Shop Etsy

How One Seller Rebuilt After Hurricane Irma With Aid From Etsy and CERF+

Dec 3, 2019

by Diana Keeler

It’s Giving Tuesday! Join us at Etsy in supporting the work of CERF+—the Craft Emergency Relief Fund. When disaster strikes, CERF+ is there to help safeguard artists’ livelihoods—and get them back into their studios. This year, we’ve partnered with CERF+ to create a relief fund that awards grants to Etsy sellers who have had their lives disrupted by natural disasters, and we’re matching donations up to a total of $50,000. To underscore the impact this financial assistance can have, we caught up with Etsy seller Sally Binard, who shared how Etsy and CERF+ helped kickstart her recovery after losing her home to a hurricane. 

Sally Binard had lived in the Florida Keys for 20 years when Hurricane Irma blew ashore in September 2017. Before spinning off into Georgia, the storm would kill 84 people, cause $50 billion in damage, and destroy thousands of homes. One of them belonged to Sally, a ceramicist and painter whose life, business, and art practice were upended by the hurricane. “My last Etsy sale shipped out on September 6, the day after I evacuated,” she says. “I remember scrambling to grab the pottery and wrapping it in my friend’s living room, and running around St. Pete trying to find tape.” It would be six months before she’d ship another order. 

Donate to The Etsy Fund at CERF+

Sally first came to the Keys as a field biologist, going on half-day dives to count reef fish for population studies. “It was a dream,” she says. “I got to work in a bathing suit every day.” While she was advancing professionally in the sciences, on the side she also painted and made pottery—arts that eventually blossomed into her Etsy shop Zebra Wing Studio

Portrait of Etsy seller Sally Binard, who rebuilt her business with an CERF+/Etsy grant.

By the time Irma hit, Sally was earning one-third of her income through Etsy. When she returned home 15 days after evacuating, her home, her studio, and her community were in ruins. “You’d walk down the street and literally everything from the inside of people’s houses was on the outside,” she says. “It was like every house was naked. All the trees were bare, and you’d see children’s toys, people’s underwear, forks—just piled up on the side of the road. No one could contain their emotions.”

Sally’s home and her ground-floor studio were destroyed. “The whole downstairs was flooded in two or three feet of water, and then tornadoes went through and just whipped up everything out of it,” she says. “My roof leaked. I didn’t have any windows. The walls were black with mold damage—I couldn’t live in that house anymore.” Unlike some of her neighbors, Sally was able to find a place to sleep thanks to a friend who offered a sublet in Key West, but in order to get her business back up and running, she needed help. “I lost a lot of money by not being able to create work,” she says.

One of Sally's fine art paintings
One of Sally's fine art paintings

That’s when she discovered the CERF+ Etsy grant on Instagram, and within 15 minutes she submitted an application. Soon after, Sally got a call from CERF+’s headquarters in Vermont, and the voice on the line said they’d be sending her a check for $1,000. “I cried when I got it,” she says. “When you lose everything, $1,000 seems like a million dollars.” The funds helped her purchase the one key thing she needed to restart her business: a small, easily transportable potter’s wheel. 

Today, thanks to resources from Etsy and CERF+, Sally has changed how she makes decisions that affect her art business. “I never had a plan before,” she says. “Now I have a flood insurance policy. I purchased a fire extinguisher. If there’s another hurricane, I can pack my car within four or five hours, grab everything I need to create my work, and get out.” 

Sally works on a ceramic cactus.
A set of Sally's ceramic ring cones.
A set of Sally's ceramic, botanical-inspired ornaments hanging on a wall outdoors
A collection of Sally's ceramic pieces laid out on a table
A miniature clay pot and painted portrait from Sally's recent exhibit at the University of Virginia.

At the same time, an even bigger transformation had been taking place for Sally as an artist. “When Etsy and CERF+ provided me funding, it bolstered my confidence,” she says. “It reminded me that what I’m doing has value, and my self-esteem grew.” Recognizing how fortunate she was to receive the help she needed to reopen her shop, she funneled all her creative energy into maturing her art practice. “Because of the hurricane, I actually got back into making more fine art,” Sally explains. “I started with the wheel I got from CERF+, and I began experimenting with incorporating little pieces of pottery into my paintings.”

In September of 2019, the University of Virginia displayed two of her compositions—works combining portraiture with small pots made of unglazed earthenware clay—in an exhibition entitled “Coasts in Crisis: Art and Conversation After Recent Hurricanes.” It’s a testament to how, with the right support, we can come back stronger in disaster’s wake. “I always say, a hurricane is one way to start from scratch,” Sally says.

A portrait of Sally Binard outside her home studio.

Photographs by Becca Borge Photography

Donate to The Etsy Fund at CERF+

34 comments

  • bogusiak

    Bogumiła from USMCDisabledVeteran said 222 days ago

    What a wonderful story. It is good to learn about new great places to donate!

  • kjnd3i2q

    Tatyana from MOMsBirdie said 222 days ago

    Such an interesting story :) Thank you so much 👏

  • mascollected

    Carol from MasCollected said 222 days ago

    Thank you Diana, Becca and Sally! I live along the coast where Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. I am grateful for Sally's story. I hope it may inspire others to develop emergency preparedness plans with checklists for their shops. Best wishes to you all.

  • otwrkef6

    Leaf N' Lucent from LeafNLucent said 222 days ago

    This is such an inspirational and motivating story. It makes it even more of an honor to have our little shop on a platform such as Etsy.

  • HelenesDreams

    Helen Sanderson from HorseCreekJewelry said 222 days ago

    So happy for her...it's great to hear good stories. Thank you for sharing!

