by Sarah Jackson
They call her Bodacious Betti. At first glance, this gentle woman seems quiet and motherly. Once you break the ice, however, Betti reveals a fierce intelligence, a sharp wit and a brain filled with crazy ideas. She is, after all, the Washi Queen of Coosada!
Betti is a “planner”. She owns several planners which are books created for the purpose of keeping track of calendar days. She decorates the pages of these planners with stickers and rubber stamps and photos and most importantly, washi tape. Betti has a planner for each need: a medical planner to keep up with her many appointments (she is disabled), one to keep track of daily chores, bills, outings – you get the idea. Betti always wanted to be a “planner”, with fold-out charts notes and neatly organized lists. However, her brain did not always work that way.
“I’ve fooled around with planners and such off and on for most of my life,” Betti says. “I would find something and use it for a little while, but then I would lose interest or it would just get put to the side.”
Betti started college in 2003 for the second time and realized she HAD to use a planner.
“I would typically take an overload of courses and I had to have something to let me know when my classes were, when assignments were due, all that kind of stuff. I used a planner pretty for about three years and then it went by the wayside again when I left school. I started work and I thought, Pfft! I don’t need a planner! I just cruised along, doing my own thing.”
Then she got sick again. Betti was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in her mid-30’s and was put on a myriad of medications. Next she lost health coverage and couldn’t afford her medicines. Despite her setbacks, she pushed through and grew accustomed to living with the pain and other symptoms that go along with Fibromyalgia. During this time Betti still had small children and was a single parent. After her job ended, she started getting sick more often; Betti was having some seriously bad days. Sometimes it was difficult for her to function due to pain, and some days her brain was in a fog. She was forgetful and distracted. That is when Betti started looking for ways to become more organized. She thought about her planners and decided to get organized… this time, for good.
“I tried several different systems and lots of planners. Then I found two things – bullet journaling and the Passion Planner. A bullet journal is easy; all you need is a blank journal. You make it the planner that you need. The Passion Planner I found on Kickstarter. If you backed the project, then you got a PDF to download. I backed it. It’s amazing! It has space for mind mapping and reflection and all that just really spoke to me.”
Versatility, lots of writing space, durability, attractiveness, and quality. These are the things Betti looks for in a good planner. She is a bit of a paper snob, too, and prefers a nice, thick, heavy paper that will stand up to stickers and washi tape and various writing tools. Betti uses many different kinds of pens in her planners and any ink shadowing drives her crazy. Her bullet journal typically goes with her everywhere.
Planning brought joy and discipline back into Betti’s world. Becoming more organized helped Betti regain a sense of control in her daily life and gave her focus, while decorating her layouts brought back her spirit of creativity. Shopping on sites like Etsy, Betti began buying washi tape. LOTS of washi tape. Betti doesn’t buy just one roll, she usually buys sets of washi.
Washi tape was first created in Japan. It is a low-tack tape made of silky rice (or washi) paper and is typically decorated with images or glitter. Washi tape comes in different widths. In recent years it has found its way into American homes and is gaining popularity. Betti has hundreds of rolls of washi tape. Her boxes of washi look like treasure chests filled with little colorful gems. She smiles as she looks at all of them.
“It is FUN!” Betti squeals. “Washi Tape is so versatile. You can do anything with it – seal a letter, decorate your planner or bullet journal, and it has even been used to do interior decorating. Kamoi Kakoshi, the original producers of washi tape, make washi tape in huge widths that you can use to decorate the walls of your room, or whatever. During an expo at which Kamoi Kakoshi were represented, they used washi tape to decorate a commuter ferry boat. It was the most amazing thing!”
Then one day Betti was having coffee with a friend who is a professional artist. Upon request, Betti had brought her “Craft Box of Doom” to the friend’s house so they could play and be creative. Mesmerized by the boxes of washi tape, her friend asked, “What are all of these baby masking tapes with pictures on them? They’re adorable!” After educating her friend about washi tapes, Betti lamented that she could not find washi with certain images. Her friend posed a question: “Have you ever thought about designing your own?”
