Story by Katie McDowell
“When I started doing these frames, you didn’t see a lot of handmade frames,” Donna said.
She began entering arts and crafts shows, including many along the Gulf Coast, where she would occasionally meet Hurricane Katrina victims.
“Sometimes I would run into people who would say, ‘I need some frames because I lost all my frames.’ I would say, ‘OK, which one do you want?’” she recalled.
Donna said art has provided an emotional outlet for her over the years, and she was happy to share her art with others.
“When you’re going through trying times, being creative can help you get through your pain,” she said. “I’m so happy I’ve been able to immerse myself in something that can take my mind to another place that gives me joy.”
The Smiths returned to Shelby County several years ago to be closer to family, and Donna continued making frames, with the help of J.J., who cuts large pieces of wood and regularly attends arts and crafts shows.
Her work can be found throughout their Harpersville home — a table made from a shutter, a brightly painted chest and picture frames everywhere.
While she has no plans to stop making frames, she imagines some new project will catch her eye in the future.
“What I’ve found is I can’t seem to stay with one thing,” she said.
The creative bug bit her as a child, when she would use Popsicle sticks to create her masterpieces. She worked in the banking industry for much of her adult life, but still found time to create.
In the mid-90s, she became enamored with ornate vintage silverware, which she used to create jewelry that she still wears today. Several years later, she moved on to making jewelry out of broken china.
While she does some custom work through the stores that sell her frames, Donna typically encourages admirers to tap into their creative side and learn to make their own art.
“You can’t be afraid to ask for help,” she said. “Everyone has an artistic side, you just have to take the time to find it.”
Vintage Coastal Frameworks is available at Once Upon a Time in Homewood, The Blue Willow in Cahaba Heights, Pharm South Drug Store in Mt Laurel, Serendipity in Hoover and the Chelsea Antique Mall.