Ravon Kirkendoll says it was her sister who first suggested she start painting bellies. Specifically, pregnant bellies.
“She said, ‘When I have a baby, I want you to do this for me,’” Kirkendoll recalls. “I said, ‘What are you talking about?’”
As she subsequently discovered, painting pregnant women’s stomachs is a trend that started in Great Britain a few years back and more recently made it to the United States. Kirkendoll opened ICT Baby Bump Studio this month.
The studio is a part-time endeavor for Kirkendoll, who works as a quality engineer for BG Products and is also an ordained minister and Sunday school teacher.
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“I’m really a drawer, not a painter. But I started doing different designs I found on the Internet and found out I’m really pretty good at this.”
The paintings are meant to be temporary affairs that last a couple hours or until the customer washes it off. Many clients keep their painting just long enough to take a photo of it. Kirkendoll’s studio has a photo backdrop and an empty picture frame that clients can pose with “to show off their masterpiece.”
Kirkendoll also offers baby shower-stomach painting packages for expectant mothers who want to share the experience with friends. Her studio includes a small lounge area with snacks, plus a retail section where she sells baby clothes, oils and lotions and some pieces by local artists.
Her stomach paintings range in subject from Disney and Sesame Street characters to animals, word art, unicorns and tropical landscapes. “Basically I try to capture the style and personality of the mom,” she said. Some expecting mothers use the paintings as a “gender reveal” moment.
Kirkendoll uses soft brushes and non-toxic face and body paint. More complicated designs can take up to two hours, she said. She’s open most evenings and weekends. Appointments are required.
The studio is Kirkendoll’s first business, but she says she’s always been unafraid to try new things. Last year, for instance, she organized the ICT Doggie Costume Contest and Party, which brought pet lovers, food trucks and music to the ICT Urban Pop-Up Park on Douglas.
“I have a dog. I love him. He turned 10 last year. I thought, ‘What’s something fun I can do for him?’ Everyone loved the idea, so why not do it?”
That’s kind of what happened with her studio, too. Kirkendoll says her only hesitation was her personal objection to incurring debt. Through prayer, she says, she found a space she can lease by the month.
In addition to offering a fun experience and, she hopes, supplementing her income, Kirkendoll says the studio is a kind of ministry, a place where she can “cultivate a fun and artsy manner of bonding between the unborn baby and mom.”
ICT Baby Bump Studio
Address: 5921 E. Central (lower level)
Owner: Ravon Kirkendoll