Spending every minute I could exploring the woods, catching brim in the backyard pond to feed “Mr. Egret”, and swimming in the ocean at Jax Beach. When the indoors did manage to find me, my nose would be inches from a sheet of paper, drawing all kinds of creatures I’d seen in my favorite nature photography books.
My love for drawing and the arts eventually materialized into pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design. Wait a minute...a tomboy...going to college for...fashion? I can understand how that doesn’t make sense - but ya know, everyone has their own path to find “their thing”…and I guess mine started with Fashion.
After graduation, I began my career in the industry, designing clothing for several brands including Old Navy and White House | Black Market. My apparel design career provided a creative outlet, and the priceless opportunity to learn business fundamentals which, ultimately, prepared me for my next chapter.
Not long ago, one night after work I stumbled on the word “Pyrography” and was intrigued by its implications. After an hour-long spiral of googling (we’ve all been there), I ran to my local home improvement store that same night to buy a soldering iron and some lumber. I’ll never forget the first time I put that hot metal to wood. It instantly re-ignited (pun intended) my passion for both art and the outdoors all at once. I was hooked on my new metal “paint brush” - it was such an incredible and unexpected combination of my two favorite things as a child - and I couldn’t get enough.
I soon began to realize the possibilities this forgotten hand-crafted art had in the modern world. Pursuing the desire to create everything for the art “old school” - ya know, by hand - I began to study the natural partner to wood burning: wood working. Researching and experimenting with this craft unlocked even more unknown crevices of my creative side...and once again I couldn’t get enough.
Before my very patient boyfriend Andy had time to grasp the seriousness of my new obsession, I was backing my little white sedan into our driveway, with a 14” bandsaw precariously hanging out of the trunk.
Every day was a new adventure. I’d try new ideas, techniques and subject matter; creating art based on whatever crossed my path that week. The major “This is IT” breakthrough didn’t occur until the day I used my passion for fishing as the inspiration for my next piece...and my pursuit of wood burning finally felt complete. Recreating the beauty of the underwater world is like landing your first trophy fish - you already love fishing, but now there’s no way you’re ever going to stop.
After a year of obsessing over this new art form, I quickly gained genuine interest around me, from friends and strangers alike. After MUCH deliberation, patience, saving, and a dash of “here goes nothing”; I left my corporate job as a Denim Designer to focus on my art and decor full time. I named the company Mokie Burns, after my childhood (and current) nickname “Mokie” coined by my mother - a word that had slowly evolved from “Kokomo”, one of my favorite songs as a kid.
Each day I continue to hone my craft, always inspired by the natural beauty of my subjects, as well as my equally beautiful and natural wooden canvases.
Who/What in the heck is Mokie? Well...I'm so glad you didn't ask, I'll tell ya! One afternoon, when I was in Kindergarten, we were allll tucking into our sketchy little blue nap mats on the floor. They always played the "relaxing" radio stations, in an attempt to calm all of us little buggers down enough to sleep for a few.
Unfortunately for them...there was no such thing as "relaxing" music for me. I loved every song, every genre, every dance ... ain't nothin' gonna hold me back, and definitely ain't nothin' gonna put me to sleep. This particular day, The Beach Boys fade in, with one of their classics "Kokomo".
I. Loved. This song ... I proceeded to FLY off of my mat, jumping high in the air with a 4 year old's equivalent of yelling "This is my JAM!!!". Of course, that got everyone else around all riled up singing and dancing, and nap time was definitely not going to happen that day.
Obviously this was quite an amusing story for my mother to hear about, with her shared enthusiasm for music and all. From that day forth, my new nickname Kokomo was born. Years go by, the nickname stuck and slowly evolved, landing on the final "Mokie" for my name. Not even really a nickname at this point - when I'm home even to this day, you will only here "Hey Moke" - or "Mokie Bird" or "Bird Dog" to get my attention - never Sam. Don't ask how all those nicknames are related, because I couldn't tell you.