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The Queen of Re-Purposing, Cornelia Davis

Now that’s what I’m talking about! Cornelia “walks the talk” when it comes to re-purposing. She’s all about making the most of her stuff; but it’s so much more than that! Being raised on Romania taught her lessons that unleashed a bounty of creativity and resourcefulness.  “Of course, things are different now. Back then, it was very difficult for a creative person in Romania. The arts were not valued,” she says.


I met Cornelia several years ago, when I was working on a huge backdrop for an Easter production at a local church. She was a volunteer at the church, and did not introduce herself as an artist. In fact, she still seems reluctant to use this title for herself. However, she combines a true gift for creating beautiful pieces with the ability to make something wonderful out of practically anything at all- and I call that art!

At her home, Cornelia showed me her extensive garden and various projects in progress. She explained that nearly everything in her house is from garage sales and other places where one would find stuff that no one else seems to want. She uses broken bits of stained glass to create mosaics, and the backing from sample books of fabrics and wall paper along with used coffee filters to create boards for her pastel work. Furniture is repaired and re-upholstered. Old sinks and other containers become planters.

The basket of used coffee filters on the left become boards for pastel pictures (right).

The basket of used coffee filters on the left become boards for pastel pictures (right).

Here’s something you may not have seen: cool purses made from old video tapes. You know, the kind that you used to play on your VCR? Most of us no longer have working VCR’s, so Cornelia had to find a use for the tapes. And what about those newspapers no one reads any more? Cornelia has turned many a newspaper into a cool basket, or, combined with an old watering can, a planter.

Purses made from video tapes

Purses made from video tapes

“I guess you could call me a ‘practical artist.’ I don’t know if that’s the same thing as ‘utilitarian.’ I find stuff, and I have to ask, ‘what can I do with it?’ Then I end up with way too much stuff- that’s the danger of it!”

Cornelia and her husband, Wayne, told me of life in Romania, years ago. They have lived in America for about 20 years now, and Wayne is from America; but they met in Romania, where Cornelia still has family. (Their son was born there.) They spoke of waiting all morning just to carry home a loaf of bread, and going to the store to find only pickles and tomato paste on the shelf, and having hot water only occasionally.

Stained glass platters by Cornelia Davis

Stained glass platters by Cornelia Davis

“I used to think that if I ever had money I’d buy all new things and stop all this re-purposing and recycling, but now I know it’s just part of who I am. People don’t always understand the value of what they have. I could go out and buy new clothes or furniture, but I never will.”

Baskets made from rolled newspaper

Baskets made from rolled newspaper

Another great thing about this woman is that she can draw & paint. It was dark when I got around to taking photos, so I don’t know if you can tell how lovely her painting is in this robin’s egg picture, which features a collage of actual sticks & grass, as well as mat & frame of found objects.

Robin's nest collage by Cornelia Davis

Robin’s nest collage by Cornelia Davis

I hope to interview more artists who re-purpose materials in the future. With all the challenges we face, perhaps these wonderful people will bring a smile to your face and inspiration to your life.

About Mollie Walker Freeman

I am a fine art painter, & I am studying to be a health coach at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

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