Deborah Fisher is an artist from Long Island who is harnessing the power of an email newsletter to grow her handmade business.
Deborah was my very first consulting client (I’ve had 19 more since – book an hour with me). At the time she’d just finished the manuscript for her second book and was ready to map out the next stage of her work. Deborah’s books focus on sewing and quilting (see my review of her first book), but she’s an all-around talented visual artist and can apply her skills and aesthetic to many different mediums.
“I feel that I am a Maker,” she says. “I have tried many titles on for size – Artist, Designer, Quilter, Sewist, Craftsperson – but, although it is harder to define, Maker seems to be what fits me best. I am a maker of objects, an idea generator.”
When her father, a retired rabbi, signed the two of them up to take a ceramics class together she found herself falling in love with clay, a medium she hadn’t explored for many years. Incorporating her love of textiles she began making clever, whimsical pincushions shaped like unicorns, giraffes, dogs, and faces.
Each piece is hand painted and glazed. The cushions are filled with walnut shells. She adorns pin heads with polymer clay shapes so that each cushion has some special pins to stick in.
Deborah posted pictures of her pincushions on Instagram and got enough positive feedback that she decided to vend at QuiltCon 2017 in Savannah, driving down with her family in a rented minivan. The response at the show was extraordinary. When I sat down with her for a cup of coffee on the Sunday morning of the show she’d sold out of over a hundred pieces. When it was over she headed home to make more.
The Fish Museum and Circus booth at QuiltCon 2017.
Her father had bought a kiln in his enthusiasm for the pottery class which Deborah has now moved it to her house so that she can be more productive. Still, ceramics is a multi-stage process and is time intensive. Each piece is unique and entirely handmade.
When eager requests for pincushions came in (such as this one on Instagram: “When will you have more in your shop?? I need this, or something like this in my life”) Deborah began pointing people to her email newsletter signup explaining that those on her list would to be the first to know when new stock was ready.
The Fish Museum and Circus newsletter goes out on the first and third Thursdays of the month and Deborah is using MailChimp as her email service provider.
“Twice a month seems to be manageable for me,” she says. Although Deborah does have a blog, she finds blogging to be overly time-consuming and not something she can keep up with regularly. The newsletter feels much more doable. “My email newsletter has been a great combination of social media and blogging,” she says. ” I hope that the newsletter gets my ideas across briefly, but in more detail than on Instagram.”
Her newsletter format remains consistent each time:
- An introduction
- The circus section that “tells a little about what craziness is going on in the studio and life”
- The museum section which is the shop update
- and the mixed media matters section where she highlights other makers of interest.
Thread pooping unicorns ready to be glazed.
Although her email list isn’t large (350 people to date) she is using it strategically and with great success.
Last week Deborah had 32 new pincushions and thread pooping unicorns (her newest product) to list in her shop. She sent the newsletter in the morning letting her subscribers know what time the new listings would go live and giving them a preview of what the items looked like.
Orders packed and ready to go.
“I listed everything at 7 pm. Everything was gone in 7 minutes.” She didn’t even have time to post them on Instagram. “Now I tell anyone who asks that they need to sign up for the newsletter if they really want to know about the shop.”
Deborah’s list isn’t large, but that doesn’t matter. The combination of a charming product plus an engaging newsletter sent regularly has led to fantastic success.
If you need to start an email newsletter of your own, but aren’t sure what to put in it, try my ebook, How to Create a Powerful Email Newsletter: A Comprehensive Guide for Creatives. And if you’d like more guidance my ecourse Email Marketing Jumpstart will take you through every step.