“We’re a family-run business that believes in the beauty of handmade art + keeping it simple.” These are words that Mary and Cory Burrows, the founders of mb art studios, live by. The husband-and-wife duo specialize in screen-printed ceramic pieces, greatly influenced by modern architecture and nature, as well as the Scandinavian design of Mary’s great-grandparents’ Swedish homeland. “We love patterns, black + white, color, wood, textiles and simple imperfections,” Mary says. The couple has recently relocated their family back to their home in Reno, Nevada, but before they moved, we had a chance to visit their Phoenix, Arizona home-studio and see how their love for simple aesthetics are bringing joy to others in every piece they create.
Please tell us a little about yourselves.
I never really expected to find myself on this path of being an artist and having a desire to create. For more than 15 years, I was in a cubicle, living a corporate life that was very uninspired. What woke me up was having a child who didn’t fit into the average “box” and didn’t start talking until he was almost 4. I knew that something had to give. He helped open up my eyes to a whole new world.
My ceramic line was born out of a desire to bring balance into my life. The experience with my son took me on a path that I had no idea would unfold. I enrolled him in a Waldorf preschool and began dabbling with watercolors and needle felting. The next thing I knew, I was creating with clay and firing up the old kiln that my mother-in-law gave me. I was hooked and my world opened up to the beauty of art.
After many years of experimenting and creating beautiful wares with my own hands, my husband, Cory, joined me in the studio.
After working in the construction field for 20+ years as a tile and granite contractor, my body had had enough wear and tear and I decided to collaborate with my wife in her creative adventure. Leaving the stressful construction environment and spending more time with my family has been a welcomed change in my life.
While my wife creates most of the screen printed designs and chooses the words used on each piece, I bring the patience and determination to improve how we make each piece. Whether it be prepping the clay, mixing up our own glazes, or making the plaster molds used for our slip cast pieces, I enjoy the creative challenges of working with clay.
Tell us about your studio space.
Currently, our home studio space consists of our garage, where each piece is made, and one of our dining rooms, where we store inventory, pack up orders, and balance our lives as parents of two pretty cool teenagers.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Cory spends most of his time in the unattached studio and is either making pieces, sanding, glazing, loading or unloading the kilns while blaring some good music. Mary spends the majority of her time in the home studio either inputting inventory, boxing up orders, responding to emails, painting pieces and posting on social media while juggling meals and driving her teenagers around. We really do make a great team and bring different strengths to our family business. Our teenagers also help us out here and there with our business.
Tell us about your design and manufacturing process.
Our porcelain line is handmade from slab and slip-casting methods. Porcelain can be a little tricky to work with and we have learned from trial and error over the years on ways to help minimize warping and have some consistency. We screen print all of the text and some of the patterns onto the wet clay and then fire each piece. The rest of the patterns are hand-painted one at a time onto each piece.
What (or who) inspires you the most?
Inspiration for our line comes from so many different places. It can be colors, patterns, and texture that we see in nature, in the city, or that come to us from out of nowhere. We really love the northwest and the beauty of the underdeveloped coast line of Northern California. We have an appreciation for keeping things simple. We also love words that remind us to live life fully and love it all. Poets such as Rumi and Hafiz are a few of our favorites.
What is it like being a maker in America right now?
We have to say that we are extremely grateful to be doing what we do for a living right now in America. We have almost 60 small shops throughout the US and a few in Canada that support our handmade line. There is a movement of people wanting to know where their goods are coming from and want to feel a connection to the makers. This is our full-time gig and we are pretty fortunate to being doing something that allows us to spend more time together as a family and also put our work out into the world and inspire others.
What’s next for you?
We recently moved our family and studio about 800 miles northwest to Reno, NV! We were feeling the wanderlust about 4 years ago and left Reno for Austin, TX and then PHX. We are excited to get back to “the biggest little city in the world.” It’s a pretty awesome community and Tahoe is practically next door. For our studio, we will be experimenting with new colors and expanding our dinnerware collection. All of the outdoor beauty of the Sierra Mountains will give us plenty of inspiration!