  • om8xnvrp

    Chris Phahlane from WorldArtAndFabric said 222 days ago

    Amazing story!

  • jacobswoodentoys

    Tim and Brigita Cornwell from jacobswoodentoys said 222 days ago

    Wonderful story! Thanks for sharing.

  • dlsmithp

    Deborah from AntMablesAttic said 222 days ago

    Thanks for the kindness that the world needs so much more of.

  • LadyInPurple

    Jennifer Tyson from LadyInPurpleBoutique said 222 days ago

    Such an inspiring story. Here's to a prosperous New Year!

  • LynxGiftsandJewelry2

    Lynn from LynxGiftsandJewelry2 said 222 days ago

    Great artist. Strong woman. Kudos.

  • vintagediva60

    vintagediva60 from VintageDiva60 said 222 days ago

    Such a heart warming story.. I am proud to have a site on Etsy. Thanks for sharing.

  • mendllbp

    Posh Park from PoshPark said 221 days ago

    Thank you for sharing this :)

  • jd62128

    Jessie Darby from CountryDesignWreaths said 220 days ago

    Such a heart warming story. Thanks for sharing.

  • mbrownramirez1844

    Michele Brown-Ramirez from TheWolfeSpeaks said 220 days ago

    Sally sure is a strong person. It inspires me because it makes me think that all of us make a difference. I was so thrilled to hear Sally was able to get back on her feet. It makes me want to buy something she made. I will have to look her up! Thank you Etsy and CERF!

  • socalartgal

    socalartgal from GUNBLAZERS said 219 days ago

    What a beautiful and inspiring story! All the very best to you, Sally!

  • Simag

    SimaG from SimaG said 219 days ago

    BEAUTIFUL art <3 and such a wonderful story! Happy Holidays!

  • hvy1aids

    Christine Brown from PipersPiecesNY said 219 days ago

    Such a beautiful story! I am glad I took the time to read it. This goes to show how, supporting those in need can make such a huge difference in such a short time. Kindness and selflessness goes a long way.

  • ickypicky53

    Cheryl Gill from PartyPaperieDesigns said 217 days ago

    Very inspiring & motivating story. This puts so many things into perspective for me & it makes me feel proud to be a shop owner on Etsy. Thank you.

  • 2lbwh4ay

    HypnoticBeauty Line from HypnoticBeautyLine said 216 days ago

    What a truly beautiful story! Yes, this is what life is about! Making a difference in people's life. Especially through a hard ship, as many of us have had a one time or another. Thank you Etsy!

  • patsyspressedflowers

    Patsy Bechtold from PatsysPressedFlowers said 216 days ago

    How frightening and inspiring! To loose your home, all your life’s treasures and Etsy studio to a hurricane must have been a low blow. The key to success; how to turn a negative into a positive! Well done Sally! Love your hanging ornaments!!

  • kimberlykimmons

    Kimberly R. Kimmons from ImperialCouture2016 said 216 days ago

    So wonderful to know that this sweet woman was able to get back on her feet with your help! Etsy and CERF you are Awesome! Thank you for sharing your story! We went through the same hurricane and it was not fun at all! God Bless!

  • livinglifebyfaith1

    Alicia Zoe Garcia from aliciazoegarciaphoto said 215 days ago

    What an inspirational story!

  • Retrodolls1950

    Linda Olsavsky from Retrodolls1950 said 215 days ago

    I am happy to hear she is back in business again. I live in Jacksonville Fl and was also a victim of Hurricane Irma, flooding not only my home but also my place of employment closing it for 6 months. With the help of the Red Cross I was able to get back on my feet. My etsy shop was not effected and I was lucky to have orders coming in at that time. Lesson learned, if you live in Florida , be prepared during Hurricane Season. Insurance, safe place to evacuate and take your prized belongings with you. We are all our own little community and work with each other for the better.

  • 6ulyxcea

    Suzy from NaturesWeeds said 215 days ago

    I love heart warming stories like these.

  • hhodjst3

    Deborah from DeestylisticDesigns said 214 days ago

    Thanks for sharing!

  • geckomeister

    Gina (geckomeister) Moll from geckomeister said 213 days ago

    Thanks for sharing! It is great to see a negative situation turn into a positive outcome! Keep up the great work - you inspire us all!

  • lavruedodson1

    LaVrue Dodson from CardzStudio said 213 days ago

    Thank you for sharing your story. It helps me to think about how prepared I am in case of disaster.

  • mendllbp

    Posh Park from PoshPark said 211 days ago

    wonderful story :) thank you so much

  • beautifiedbeads1

    Angie Aloy from BeautifiedBeads said 206 days ago

    This story made me relive that hurricane I live on the west coast of Florida in Fort Myers, and I remember the sound of the wind it was like a constant whistle. I wound peek out from the edge of the shutter and see my palm trees blown sideways all the plan leaves pointing to the ground. Luckily my town house is concrete blocks and had no damage. But being two weeks with out power at 80-90° weather could make you snappy and grumpy. Thank you Etsy for helping those that need help. Blessing to all fellow Etsy artist's and crafters.

  • iaqvziqr

    Miranda said 197 days ago

    Amazing story

  • qo01ph50

    blytheclothes from ClothesforblytheRU said 179 days ago

    It is very good that there are such funds. It's great when a person can return to their favorite business even after a hurricane!

  • ibbvdk0w

    Lina from DreamArtNatural said 176 days ago

    I'm glad this story has a good ending.

  • 5wlfq4dd

    Elena Mironenko from KnittedBohoStyle said 174 days ago

    It is wonderful that after the elements the master is back in service !!!!

  • gg16xhkr

    Anna from SublimationDesignsAn said 171 days ago

    Starting all over again is a lot of effort

Sign in to add your own