02 August 2021
Tombow Talks to Betty Etiquette
Rebecca Cahill Roots aka Betty Etiquette is a lettering artist and illustrator living in South East London with her husband and two children. Rebecca grew up in Cambridgeshire and moved down to London for University. Rebecca started her business ‘Betty Etiquette’ after working behind the scenes in theatre for years, she began to miss illustration and design so she took the leap and went part-time to launch her business which is now her full time job. Rebecca now has two books about lettering, teaches lettering workshops and runs calligraphy events. We were lucky enough to catch up with Rebecca to discuss all things lettering and illustration…
Did you always want to be an artist?
I grew up in a house full of creativity. We had one fairly dodgy TV that occasionally worked and no computer games so my siblings and I were always drawing, making, sewing and crafting. When I went to University I wasn’t sure whether to study theatre or art as I loved them both. I think at the time there was not much support for artists to make a living from their work so it felt safer to go into theatre. Although I spent many happy years working in theatre I really missed drawing and lettering so slowly started to produce my own work and went freelance to be able to try and set up my own business. On the days I get to draw and paint I sleep better and feel calmer so I guess a career as an artist was the right thing to work towards after all.
When did you discover your love for lettering?
I have always loved creating decorative lettering. As soon as I realised you could turn your lettering into little works of art and not just informative words, I was hooked. In Primary school I used to be the one everyone would ask to write their name on their workbooks and I often got told off for making the titles look nice but not concentrating on the actual essay or research. Over the years I took different calligraphy courses and built up sketchbook after sketchbook full of practise lettering. There are so many different styles and techniques that it still continues to excite me and make me want to learn more.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to learn hand lettering?
There is no bad mark you can put on a page when you are learning lettering, it is all good practise. I think lettering can be frustrating for people at first as we can already write, so our brain tells us we will be able to crack it really easily. But it is a new skill and you will need to use pens and brushes in a different way so be gentle with yourself as you learn.
Also buy good equipment when you’re starting out. Try not to get the cheapest brand because you get more colours in the pack or more brushes. Good quality pens and materials will help you form your letters correctly and produce more exciting work.
How do you use Tombow products in your work and which products do you like best?
I use Tombow ABT pens for all my lettering mock-ups and practise work. They flow so well and can blend so well that they are perfect for lots of different lettering styles. I also use the Tombow Fudenosuke black pens daily for illustration and notes. They have a fine tip so can be used for more delicate lines and lettering.
The Tombow erasers are all brilliant and stop damage to your paper when you have to correct something. They are a staple in my materials kit.
Proudest moment of your career to date?
A friend sending me a picture of my first book in a bookshop in New York that I love. It was an incredible feeling to think that it was out there sitting on shelves around the world.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?
Balancing being a mum and running a small business. It is a constant juggle to know how to use the time I have in the best way and not lose confidence in my work. I have seen companies that I have worked with for years simply stop contacting me with opportunities as soon as I have said I’m pregnant. It’s an odd feeling and takes lots of energy to try and prove to them and yourself that you are still good enough to produce great work.
If you feel like this, get a good group of cheerleaders around you to keep you going. And if you can’t find one, contact me and I’ll be your number one fan when you need one.
Quick Fire Questions
“What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver.
Pen or Pencil?
Pen (a Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip if I had the choice).
Favourite thing to draw?
Vintage shop fronts.
Best advice you have ever received?
If you could have dinner with three artists (past or present) who would they be?
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Vanessa Bell and Sonia Delaunay.