If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Susan Reu (pronounced “roy,” like Freud) in my time working with her, it’s that she is SO ready for a Creative Reuse center to happen in Atlanta. Sometimes, I wonder if she even eats food, letting this desire be what sustains her and keeps her going. It’s understandable, though, since she’s been at it a good year longer than the rest of us. By “rest of us,” I mean myself [Sally Shelton], Sydney Ellis Gaskins, and Kerry Hill, three women who happened upon Susan’s efforts to start a Creative Reuse center in Atlanta through, of all things, a Google search. In fact, if it weren’t for her and all that lonesome work she did, we wouldn’t be here today. So is Susan Reu the mother of WonderRoot Creative Reuse? I think she would blush and stammer at the concept—telling us that’s just too far an assessment—but, really, how else would we be here?
Every week for nearly a year we have met at a coffeehouse, yet I don’t know how you take your coffee. Susan Reu, how do you take your coffee?
With milk and artificial sweetener, although at home I’ve switched to Stevia.
Tell me about how you started your Creative Reuse efforts, the time period before meeting Sydney, Kerry, me, and the rest of the gang? What was that like for you?
It was very lonely. Everything seemed daunting. I did research online, made a web site, and talked to some people, but I didn’t make real progress until you guys came along! I read a newspaper article about creative reuse centers in Spring of 2009, and my reaction was immediate: we need this here; I can do it! My job was outsourced then, so I had time to work on starting a nonprofit. By September, when my severance package ran out, I had to switch gears and find a job, so I put creative reuse on hold — until you and Sydney came along in Spring of 2010. Sydney found me through Facebook, and you found me through another creative reuse center that I’d contacted. The rest is history!
How long have you lived in Atlanta?
Since 1985. I had moved from a small town in SC to New York City in 1981. After several years in New York, I wanted to move back to the South but not to a small town. So Atlanta seemed like the perfect in-between kind of place. And I had some friends here from college. (UGA, Journalism, 1980)
How do you feel about doing a project like this in Atlanta, of all places? Would you have done this anywhere else?
Before 2009, I had never heard of creative reuse centers, didn’t know they existed. As soon as I learned about them, I knew we needed one here — I think that would have been the case no matter where I was — unless I was in a place that already had one. Metro Atlanta is so sprawling that I can imagine creative reuse centers one day in East Atlanta, Cobb, Gwinnett, DeKalb, North Fulton, Henry County, Rockdale, you name it. One day they will be as common as thrift stores, or almost. There is plenty of stuff to go around. We just need to get people’s attention so they’ll stop throwing all that stuff away.
What about creative reuse appeals to you? What drew you to it in the first place?
The potential for making neat stuff, cheap. Turning trash into treasure. Helping people like teachers find materials they can use without spending a lot. The more I learned about it, the more I realized how much stuff people throw away that other people can use. For months, this slogan was in my head: “We can use that!”
Besides WonderRoot Creative Reuse, what else do you make?
Mainly I make dinner. I have to admit, I’m mostly a crafter wannabe. I like having craft materials, but I rarely set aside the time to make anything. The most fun was when I helped to entertain a young child, a few years back, and making stuff was always a good way to engage her. Then, she would lose interest and I would finish the projects on my own. Cutting out bits of construction paper and gluing them onto things, stuff like that.
What are you most looking forward to see happen with WRCR?
I am most looking forward to workshops, like, OK, now we have all kinds of stuff, what can we make with it?
How do you spend your free time? Creative reuse is my free time, just ask Brownie! I have a part-time freelance gig with my friend Carol Harrison’s design firm, TH Design, where I help with writing, editing and proofreading along with other non-design-related tasks. And I help my dad with bookkeeping for his business, Archadeck of Central South Carolina. So I keep busy.
If you could be an art supply, what would you be?
If I could be an art supply, I would be a glass bowl filled with seashells. I love seashells. The closer you look at them, the more fascinating they are, the detail, whether they’re perfect or a bit banged up. The subtle colors. The similarities and the differences. If I worked with seashells, I would want to magnify them.
Besides WonderRoot Creative Reuse, what’s another highlight in your life?
Just out of college, I stepped back from job-hunting and said, if I could do anything in the world, what would it be? The answer was book publishing. So I learned about the field, took a course over the summer, met some folks, went to New York and got a job. I found that it was any easy field to get into, because of the turnover at entry level. The down side was you had to “read” books overnight, and edit on the weekends, it takes over your life. It was like working in a candy store — too much candy! And it was sad to see “good” books fail because they weren’t commercial enough. After four years, I had to get out.
What about your previous jobs/life experiences have you enjoyed, and how do you think that will translate into WRCR?
I have enjoyed getting to know all kinds of people. Each person has her/his own little spark of creativity — sometimes not so little! — and WonderRoot Creative Reuse will be the perfect place to be around that and to play a part in nurturing creativity — including mine!