Immediately Betti and her friend began researching everything pertaining to washi tape: the paper itself, ideas to create original art and even introduce images of photography on washi tapes, design formats, quality control and how to find a manufacturer. Countless phone calls and emails took up most of a month. With great notes, patience and determination these ladies formed a plan. Within two months they had answers and, even better, they had a new collection of washi tapes ready to be manufactured.
“Inspiration can come from anywhere, anytime and anything. I am constantly looking at ideas and thinking ‘that would make a great washi tape.’” Betti opened a business called BB’s Washi & Ephemera and has an Etsy store. Betti and her partner cover both sides of the business. With her partner directing the art and design element of BB’s, Bodacious Betti herself keeps track of bookkeeping, enjoys handling customer service, and creates blogs and videos pertaining to the planner community. Betti says the business clicks because both women have significant input and share each decision.
Starting a small business is a huge endeavor for Betti on a personal level. In her private life she is living with multiple disabilities, raising her youngest child, coping with bouts of depression and struggling some months to keep things afloat. BB’s Washi & Ephemera could be life changing for Betti – it already IS life changing. Even the act of promoting her new business on several social media platforms has changed her outlook. Betti now has a strong sense of community.
“It’s like sitting down to coffee with thousands of women from all over the world that have the same interests that you do, the same or similar goals. Women who support each other, come together in times of crisis, offer sympathy and caring. I am in one group that has come together for a family facing childhood cancer and raised enough money to give them year-long VIP passes to Disney World in California. We have also helped another member that lost her house to a fire, pulled together and helped another member who was about to lose her home. It is simply amazing.”
BB’s is important to Betti because all of her adult life she has worked for other people and now she works for herself.
“I have had ‘jobs’,” Betti explains. “A job, to me, is something that you do, somewhere you go, to make money to pay the bills. Yes, you can survive with a job. But do you really live? I am a bit past the mid-point in my life and as I look back, all I see is survival. I want to live! I’ve always heard that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. I have enjoyed a level of excitement and challenge and anticipation since I started BB’s that I’ve NEVER experienced in any other “job”. I find myself doing work stuff on the weekends now because it is doing what I love. This just the beginning of the second half of my life journey and I am looking forward to it with excitement and much anticipation.”
Betti has strong hopes for BB’s. She wants to create things people will love. She wants BB’s products to bring joy to others. One reason Betti is so enthusiastic about her business is her own personal love of paper, stickers, rubber stamps, pens, good old fashioned letter writing and all of the “ephemera” that goes along with it. Betti tells me that in an age where technology has all but replaced personal connectivity, people see many beautiful things, but those things are not tangible.
“Paper Crafting has been around in one form or another for centuries and the written word precedes the invention of paper.” Betti sips her coffee and smiles. “When you receive a gift of something handcrafted, it is a true honor because the giver has invested their time, effort, and love into that project. Yes, digital art is and can be beautiful and time consuming, as much so as a handcrafted gift. But you can’t touch it. It is ethereal, intangible. A handcraft object is beautifully imperfect, tangible, you can feel it, touch it, even smell it. You have a sense of connection with the person that made it. It’s the same way with a hand written letter. You can feel the paper; smell it and the ink. In some cases, letters are perfumed which gives an even more personal aspect to the letter. Hand written letters evoke a sense of another time, another era. They are so much more personal than an email. Our hopes for BB’s is that we can bring back a bit of that magic and beauty. We’ll start with washi tape, but we have big plans down the road.”
For now, BB’s Washi & Ephemera has their first manufactured custom designed washi tape for sale in their Etsy store (BBsWashi). They have a presence on Tumblr, Instagram and FaceBook. Betti writes a blog on WordPress called “Stuck On Washi”. BB’s also has a YouTube channel and Betti is in the process of making videos pertaining to the planner community and more. Betti looks forward to creating custom designs unique to BB’s and giving people all over the world new themes and ideas. In other words, the Washi Queen wants to use her gifts to make the world a happier place!