Friday Five With Maya Bird-Murphy

Maya Bird-Murphy is an architectural designer, educator and maker from Oak Park, Illinois. She is also the founder and Executive Director of Chicago Mobile Makers, an award-winning nonprofit organization bringing design-focused skill-building workshops to underrepresented communities. Maya believes that architecture should not be a privilege, and must expand to accommodate more people through teaching and community engagement. She loves Chicago and hopes to make her mark by making it a more equitable place to live. Today Maya joins us for Friday Five!


Photo: Christopher Hoerdmann

1. Chicago
I love my city! I’ve lived in or near Chicago for most of my life, and I don’t think I’ll ever live anywhere else. We have 77 neighborhoods, and skyscrapers, and beaches, and trains, and so much good food, and lots of beauty! I live in a neighborhood that’s next to the North Branch of the Chicago River, and I love going on runs and biking along the river path. My neighborhood gives me the perfect combination of nature and city. Chicago is a mixture of positives and negatives, and hopefully one day it will become an equitable place where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.


Photo: Roland

2. Piano
I’ve played the piano since age four and took about 12 years of classical private lessons. It got a bit too intense, so I quit in high school to prioritize school and sports. Even though I haven’t consistently played throughout the years, the piano has been a constant in my life. I always know it’s there for me during stressful times. I recently started casual adult lessons and that’s bringing me a lot of joy.


Image courtesy Sonnenzimmer

3. Sonnenzimmer
Sonnenzimmer is by far my favorite local artist. I remember the first time I saw their work years back at Flagstock / Pitchfork Music Festival, and I was immediately drawn in. I don’t know how to describe it, but something about the shapes and colors and overlap meshes so well with my aesthetic. Watching them evolve throughout the years has been really gratifying. I’m no art collector, but I have multiple Sonnenzimmer pieces hanging in my apartment.

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Photo: Maya Bird-Murphy

4. Housemates – Plants & Pets
I have too many plants and too many pets. I started collecting plants when I moved back from college into my first apartment. I didn’t have any pets at the time, so plants became my companions. I had some trouble keeping them alive at first, but over the years I’ve learned a few things and now plants are in every room of my apartment. I started collecting pets a few years back. I couldn’t have a dog in that first apartment, so I got a chinchilla named Iago. Now I also have two Australian Shepherds named Juniper and Finn. My housemates keep me busy.

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Image courtesy Trello

5. Trello
What would I do without Trello?! Trello helps me set and keep deadlines, track future opportunities and organize files and links. It also makes delegating tasks easy. Trello has made me a more productive and more sane human. Highly recommended!

Work by Maya Bird-Murphy:

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Photo: Tom Harris

About a year ago, Chicago Mobile Makers bought a used USPS delivery van with the intention of converting it into a mobile design studio. We recently finished the Mobile Makerspace! It features birch plywood storage, ample workspace, soft bench seating, solar panels and more.

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Photo: Tom Harris

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Photo: Tom Harris

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Photo: Tom Harris

Kelly Beall is Director of Branded Content at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based writer and designer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, from Fashion Plates to MoMA and far beyond. When not searching out the visual arts, she's likely sharing her favorite finds with others. Kelly can also be found tracking down new music, teaching herself to play the ukulele, or on the couch with her three pets – Bebe, Rainey, and Remy. Find her @designcrush on social.