This week we have Mary Burrows on the blog . With her husband, she runs mb art studios: a small, family run business that believes in the beauty of handmade and keeping it simple. Their work is influenced by a love for aesthetics, simplicity and words that can encourage and move us to live a good life. Her work is also greatly influenced by modern architecture and nature, as well as the Scandinavian design of Mary’s great- grandparents’ Swedish homeland. She loves patterns, black & white, color, wood, textiles and imperfections. Each of her porcelain pieces is made in their home studio in Reno, Nevada.
Could you explain what your art is like?
Porcelain clay and screen printing are the main media we work with to make our line of handmade goods! I find words that move me, make screens and then print the words onto porcelain clay. The intention of our wares is to provide inspiration and encouragement to others on a daily basis. Little reminders for your home and/or work space. I also have a love for patterns as well, which you can see throughout our line. I started off my ceramics business on etsy in 2010, doing everything. and then my husband Cory joined me full time in 2012. We have slowly grown the wholesale side. Cory eventually took over the majority of the making. In addition to making our line of jewelry and painting patterns on pieces, I design our entire line, box up all of the orders, interact with retail customers and our 140 wholesale customers, post on social media, offer our wares at craft events, do all of the photography and handle all of the bookkeeping. We both have our own studio space at home and meet for food throughout the day. It works for us.
What are important motherhood contexts people should know about you?
I have a twenty-year-old son and seventeen-year-old daughter. My son, Josh, didn’t really start talking until the age of four and had intense tantrums. It was really hard to get any answers as to why he had developmental delays from doctors. He started going to a small home-based preschool with five other children when he was three years old. The teacher felt that he was just a late bloomer. Next thing I knew, she thought he may have autism. Our world changed a lot at that point. I threw myself into learning as much as I could about autism, parenting and different types of education. Josh ended up getting kicked out of the preschool since he was too much of a handful for the teacher—he was very high energy and wouldn’t sit still like the other children. I really struggled with him getting kicked out. I had a hard time accepting that this was going to be a different journey for us. It was also really hard to see Josh struggle in school with bullying and difficulties with making friends. It took me awhile to accept it all and love it all. In 2016 we discovered he had scoliosis and then just before his scheduled surgery in 2017, we discovered he had a benign, inoperable tumor in his spinal cord. All of these challenges were a lot for our family. We somehow managed to make it through all of it together. After almost 21 years since Josh’s birth, we just recently got answers with exome genetic testing at UCLA that shows he has a random genetic mutation. It explains a lot. Through all of this, Josh has been so resilient. He is doing really well. Both Josh and my daughter, Sarah, have brightened my world in ways that I could have never imagined. I’m very grateful to be their mom. They have both taught me so much.
How has the practice of your creative life changed since motherhood?
HUGE change. Before becoming a mother, I honestly never really created much. I had earned a bachelor’s in business and worked my way up in the corporate world. I didn’t even take any art classes in high school. My husband and I also snowboarded and wakeboarded as much as we could. After Josh was born in 1999, we decided that my husband would temporarily close his business as a tile and marble contractor and take care of Josh. Once Josh turned two, we enrolled him into a daycare center. He was constantly sick. It got to a point where I just couldn’t juggle my career and also give Josh the attention he needed. It was then I decided to quit my career at the power company. After Josh’s experience with the home-based preschool where he was kicked we out, I learned about Waldorf education. I was happily surprised to find out that we had one in Reno. my hope was that it would be a space that allowed Josh to grow at his own pace. I really had no idea how it would change my world as a parent and also bring out the artist inside of me. I started volunteering at the school. Next thing I knew, I was needle felting, painting with watercolors and playing around with clay. Shortly after, I started a little business where I offered clay hand prints to parents and also created a children’s fine arts program that lasted for 5 years (I learned so much and LOVED teaching art to children). I eventually decided to get serious about selling my ceramics in 2010 on etsy. It was easier to put the clay down when my children were sick or needed me for something. Teaching art was very rewarding, but it was also very demanding of my time and energy. Waldorf education also showed me a way to parent my children that was very nourishing in so many ways. I’m beyond grateful that I found it.
What has been most challenging about sustaining a creative life in motherhood?
I can’t think of anything, lol. I discovered a creative life and never looked back.
What’s been the best surprise about having a creative life in motherhood?
How it became the sole bread and butter for our family. I never could have imagined that at the beginning of becoming a mother. I still want to pinch myself every day that I get to do what I do.
What are the particular issues that come up for you as an artist in your field with children?
I’ve carefully chosen a handful of quotes in our line specifically for parents, grandparents or anyone that interacts with children. These quotes have helped me and continue to do so. Our children are little buddhas. They can force us to be more patient, kind and also more thoughtful about how we live our lives. From the words we say, the foods we eat, how we look at our bodies, etc.
What’s been the your most important source of inspiration for having a creative life as a mother?
Creating feeds my soul. I know it sounds a little cheesy, but it’s the truth. It has changed the way I’ve made a home for my family. It has become a part of me. There’s no going back to a life where I’m not creating: whether it be making food, painting, sewing, photography. It’s addictive and life feels very bland without it.
Who are other artist mothers in your field that inspire you?
When my children were younger, I really resonated with SouleMama. I read all of her books and followed her blog. I have also met a handful of other moms in Reno/Tahoe area that are makers of some pretty rad art. Emily Reid is one of them. She was very supportive of what I was offering to the world early on. I absolutely love her paintings. Also, her energy and love for life is fun to be around. Also, Heather River from Bespoke in Truckee is a very gifted artist and possibly one of the kindest human beings I know. I’ve met a lot of creative souls over the years and they all inspire me.
Learn more about Mary and her work here: