Mom Next Door: Heather EssianBy Nicole Jordan
Heather Essian was at the top of her game as a professional photographer, shooting destination weddings around the world, speaking at workshops and seeing her work published in magazines, when her first child came along and everything else “came to a halt.”
“Jim and I decided that once we had kids I would stay home with them,” says the Fort Worth mom of three girls: Harper, 6, Hollis, 4, and Hadden, 1. “I wasn’t traveling anymore. I wasn’t shooting weddings as much anymore. The transition from boss lady to stay-at-home mom was humbling. I had been confident in my role as a business owner. As a new mom, I had to navigate each day feeling less than confident in the beginning.”
Fast-forward six years and Essian, 35, is far from the uncertain, new mom she once was. She and her husband of 13 years Jim, lead pastor of The Paradox Church in downtown Fort Worth, grew their brood by two more and Essian is thriving as family matriarch.
She’s also back in touch with her creative roots, reviving her photography career and adding a new medium to her portfolio: abstract painting.
“When Hollis was a newborn I needed a creative outlet, so I started to abstract paint,” she says. “It was a great outlet when I had two little ones under 2, and it’s evolved from there.”
And her vibrant aesthetic is resonating with local art lovers. Pieces go fast via her Instagram (@artist_heatheressian), private Facebook group and the ARTISTHeatherEssian Etsy shop; many pieces are commissioned.
“It’s been life giving,” Essian says. “It’s something I do because I love to be able to express myself. I’m equally passionate about being an entrepreneur. There’s creativity in growing a business.”
How did you get into photography?
I took my first photography class at Tarrant County College and was hooked. I started photographing weddings. After two years in college, I met my husband and fell in love. He was a professional baseball player, so I decided to marry him and travel around the country while he was playing baseball. We lived in Fort Worth our first year while he played for the Fort Worth Cats, then we moved to Michigan, New Jersey and Florida. In each new city we lived in I found my favorite photographer and worked with them as an assistant and second shooter photographing weddings and designing wedding albums.
But you’re a self-taught artist?
I’ve never taken a painting class. It’s just learning by trial and error.
Have you always loved art?
I’ve always been artistically inclined. My favorite subject was art. Growing up, I remember sketching my wedding dress and what it would look like.
Where do you find inspiration?
Colors and the way they play off of each other. Shapes and lines and shadows. The way light changes everything.
How long does it take to finish a piece?
Each piece is different. It can take anywhere from five hours to two weeks.
What’s your big-picture dream as an artist?
I dream of seeing my work in galleries.
Might your daughters follow in your footsteps?
They love to paint alongside me, so I’ll set them up with their own paint and paper.
Did you always want to have a big family?
I think so, but I didn’t have kids on the radar until I was about 28. I was in no rush.
Is three the magic number?
It depends on which one of us you ask and which day of the week it is.
How did having kids change the dynamic between you and Jim?
It turned us on our head. We didn’t have as much time to be selfish.
Was becoming a stay-at-home mom a difficult decision?
It was a conviction from God. I didn’t know how to be a mom and I needed to spend time learning. I didn’t ever want to be a stay-at-home mom, but God changed my heart and my husband encouraged me.
How has parenthood changed you?
I value being a mom, wife and homemaker, whereas before children it wasn’t something on my radar. I was just thinking about how to be successful. Now, I have more of a balance than I did. A lot of working moms struggle with what that balance is, and for each one of us it looks different.
How do you and Jim stay connected with such busy lives?
We have a date night once a week that we’re religious about. Early in our marriage we had a really hard time. In counseling they told us to schedule a date night every single week. We clung to that. It wasn’t always perfect when our kids were little, but it’s something we’ve always made a priority. It’s our lifeline.
Favorite date-night spot?
We usually end up somewhere on Magnolia Avenue. A current favorite is Lili’s Bistro, and we love Ellerbe.
Where do you like to go around Fort Worth as a family?
We like to go to Trinity Trails. The girls ride their scooters. And we like to spend a lot of time at home because we’re just so busy.
Favorite place to go shopping?
I love dh Collection, Esther Penn and Madewell.
Do you keep a girls’ night out in the books?
I like to get together with girlfriends through play dates and we’ll usually have dinner with at least one family a week.
Favorite way to feed yourself when you’re not painting?
Jim and I wake up at 6am and read our Bibles or do a devotional. That’s time I take for myself every day. It helps me to get the day started slowly.
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