Mixed-media and mosaic artist Sue Guzik makes treasures from other peoples’ trash. An upcycler, she owns Fly My Home at 299 Parsonage St., Pittston. She is a graduate of Riverside Junior-Senior High School and Marywood University, where she studied advertising and public relations. She and her husband, Dave, live in Duryea with their dog Casey and cat Poppy.
Meet Sue Guzik…
Can you describe Fly Me Home?
We upcycle. Our goal is to upcycle vintage and recycled materials. We make them into functional and beautiful things, whether it be jewelry or home decor. I do a lot of mosaics and mixed-media art. Dave does things from photo holders to pickle forks and corn cob holders. One of our specialties is repurposed silverware. In my mixed-media artwork, I usually use any kind of old vintage or recycled materials. I am totally self-taught. I took one online course just to make sure I was on the right page and wasn’t forming any bad habits. I like to learn new things and new art forms. I’m a student for life.
Describe the husband/wife dynamic that goes into running Fly Me Home.
Dave has a background in carpentry. He has always helped with building my props and helping me with shows. He gradually started making some things and dabbled in the silverware. Last year, he had a really bad health scare, and we decided it was better that he help me (at the store) and retire from carpentry and construction. Now, he makes a ton of things, and people really enjoy his items, because he is very good at what he does.
How have things evolved as he became more involved?
Five years ago, if I said go to a flea market, he would say, “No way, I’m not going to a flea market.” Now he says, “If you’re not in the car at 4:30 a.m., we’re leaving.” He’s gotta be there, and he’s more into flea markets than I am now. He loves going. He specializes in the silverware, and my specialty is mosaic and the mixed-media art, but a lot of our things overlap, and we create a lot of things together. Our style is very eclectic, and we just let the materials speak for themselves.
How did you come upon the name Fly Me Home?
I love birds, and my dad loved birds. Our house is like an aviary right now. There are birds flying everywhere. I wanted a bird in my logo. I was driving home one day; I had had a bunch of names picked out. I thought to myself, “I’m going to fly home … fly me home.” It just popped into my head. I really wanted something to do with a bird and stuff to do with your home.
Tell me about how you learned art and what made you land on mixed-media?
I was a graphic artist for 15 years, then we were outsourced. It had run its course. I was sick of sitting at a desk. I always loved reinventing stuff since I was a kid. I was the youngest of four, so I always had hand-me-downs. I would reinvent them into something else. My parents were avid antique collectors. I grew up with the appreciation of old, vintage and antique stuff. Originally with the repurposing, we bought our house 20 years ago. We were just married and had no money. I was watching a lot of fun TV shows that were about repurposing and decorating. I’ve always had an interest in decorating and interior design. I love color, so that’s how I started. I redecorated our house with repurposed stuff.
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned either from running a business or through teaching yourself the craft?
I would say, anymore I just try to create what I love and create from the heart. I don’t always try to please people (with what I create), and I just do what I love. I think people realize that and they respond to it. My skin has gotten thicker over the years, and I’ve learned from my mistakes and my customers and their reactions. Thankfully they’re normally good, but I’m always trying to make myself a better artist. The support of the community and the handmade community is great. People appreciate us as a family business and have even embraced us as a family.
Can you describe a particularly memorable custom piece you’ve created?
Dave makes baby spoon rings and a lot of custom work. A lot of people bring us their baby spoons, and he’ll make something out of them. I do a lot of reinventing of peoples’ broken things, and a lot of them have special meaning. This woman, her sister died of breast cancer. (Before she died), she bought her sister these plaques that had a very special poem written on them, and she hid them so they would find them after they died. Hers broke; it was totally broken. I pieced it back together and made it into a wall hanging for her. It was just a plate, but it means a lot to somebody.
What is something you wish more people knew about this form of art?
I hand-cut every single piece and fit it together. It’s not inexpensive, but I try to keep my prices reasonable. If some people don’t have an appreciation for the art or don’t know what goes into (it), they may think it’s just glass sprinkled into glue. It’s blood, sweat, no tears, but lots of blood. It’s a physically demanding art form and requires a lot of patience. But I love it, and I get in the zone; the time just flies by.
What other hobbies and interests do you have?
We love to hike and kayak with our dog. She likes to go places. I’m a big reader. If we’re not at the shop, we’re trying to be outside. We love national parks, and any time we can visit or hike, we try to do that. I love the Grand Canyon; it’s my favorite place on Earth. We river rafted the Grand Canyon, and that was really life-changing.
Can you pinpoint a person, event or period of time that has been particularly influential for you?
I met the right people who pushed me in a way I needed at the right time. We met them at a yard sale. We got to talking, and they are business owners at a very young age and are very successful. When you see someone else doing it, you just get inspired, and it builds a fire in you and (you) think, “Why can’t I do this? These people are fearless.” Plus, we did not have children, so we had more opportunity with time. They were just fearless people. They’re doing tremendously today. When someone tells you you should do something, what’s the worst thing that could happen? It’s just that you’ll fail from it. If you surround yourself with people who are motivated, hopefully it’s going to motivate you. Other than that, last year, Dave was told he had a very bad form of cancer. He didn’t. For a month, we thought he did. Being told that he had cancer, and being so sick, then finding out that you don’t have cancer has changed us in ways and showed us a different perspective. Our customers knew because we were closed a lot at the time. They still ask how he’s doing. They brought me food; it was very touching. Everybody needs that wake-up call, and we thankfully got one and were able to get through it, and he’s better than ever.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I would love to write a craft book some day about repurposing inherited items. A lot of the generation coming up doesn’t understand that something can be repurposed. If we can make it into something functional like a bracelet or a necklace or a wind chime, anything, that they can enjoy it and give them a memory of a person. Otherwise it might sit in a drawer. The feedback that we get back from customers makes me feel very warm and fuzzy inside. We make from our heart and what makes us happy and try to be good people. We’re very grateful to do what we love and have success.
Emma Black is a photographer and writes Up Close and Personal, which spotlights people from all walks of life in NEPA who have a unique skill, craft, talent or trade. She is a graduate of Abington Heights High School and University of Scranton, where she studied journalism and electronic media. Emma has been with Times-Shamrock Communications since 2016 and enjoys playing, coaching and following soccer; exploring international cuisine; and doing arts and crafts in her free time. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100; @emmablack_13