A familiar face for the past 30 years at local Bi-Mart stores, Medford resident Terry Davis looks every bit the part of helpful store clerk and petite grandmother.
But what her customers don't know is that the unassuming and humble Davis is a unique artist, skilled in the art of turning dried gourds into stunning works of art that at least one local store owner can't keep from flying off his shelves.
With a slew of grandkids, Davis stumbled onto the hobby almost by accident a half-dozen years ago. She wanted a creative outlet and a way to unwind after a long workday, and she had a stash of dried gourds.
"I used to make teddy bears when the kids were little ... but I got bored with that as the kids got older," she says, noting that a road trip to visit family with her husband, Ted, provided creative fodder when they stumbled across a gourd and vegetable farm in Northern California.
"They had all these wonderful gourds, and they were just really intriguing, so we had picked up a few here and there over the years," she says.
"I kept looking at them and thought, 'I really should do something with them.' I enjoy working with my hands, and I didn't want to waste the gourds, so I looked online and realized there were a lot of beautiful things that could be done."
Going for a look that is both elegant and whimsical, Davis uses a combination of carving, burning and staining to produce some 150 signature creations each year.
A new concept for her is using fiber from the inside of a prickly-pear cactus to add texture to some of her gourds, a look that has been especially popular, she says.
"Before I started doing this, I had never bought a gourd and never realized that so much could be created with them," she says.
"It's really interesting. They say a woodcarver can look at a piece of wood and see what it could become. I see a gourd, and I see some that would make beautiful bowls or vases."
Davis works year-round, spending her evenings on her gourds while relaxing in front of the television, slowly and steadily producing enough gourds to satisfy her creative urge.
Sacred World in Ashland is the exclusive outlet for Davis' "Gourds by Terry," and she makes a trek to Jacksonville once per year for a Labor Day weekend craft fair.
Sacred World owner Kaiyo Racine says Davis' work is unique and extremely popular in his store.
"I normally put a piece or two of hers in the front window, and they really draw people in because they're so unique," Racine says.
"She's very humble about her artistry, but we actually get customers from the Rogue Valley and from out of town who come in and buy two or more and come back the following summer for more."
Even with such a strong following, Davis is modest about her work, saying she is simply doing what she loves.
"I don't just whip them out," she says. "A lot of people do 10 a week, but that's not me. I may take three or four weeks to do a gourd sometimes. I have to be really happy with it before I'll let anyone see it.
"I just enjoy my time that I spend doing this. I love the artistic part of it and using the tools, and I love that each one is so different. I don't consider myself a fancy artist or anything, but I really love doing this and sharing them with people."
"Gourds by Terry" can be purchased at Sacred World, 77 N. Main St. in Ashland, by emailing Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or, she says, "by just stopping by Bi-Mart" on West Main Street in Medford.