Mary Bennett Sigal is an artist based in Houston, TX. Mary Bennett recently turned her creative passion and artistic talent into a career and launched MB Studios. Mary Bennett shares what it takes to start a business, her journey to finding her unique artistic direction, and her current beauty favorites.
Can you tell me a little bit about your career trajectory so far?
I have been working in interior design for the past three years. I learned the ins-and-outs of not only the industry itself but also how to run a small business in general. How to be client facing, how to manage finances. Working in interior design taught me the fundamentals of how to own and operate a small business, work with people, be creative, and apply numbers to creativity.
What drew you to art?
I've always been an artist. I was in my kindergarten classroom one day and drew one of these girls I always drew. She had boobs, was wearing a dress and had a poodle walking down the street. My kindergarten teacher walked up to my desk and gasped, grabbed the paper, and ran out of the room. I guess she took it to the principal or something and said this girl needs to be in some sort of special art class. I’ve always been into fashion and beauty. So, when I was little, I just drew what I thought was cool, like the coolest girls and the things that I loved. As I got older, I thought I could probably apply to college for this, and this is also what I love to do, so I'm going to do it. I studied it in college and the rest is history. What draws me to art still today is It's what gives me fulfillment, it’s what I feel like I'm best at in this body that God gave me. It’s a gift that God gave me.
Tell me about your journey to starting your own business.
Once I felt I had learned enough about the business side of the interior design world, I was inspired to start my own business, MB Studios. I loved helping to create physically beautiful spaces for clients, but at the end of the day I am an artist. [In my other job] I was working so hard it was taking so much of my energy and time. At night I would come home from work and have a couple paintings to do, my commissions on the side. I would be exhausted from the day but still paint because it was like this second thing and I had always loved to do it. When the painting was finished, I would deliver it, and they would pay me. I would look at what I had just made off of one painting and compare it to my last paycheck. I just thought ‘you need to give this a shot’.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
All my life I've never really had the opportunity to draw or paint anything that I actually wanted, until recently. In highschool it was ‘make art for your college applications’, in college it was ‘make art for your good grade and so you graduate, and for the past three years it was ‘do commissions at night when you come home from work’. I've never had the freedom to do what I want based on what I’m inspired by. Artists are most successful, from what I can tell, when they have a general theme, or motive, or message behind their work that gives it meaning. I’ve been struggling with what my message is going to be. Just recently, I went to a yoga class. I was trying to listen to the music and see what colors the music was. All the sudden it just hit me like a message in my head that said ‘I want to make art that shows where our loved ones have passed away. My brother passed away about five years ago and it has always been comforting to me to think of where he is. The most beautiful colors in the world, the biggest field of flowers, who knows. I still have a lot to unpack in that but I finally know that what I want to do with my art is show where I think Robert could be, and I’m hoping it's a message others who have lost loved ones can relate to and might find comfort in my art.
What is the best advice you’ve received? What is the worst advice you’ve received?
A lot of artists have given me advice that is ‘don’t be a perfectionist, don’t think too much about it, just crank them out’. Time is money. Don’t get too wrapped up in making something perfect, what you really need to do is create an inventory.
The worst advice I received was from an art professor at SMU. He knew I was a perfectionist, and I liked to think critically before doing things, especially on a canvas. He told me ‘just put paint on the canvas, just do it’. I kinda got messy and careless because his words were in my head. He was trying to create a sense of urgency and fearlessness, and that’s just not my style.
What are some myths about the art industry you would like to debunk?
It's more of a grievance, or small frustration, but people sometimes just don't understand what goes into a commission, and that small custom projects aren’t always the best use of time for the amount of money they want to spend. They mean so well, and I'm so flattered they reach out, but at least for right now in this period where I’m still trying to build my brand, it’s usually not the best thing for my business to focus my time on.
What advice would you give to someone about starting a business?
I would say to anyone starting out, really prepare yourself. Be prepared for all of the little things. Be prepared for the financial commitment. Be prepared to enjoy being your own boss, but also being hard on yourself sometimes. Try to get a good schedule going and try to stick to it. Make a list of everything you would want in this space. You just have to imagine yourself in an empty room, what do you need to operate your business? Everything from a black pen to a vacuum cleaner, soap to wash your hands. Grow your brand. Be strategic about your brand and how you want to come off to the world. Don’t rush an instagram launch, don’t rush a website, don’t rush your logo. Take everything one step at a time.
Can you recommend a book, podcast, or resource that you love?
This instagram, @milanartinstitute has these videos that literally are about how to be an artist, monetize, and make your art a business. The Artist's Wayby Julia Cameron is a book that puts you in touch with your creativity.
Switching to beauty questions! If you were a beauty product what would you be?
My Lipsmart Lip balm because it is $30 a tube, which is absolutely ridiculous, but it’s the best chapstick I’ve ever used. I keep extras to give as gifts. A full moisturized lip is always the vibe. It’s a sign of health, hydration, and looks way better than dry cracked lips. If I'm trying to look nice for something, I’d be a lipgloss.
What 3 beauty products are you bringing to a desert island?
Under eye concealer, my Lipsmart, and mascara. Blush would be one, but I’m probably going to get a little sun from being outside on that island.
Who do you look to for beauty inspiration and expertise?
There are others, but most recently, Alix Earle. I’ve been watching her videos. She has made me care about getting ready again. I’ve been going to my studio with no makeup everyday and it's good to take care of yourself and feel like you look nice.
Have you had any wild beauty experiences?
This was an accident, but my hair straight up turned green for six months in highschool because there was a ton of chlorine in the pool at my house and my hair was the color of an avocado.
Do you have any beauty hacks you want to share?
Learning to bake with powder is a game changer. I’ve just been using 3 skincare products. If you have sensitive skin keep your skincare routine as simple as possible.
What’s your favorite Cleanest Lab product?
My favorite thing about the Cleanest Lab Shampoo is how luxuriously thick it is. I love how rich it feels. The density of it is so impressive. I feel like my hair is getting so clean!
Stay connected with Mary Bennett! Follow the MB Studios Journey @mb____studios
Written by Ellie Wells
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