If you drive on the campus of Davis & Elkins College and look around, you will see brightly colored birdhouses adorning the trees. These crafts were designed, created and painted by sophomore Churchill Davenport.
Davenport came to D&E from Baltimore, where his lives with his parents and sister. He began making his unique creations at the age of 14 after his family moved to Maryland from New York.
Davenport said no one taught him about construction, so he figured it out by himself.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Above, Davis & Elkins College sophomore Churchill Davenport looks high into a tree at one of 46 birdhouses that grace the campus. Davenport uses recycled materials to construct his creations.
"I began gathering materials and decided to teach myself how to make birdhouses," he said. "At first, I used sandpaper to make my angles, because I did not have very many tools and really did not know much about construction."
Davenport said his mom gave him an ancient sander and jigsaw, and he began to gather new tools as he learned how to use them and what they were used for.
"Learning about the tools and construction helped me with theater program in high school," he said. "I helped build sets and stages with my skills."
In their home in Baltimore, Davenport has a studio where he constructs and paints his birdhouses.
"I love to make these and see how they turn out," he said. "I really enjoy painting them and hanging them into the trees."
Sometimes Davenport sells his creations.
"I sold 70 of my birdhouses when I was in middle school," he said. "I have sold them in craft shows, art shows and to friends who like them."
Davenport said he makes his houses when he is at home.
"There are too many other things to do when I am at school like studying, playing with friends and going to classes," Davenport said. "When I am at home, I have time to spend creating and painting them."
It only takes about an hour to build each birdhouse, Davenport said, because he now has a power nailer. Davenport said he uses broken chairs, scrap wood, feathers, wire and as many other items he can find to reuse.
"If I had to purchase new wood, they would be very expensive to make," he said. "This way I can make many more houses and put the items to good use."
The birdhouses are shaped uniquely and some of them resemble different things.
"One in the tree near Halliehurst looks like a dragon, and one near the science center looks like an acorn," Davenport said. "I try to use lots of detail so they don't look boring."
Davenport said he uses four screws on the bottom of each birdhouse so they can be emptied and cleaned, and he replaces any parts that wear out.
"The birdhouses are meant to be like my paintbrushes," Davenport said. "I use the brushes until all of the bristles fall out and I have used them all I can."
Chickadees and doves are Davenport's favorite birds to watch in his birdhouses.
"The doves are not able to fit inside the houses," he said. "They just usually sit on top."
He is majoring in biology at D&E with a minor in physics and sustainability studies.
"I would like to think the birds appreciate what I am doing for them," Davenport added. "Birds are here to stay and I want to make it easier for them."
Davenport's birdhouses have been featured at the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore and are displayed on the outside of Big Bear Cafe at Bloomingdale Farmer's Market in Washington, D.C.
For more information about Davenport's birdhouses, go to cbirdhouses.blogspot.com.