have beautiful details with carved brick patterns and I like the style of these.
Which crafts person or artist do you admire and who has influenced you the most?
I love to see the beautiful embroidery by Yumiko Higuchi and Tessa Perlow when I’m browsing online – they both have very different styles that are instantly recognisable as their own. I really enjoy looking at historical embroidery, especially on clothing. The floral styles, motifs and colours influence my own design work. A lot of women in my family are creative and they are always encouraging me. My grandma especially is a great influence – she has created some beautiful pieces of embroidery for her house.
I love the feeling of anticipation while I’m setting the first stitch…
What part of your work gives you the most pleasure?
It’s always the time when I sit down with a new design and start to stitch. I love the feeling of anticipation while I’m setting the first stitch, whether the piece will work out as I’ve planned or whether I will make little adjustments along the way? I like to see the textures the stitches make, the way the colours work together – I feel it’s quite amazing that it’s all done with simply a needle, a piece of thread and some fabric.
I have a really big desk but often find myself squeezed into a tiny space because of my messiness!
Can you tell me about your studio?
Yes, although the reality is not nearly so exciting as it sounds! We are lucky to have a large attic room of which one side is our bedroom and the other side contains all my crafty gubbins! It’s quiet and peaceful up there and I have plenty of room to spread out. I use the space to do admin and dressmaking too, so it can get a little messy.
I’ve decorated my studio with prints and postcards, as well as my own sketches and ideas, crochet mandalas and garlands.
I have a really big desk but often find myself squeezed into a tiny space because of my messiness! I’ve decorated my wall space with some prints and postcards, as well as my own sketches and ideas, and crochet mandalas and garlands. My cat Nancy likes to sleep up there too, it’s funny to hear her snoring while I work.
It’s always been an ambition to sell my own textile work. I’d read about Folksy in a magazine and thought I would give it a go, as it sounded like the perfect place to start.
Do you have any other passions and interests?
I absolutely love history and take my children to lots of museums and National Trust houses. I usually find something there to inspire me too and take lots of photos, especially of flowers and plants and occasionally a bit of decorative brickwork! I love to read, again a lot of historical books, fact or fiction, I don’t mind. I make a lot of my own clothes too, so love to shop for fabric. I’m pretty happy in a haberdashery shop. Crochet is another big love of my life. I started with garlands and cushions and I’ve made bags and a cardi recently. I’ve started to incorporate crochet into some of my embroidery pieces by crocheting around a frame to display the embroidery in.
Trying out a new stitch can sometimes spark a whole new set of ideas.
Where does your design inspiration come from?
I’m always taking photos on my phone of flowers, plants in my garden or house and I do lots of drawings and sketches from these. All of my designs are hand drawn before transferring them to the fabric. A lot of the Victorian houses in my area have beautiful details with carved brick patterns and I like the style of these. A visit to the library to look at embroidery books always gives me a lot of inspiration, particularly the books on how to do stitches, as trying out a new stitch can sometimes spark a whole new set of ideas. I also love to play around with colour, mostly with balls of yarn or paint swatches, which is how I create the colour palettes for my embroidery pieces.
What is a normal day like or is there no such thing?
During the week when my children are at school I try to do a balance of embroidery, crochet, admin and housework. Housework usually gets neglected! I try to do admin in small chunks so it doesn’t become too onerous a task. As I spend a lot of the day sitting and sewing, the walk to school in the afternoon is a nice break away from my desk. My children always like to see what I’ve been making when they get home. I like to keep daytime making for work, and in the evening focus on personal projects, although when a deadline is looming I work in the evenings too. Having my own projects to work on is a good way to unwind at the end of a busy day, I’m a big believer in the usefulness of craft as a form of therapy. However I’ve been doing a lot of work in the evenings recently as I finish pieces off for my upcoming exhibition. I’m looking forward to doing a bit of selfish making when it’s over!
Get 15% off all hand-stitched embroideries by Shirley Rainbow with code MAKER15 – valid until 11th June 2018.
Meet the Interviewer
The maker asking the questions this time is ceramic artist Hannah Berridge.