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Bringing the Outside In

Artist Susie Frazier infuses home design with nature.

Patrick Fraser, used with permission.
Patrick Fraser, used with permission.

Many people have spent more time at home in the past year than they ever imagined they would. How can they continue to enhance their space? Artist Susie Frazier would say the answer lies in nature. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Frazier creates installations, sculptures, and home goods that center around a connection to the natural world. As she explores in her book, Designing for Wellness, Frazier strives to harness the power of nature to support her own mental health and to help others do the same.

How can home design incorporate nature?

I try to bring the outside inside. I use organic matter that I’ve found in the woods or on the beach as a core element in my home. These items become a totem of reclamation. There’s a tactile quality to rugged textures, imperfect edges, and asymmetry, and natural materials bring a sense of connectedness.

When we think about art, I’m a huge fan of artifacts, things that have some kind of backstory. Besides the fact that one-of-a-kind treasures are fabulous conversation pieces, they also tether us to our identity and past. I have collections of natural, tactile elements, like bowls of rocks I’ve found on walks and a basket of feathers from years of hiking in the woods.

I feel most at home in the middle of a forest. I like to get lost in the patterns on the underside of a mushroom or close enough to see new fractals growing beneath old bark. It allows me to identify with nature’s cycle of discarding and renewal. As I look at my own life, evolving and molting—shedding layers that no longer serve me—I see the sadness that change or loss can bring, but nature reminds me that this cycle is part of life.

I have a property out in Pennsylvania, and one of my favorite things there is an ancient oak tree. Years ago, somebody must have marked off the boundary using barbed wire, and that barbed wire was wrapped around this tree in a way that was obviously constrictive. But the tree just grew around it. You can see all the new growth molding itself over the top of the barbed wire. It’s an amazing metaphor for “life goes on.”