Syracuse woman turns her hobby into a successful business

Syracuse woman finds creative ways to reuse old, unwanted items.

As you’re driving down residential streets, you may spot a woman examining a pile of old furniture or junk tossed in front of someone’s house. Chances are this woman could be Susan Hodell. This is one way she hunts for home goods she can spruce up to sell.

Susan, 32, is a Syracuse local who creates, repurposes and sells handmade and vintage decorative items. She is the founder and owner of Driftwood and Glitter, a local small business she started about nine months ago.

Photo: Stephanie Jade Wong
Susan Hodell sets up items at her booth at the City Market in Armory Square on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015.

“I love bringing new life to old pieces,” she said. “I am busier than ever and couldn’t be happier about that.”

Although Susan went to school for architecture and interior design, she hasn’t always been in the repurposing businesses. She then went to work in real estate for years before realizing she wanted to do something more hands-on and creative. She went back to school to study culinary arts and management, which is how she ended up with her current job as a bartender at Beer Belly Deli and Pub.

Susan said she created Driftwood and Glitter as a side business because she was looking for something to fulfill her creative urge, so she repurposed items. “I started posting pictures of what I made on Facebook and Instagram, and people started offering me money for it,” she said. “I thought, ‘This could be an option.’”

Susan said she didn’t have much faith in herself because she was “just winging it.” She built a website and that was the start of her company. “I like the sound of ‘Driftwood and Glitter,’” Susan said. “It’s just a juxtaposition. I like the idea of something washing up and then you spruce it up. Or you find something that’s a little dinged or dented and you make it fancy or pretty.”

Susan said she looks for pieces wherever she can. “I am on Craigslist like it’s my job,” she said. “I go to all sorts of estate sales, flea markets, and if I drive by something (in front of someone’s house,) I just stomp on the breaks.”

She said she isn’t normally interested in things that are pristine and have never been used. “I love the dings and dents, I feel like that gives it so much character.”

Susan works from home with her boyfriend, Nick West, who is also a bartender and an artist. Nick, 31, said the couple turned their front den into a shared studio. “Sometimes there’s so many projects going on that it almost looks like a hoarder’s place,” he said.

Nick said he goes to flea markets with Susan so she can hunt for treasures. He said one of his favorite things Susan makes are pouf ottomans.

“I have these goofy, bohemian pouf ottomans,” Susan said. “They’re all different colors and don’t match. They’re kind of crazy, but crazy makes a little bit of sense for me.”

Kara Cangemi, Syracuse native, said she’s a huge fan of Susan’s work. “(Susan’s items are) so unique and she can take anything and turn it into something magnificent,” Kara said. “Stuff I wouldn’t even imagine doing anything with, she finds and creates something awesome out of it.”

When Susan brought a bedframe with her to sell at Beer Belly’s Crafts and Drafts event, Kara, 28, said she was interested in purchasing it. “I have a beautiful twin mattress with a hideous bedframe, and I want something exciting,” Kara said.

Susan said her items might not be for everyone. “It might be a little gaudy, and I like that,” she said. “More is more is more.”

She likes items with personality. “It doesn’t have to be old, it just has to have good bones. It has to be cool, just repurposed or vintage or just a little bold, and I like it. It makes me happy.”

Nikki Potocki, who has known Susan for 16 years, said Susan is in her happy place when she’s working on her projects. “She puts all her time and energy into her work from start to finish and you can see the attention to detail in each piece.”

Nikki, 29, said she’s currently waiting on Susan to make her a custom frame design for a vintage sailing poster Susan found for her. “It’s great to know she’s out there keeping an eye out for things to add to my collection,” Nikki said.

Susan said she enjoys creating custom pieces. “It’s whatever you have in your brain that you can’t necessarily do on your own,” she said. “If it doesn’t exist, I’m willing to give it a shot and try to make it.”

She said with the Internet, or what she calls “the Interwebs,” it’s easy to find separate pieces to put together to make one item. “It’ll take a little bit of time, but that’s part of the fun. It’s the hunt (for items.)”

Susan said her business is booming, with recent clients from New York City and New Jersey. She plans to look into retail spaces in Syracuse this spring.

Women in Business

This is inspirational and it's so close to where I live, (rochester)! Where do you plan on opening up your storefront? Is it going to be in the Syracuse area? I'd love to see it!

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