These 2 women make Birmingham beautiful. Find out how. (MURAL PHOTOS)

bendyknees design company
Levi Axleigh and Jordan Thompson at Yellowstone National Park “right after we decided to officially start our art journey together as bendyknees design company.” Photo courtesy of bendyknees design company

Who doesn’t love murals and public art in Birmingham? Meet Jordy and Levi, two artists with bendyknees design company and Blank Space Bham and get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making public art. And, keep reading ’till the end for details about Birmingham’s first-ever mural festival August 1-8 in Woodlawn.

1. bendyknees design company is all about art and community. 🎨

Jordy and Levi at The Moonstone Festival
Jordy and Levi at The Moonstone Festival. Photo by Jeremiah Smith Photography

Levi and Jordy, who’ve been making art together since 2018, are the women behind bendyknees design company.

Levi and I actually used to work together at Trader Joe’s, where she was a sign-maker and I was secretly interviewing everyone I met. She took a couple of twists and turns since leaving there, but it didn’t take her long to decide to make art full time.

Here’s what Levi had to say about their work:

“With the revitalization that’s going on in Birmingham, art plays such an integral role.

We started small, doing chalkboard and menu pieces for local businesses. Then we did some some black and white murals indoors.

One of the things we really strive to do is as bendyknees is make art as inclusive as possible—we love doing public art-based pieces. We love making more meaningful artwork on a bigger scale.”

Jordy did theater and set design at UAB. She also bartended and did creative projects on her own, including making plush toys. Jordy’s learned most of what she knows about painting on the job since Levi brought her on as an assistant at bendyknees design company.

Levi explained “since I was working on large-scale projects, it was easier and faster if she came to help set up scaffolding and ladders. It made sense for her to pick up a paintbrush, and since she was already a creative, I said ‘you’ve got this.'”

2. bendyknees design company works with clients and neighborhoods.

bendyknees design company painting signs at Trove
Painting signs at Trove, a local home and design shop in Woodlawn. Photo courtesy of bendyknees design company

The pair have tackled murals, design projects and hand-lettering as well as set and prop design.

Here’s the process for creating a mural:

  • Client reaches out.
  • They photograph the space.
  • Levi creates digital rendering on her iPad to show the client.
  • Once approved, they prep the space by chalking it out, custom mixing and labeling colors, then setting up as a “paint-by-numbers” mock-up of the design.
  • They color block between the lines.
  • Finally, they go in and clean up lines.

Ta da! A finished mural brightens up a previously nondescript space, and another Instagram-worthy spot is born. 📸

Window murals at The Summit 🖼

bendyknees design company painting the Eye Movement Mural
bendyknees design company painting the Eye Movement Mural next to Chuy’s at The Summit. Photo courtesy of bendyknees design company

They recently completed a large window mural at The Summit next to Chuy’s. The thing that makes mural-painters the happiest is when someone shows them a big blank wall and says “do whatever you want.”

According to the pair, The Summit has really embraced local artists. Now instead of printing vacancy vinyls when a business closes, they hire local artists to create something new.

Tea and bees in New Mexico ☕️🐝🌺

Levi scored an invitation to a mural-painting competition in her hometown of Ruidoso, New Mexico, via a childhood friend who followed her work on Instagram.

While the pair didn’t win, the chance to go to New Mexico to paint the largest mural they’ve done to date was a win. They also got to be part of a community of mural-painters who were all working on big public art projects. You can find this one on the side of the Old Barrell Tea Company.

Women in public art are rarer than you’d think.

Louise at Ski Apache
Louise the Van at Ski Apache, the mountain where Levi grew up. Photo courtesy of bendyknees design company

The majority of established street artists Levi and Jordy meet are men. They “love inspiring other women that they can do this too.”

The pair bought an old Alabama Power van (now named “Louise”) with shelving for their scaffolding and ladders. They love the surprised looks on people’s faces when they pull up in the massive van and start pulling their scaffolding out.

4. Levi and Jordy also paint with Blank Space Bham.

Levi and Jordy do a lot of public art in collaboration with Blank Space Bham, founded by Meghan McCollum.

Blank Space Bham is currently female-run and female-led, with four women artists: Meghan, Lydia Walker, a Miles College student who moved to Birmingham from LA, Levi and Jordy. You can find their work all over Birmingham, and in unlikely places like Wetumpka, too.

Marks Village Housing Project in Gate City

One of their favorite community art projects was at Marks Village in Gate City, just off Oporto-Madrid and Crestwood Boulevard.

In an effort to reduce crime in an area with 17 exits and entrances, the Housing Authority erected 210 traffic barriers. Blank Space Bham collaborated with over 250 residents throughout the neighborhood to help turn the barriers into a community-based art project.

5. Have a project? How Bendyknees + Blank Space Bham can help.

Blank Space Bham

Want something community-driven? Bendyknees design can help you through Blank Space Bham. 99% of these projects have one or more of the following:

  • a day where the community can be involved
  • a roundtable discussion
  • rendering phase with community input on what the drawings should be

Meghan McCollum, the founder of Blank Space Bham, will pass off some jobs to Bendyknees, depending on the fit. “She’s totally embraced us doing our own thing and we try to push as much business to her as we can.”

Contact: Meghan McCollum | Email | Website | Instagram

Bendyknees Design Company

bendykneesdesign company at The Summit
“Hand made ornaments we created for The Summit’s North Pole exhibition / Santa station. They were on display for the month of December.” Photo by Molly Sinclair Thomas

Generally, if people reach out to Levi and Jordy personally, they’ll take the project on if they feel like it’s a fit. If the scale of the project calls for a full team, they’ll refer it to Blank Space.

Here are some of the things they’ve done:

  • set for photo opps (birthday parties, dog birthday parties)
  • installation pieces for weddings, music festivals
  • backdrops
  • life-size candy canes and ornaments for North Pole with Santa

Basically, if you can show them an idea, they can build it.

Contact: Jordy and Levi | Email | Instagram | 205.937.2568

6. Mark your calendar: Blank Space Bham’s Magic City Mural Festival 📆

If you love the idea of more women creating public art, you’re gonna want to mark your calendar for Blank Space Bham’s inaugural Magic City Mural Festival.

When: August 1-8, 2020
Where: Woodlawn
What: female-led, female-featured mural festival

What can you expect? Seven walls in Woodlawn within walking distance of each other will be painted by women artists after consultation with local business owners. On the 8th of August, they’re expecting to have some sort of block / reveal party for the murals and a celebration of community.

Ideally, Blank Space Bham hopes to do this every year in a different community.

Now tell us, Birmingham, which other mural painters do you want to learn more about? Tag us on social @bhamnow and let us know!

Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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