By Nina Polien Light | Photo by Gery Petrof
“Fast forward about three years, and I find out that I have free-radical damage in my blood from the stone dust landing on my skin while cutting on a wet saw,” Frazier, now the owner of Susie Frazier Showroom, says. “I had to shut down that business.”
After regaining her health, getting married, and having three children, Frazier discovered a new way to merge her creative side with the love of nature she developed while growing up in Arizona and Colorado. Best of all, her new aesthetic — which she dubbed earthminded style — would not compromise her health or the environment.
“Earthminded style begins with an awareness of the humble resources that are readily available to us, whether it’s reclaimed wood, salvaged steel or fallen earth fragments,” she says. “It’s about seeing the beauty found in the imperfections as a means to honoring the beauty found within ourselves.”
Today Frazier is just as likely to fashion furniture, home décor or fine art from a twig she finds in a park as she is from the reclaimed wood and metal she procures from Cleveland’s industrial landscape. Her creations form the basis for Susie Frazier Showroom, the business she launched inside of 78th Street Studios in 2011. The company consists of three facets: fine art, geared mostly to commercial clients; the home accessories, gifts, and apparel featured in her 1,000-square-foot showroom (plus about 600 square feet in 78th Street Studios’ common area); and a wholesale division, in which Frazier recently partnered with Rustbelt Reclamation, a high-end custom furniture maker that uses reclaimed wood in its designs.
“They wanted to enter the home accessories market and were looking for an ally,” Frazier says, adding her new partners are introducing her pieces to the national and global marketplace.
Frazier credits part of her success to her parents’ insistence that she earn a degree in communications rather than in the arts because it allowed her to pursue a career in the art world with a “clean slate, business background, and even a psychological background because how we communicate (with clients, vendors, and employees) affects everything we do.”
In just two years, Frazier grew out of her showroom space. Last year she increased the square footage and added a restaurant to attract new visitors. This year’s product sales are three times higher than they were at the same time last year, she says.
Being a hands-on entrepreneur has earned the respect of her mostly male colleagues at salvage yards.
“They want to support a woman who is OK getting dirty and hauling raw material and doesn’t wait for a man to help her,” she says.
Along with running her business and cheering on her children’s soccer teams, Frazier is the president of Leta Records, which represents a local indie band, The Speedbumps.
Her life is busy, but she would not have it otherwise. Accepting that the balance of work life and home life shifts periodically is critical for women, Frazier says.
“Find your voice and find your talents, gifts, tastes, personality, and what makes you special,” she says. “Hone that to the point where you are an expert and go for it.”