In the Easy Chair with ... Betsie Withey

In the Easy Chair with ... Betsie Withey

The Westerly Sun

AGE: 38.

OCCUPATION: Textile artist specializing in knitted and embroidered wearable art pieces inspired by nature. I sell my things on Etsy at I’m also a professional bra fitter at Zoë & Co.

RESIDENCE: Westerly.

RIGHT NOW I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF: Building up stock of my most popular designs to sell in local galleries and boutiques, including the Newport Museum of Art and the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly.

BORN, RAISED & GREW UP IN: I’m from a small town in western Michigan near the coast. My childhood home sat at the edge of a little patch of woods with a creek running through it and had a profound influence on my life and artwork.

FAVORITE WAY TO SPEND MY TIME: Designing something new, sleeping in, taking a walk in the woods, collecting branches covered in lichen, shopping for yarn and fabric, looking at beautiful things, being with friends.

PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Starting my own business, winning awards for my work.

I’D LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR: Contributing a little piece of beauty to the world.

TOP ON MY BUCKET LIST: To have an art show in New York, travel the world, have a house of my own, have a black poodle named Willoughby and a couple cats.

ALWAYS IN MY POCKET: Cherry or strawberry chapstick. And if I don’t have pockets, I keep the Chapstick in the strap of my bra.

WHAT I WANTED TO BE WHEN I GREW UP: Triple threat astronaut, veterinarian, and artist.

PEOPLE/EXPERIENCE THAT HAS INFLUENCED ME THE MOST: The people are: my mother for encouraging me to pursue my passions; Liz Paxson (my best friend’s mother) for setting an example as a tireless working artist, and my Oma for giving me my first sewing machine. The experience that influenced me most would have to be making costumes for Renaissance faires. That inspired me to express myself creatively via sewing and textile arts.

FAVORITE AUTHOR: I love many books and authors, but I always go back to my favorite 19th century women authors: George Eliot, Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen.

I AM READING: I always read multiple things, and haul them out depending on my mood. Right now it’s “Bone Swans” by my talented roommate C.S.E. Cooney, “Tainaron: Mail From Another City,” by Leena Krohn, and I’m still plugging away at the big ole biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I’m also a news junkie.

I AM LISTENING TO: I’m STILL listening to the Hamilton cast recording.

FAVORITE MOVIE: “Cold Comfort Farm.” I love the characters and the witty repartee and I quote from the movie daily.

FAVORITE TV SHOWS: “Game of Thrones” and “Parks and Recreation.”

FAVORITE PET: I love cats and have had many a favorite while growing up, including: Ruggo and Mr. Fluppie, the Siamese cats I had as a young child; Buttla, my fat tuxedo cat; Chicken Legs, my little calico cat; self-serious Aphrodite; and Jippie, another big, funny cat with a funny name.

FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD: I love my mom’s streuselkuchen with the yummy crumb toppings. I also love my hazelnut coffee, friends call it my “hazelnut juice”.

AMOUNT OF TIME I SPEND ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Even a month ago I would have said I don’t spend any time on social media, but have recently started posting more on Facebook and Instagram for my art business. I’m betsiewithey on Instagram and betsiewitheyart on Facebook.


PET PEEVE: Having to do paperwork. Getting my driver’s license, plates, and car title switched over to Rhode Island almost did me in.

FAVORITE QUOTATION: “I seem somewhat soaked in nature’s fecund blessings” — Stella Gibbons

MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT OUR LITTLE CORNER OF THE WORLD: Wilcox Park aka The Victorian Strolling Park. I feel lucky every time I walk through it to get to work.

CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: Yarn, the right kind of embroidery thread, my Bernina sewing machine, tons of chotchkies encroaching upon my personal space, and coffee.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT ME: I can make up a song about anything.

BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED: When it comes to art or any new endeavor, always be prepared to put in hours and hours of work before you see a worthy result.

ADVICE I BEST LIKE TO GIVE: If possible, follow your dreams in life, however big or small they may be. Visualize what you want and make a plan and take steps towards achieving your goals.

IF I RULED THE WORLD I WOULD: Hand the reigns over to a person or consortium far more suited to the job. I’m not interested in ruling anything but my own roost.

IF I WON THE LOTTERY, THE FIRST THING I WOULD DO IS: Make sure all my artist friends and I are well provided for so we could focus on our artistic pursuits.

I DRIVE AN: Eggplant purple 2001 Honda Civic.

I WISH I DROVE A: I’ll take a coach and six, and some enchanted footman to drive it for me.

ALWAYS IN MY FRIDGE: Strawberries. Hazelnut juice.

IF I COULD CHOOSE ONE PERSON TO HAVE DINNER AND A CONVERSATION WITH ANYONE I WOULD CHOOSE: My Oma. She died not long after I learned how to sew, and I’d just like her to know how her gift of a sewing machine has shaped my life.

— Interview arranged and edited by Nancy Burns-Fusaro


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