by Tara L. Cale

Become Treasures of the Present Donna Moffitt-McDowell had a very successful career in the medical field. Trained in organ and tissue recovery, she was the head surgeon and head surgical trainer for the Missouri and Illinois Eye-Bank, a charitable, not-for-profit organization with a mission of the preservation and restoration of sight through transplantation, research, education, and partnership. The Eye-Bank recovers donated eye tissue, with consent, for the purposes of corneal transplantation, scleral implantation, vision research, and training. Her days were long and hard, but she loved it. After years of serving in this capacity, she decided to alter her medical focus in order to spend more time with her new husband and switched her practice to patient care. However, a tragic situation in this field rendered her unable to continue in the medical profession. A patient had a psychotic episode and physically assaulted her, throwing a heavy dresser on top of her after throwing her to the ground. It broke her back. Even with surgery, standing for long periods, which was required for her job, was extremely painful. She was forced to retire.

But retirement didn’t agree with Donna. She was used to working with her hands for long periods of time and she was going stir crazy. So she decided to explore options that would use her desire for purpose and her love of many things, including repurposing normally disposed of items and gems from generations past including vintage books and antique glass, which she had been collecting for some time.

She began her artisan journey by creating lovely fence and garden flowers from discarded metal cans.

“Local schools are happy to provide their large empty cans for me to use,” she explained. “Then I cut, assemble and paint them, and add a high-quality sealer, to create beautiful long-lasting flowers for outdoor decor.”

As time progressed, so did Donna’s imagination, and her repertoire of creations expanded.

“As I was out treasure hunting for new pieces for my collections, I kept seeing these beautiful teacups, teapots, and old books that people were just tossing away,” she commented. “I wondered what I could do with these items to create something unique and usable.”

With the books, she took pages and formed them into art – wreaths, wall hangings, etc. Crosses and door swags are often made out of rolled pages from old hymnals. A heart-shaped hanging is made from the pages from The Notebook. She has one custom wreath constructed from the pages of the 1923 edition of Alice in Wonderland, with embellishments such as a small teapot, cup, and saucer for effect.

Teapots, cups, saucers, and similar items were turned into bird feeders and other lawn decor. She had found her niche. And, after accumulating quite an inventory of creations, and getting rave reviews from those she sold them to, she created Hidden Treasures, Crafts & Creations, and is now a primary vendor at Pearl Essence Studio in Staunton.

Items created by Donna include outdoor solar lights for your landscaping, yard, patio, and deck made with repurposed finds such as fence posts and chandeliers. I totally fell in love with the chandeliers! She also makes candy bouquets. And her newest venture is making candles.

“I did a lot of research before starting with the candles. I wanted to use quality ingredients to make sure the burn wasn’t too hot and that the scents were appealing and long-lasting,” she explained.

The containers for her candles ar… old and vintage teacups, teapots, and other old glass that may have otherwise been discarded, but now are part of a unique, hand-crafted item, with a personality all its own!

Donna also makes wax melts, and in the spring plans on introducing a new line of novelty candles with cute sayings on the label like, “You Light Up My Life,” and other trendy, inspirational – and sometimes crass, but funny – sayings.

If you are looking for a gift for someone, for almost any occasion, items for yourself or your home, you are sure to find something among the wide variety of offerings at Pearl Essence Studio. They are located at  301 W. Main in Staunton and open Monday through Saturday, 11 am- 5 pm each day. In addition to the lovely items by Hidden Treasures, Crafts & Creations, expect to find Swarovski and custom made jewelry, floral arrangements, pottery, custom tumblers, t-shirts, baby items, quilled creations, a huge variety of face masks, all-natural health, and beauty aids (lotions, hempseed salves, lip balms, goat milk, diffuser oils, sin cream, beard balms, etc), giftable – and so much more – as the studio is home to over 20 local artisans, all under one roof. Most vendors at Pearl Essence Studio, including Donna, are happy to accommodate special orders.

For more information and photos of the amazing creations from Hidden Treasures, Crafts & Creations, find them on Facebook. Or call/text Donna @ 217-883-9468.

Donna is also employed by Sugar Creek Realty, LLC as the property manager at Highland Villas, located on Herzog Lane in Highland.