All Susie Silver needs is old belts, bottle caps, earrings, chains and coins to create a one-of-a-kind pin.
On the coffee table in Susie Silver-Fink’s house sits an “inside-out box.” It’s covered in items that usually would live inside the box: buttons, thimbles, broken pottery, dominos, old toys, small jewelry, you name it.
On the wall off the kitchen hangs a sideways bread tin, though she’s never made a loaf of bread in her life. She uses the bread tin as a small shelving unit. She calls it the best decorating item she could find. Silver-Fink, who’s known simply as Susie Silver, likes to combine things that are unexpected. She said that when decorating, different dimensions make things look interesting.
That’s clear when you walk into her home. It’s full of Silver-Fink’s creations. Paintings and collages line the walls. Three wooden purse handles hang under the paintings in her living room. Broken dish pieces make a tile pattern on the bottom of her kitchen counter. An old trunk adds character in the living room. A coffee tin does the same in the kitchen.
“I like everything to work with each other,” she said. “They stand on their own, but they’re also friends with everybody else in the neighborhood.”
Walls aren’t the only outlet of her creativity. Tucked in her bedroom are two drawers full of jewelry pins. She handmade each of them, and not one is the same. It’s a hobby she started about 20 years ago.
It all started with a watch collection. Silver-Fink, who did decorating while living in Ann Arbor, Mich., and her friend bought a watch collection for $8,000. Silver-Fink had no idea what they were going to do with the collection, but then it clicked. Silver-Fink started making small pictures with the watch parts and realized she could make pins out of the creations.
Silver-Fink jokes she has enough supplies to last her until the year 3000. Most of the material used for her pins are recycled: chains, coins, bottle caps, necklaces, belts, earrings. She usually finds belts at Goodwill, and calls herself the consummate thrift store and garage sale person.
Through the years, she’s collected other pieces from flea markets, garage sales and friends who she’s taught to never throw anything away.
“But I think that’s like the epitome of recycling,” she said. “And everything that’s in the pins is not biodegradable, so you might as well live with it and look at it.”
When searching for pieces, Silver-Fink looks for unique items.
She credits the appearance of her pins to her good eye, imagination and ability to tell how something will look before it’s completed.
After Silver-Fink started making and wearing her pins, people started asking her about them.
Silver-Fink sells the pins starting at $35. She teaches classes in her home and at the Bayport Beach and Tennis Club’s clubhouse. She has donated some to silent auctions and had a table at last year’s Longboat Key Garden Club Home Tour.
She said she doesn’t make a profit off the sales and donates some of the money to charity.
She takes about two or three days out of the month to make her creations and can make about 10 to 12 pins in a day.
For Silver-Fink, making the pins is an outlet for creativity. Her husband, Irving Fink, said his wife is a visual person, and because he’s a more literal person, he leaves the creativity to his wife.
He said he just takes orders, but Silver-Fink said there’s another reason for that.
“I don’t take input well,” she said.
“Well, that’s true, too,” Fink said.