‘We Lost It All’: How Bankruptcy And Art Therapy Led Me To Success

That defining moment, downing shots at a local sports bar on my first day of business, has become one of my favorite and yet terrifying memories.

Photo: Heidi Easley, artist and founder of Texas Art and Soul; Credit: Bobby Easley
Photo: Heidi Easley, artist and founder of Texas Art and Soul; Credit: Bobby Easley

Have you ever been paralyzed by fear or failure? I have … on both accounts.

In 2007 I found myself filing for bankruptcy; and my family lost everything. I was in my late twenties, we were having our first baby and living in an idyllic, cozy house by the beach.

My husband and I had just added a room to our house. We turned it into a picturesque Tinker Bell nursery for my daughter Pixie as we anxiously anticipated her arrival.

Everything was going great — until it wasn’t.

A few months later we lost it all.

 

Paralyzed by fear and failure

I was instantly paralyzed by fear and failure. I found myself returning to my first passion, art, in hopes that healing would soon be within reach.

In the weeks that followed, as we began to pick up the pieces of our lives, 

I started painting little decorative surfboards that I cut out of wood. My new-found hobby helped distract my mind from the storm that was brewing around us.

Painting has always calmed my spirit, sparked my imagination, and given me a since of excitement. When a paintbrush is in my hand I feel like anything can happen … my soul is calm.

 

Photo: © JackF, YFS Magazine
Photo: © JackF, YFS Magazine

At the time I was a full-time teacher. And I took my hand-painted decorative surfboards to work so I could paint them at lunch. When the elementary kids saw them they went crazy, pleading “Can you make me one?! Please Mrs. Easley, put my name on it!” After the 100th kid went nuts over my surfboards a light bulb went off.

I thought to myself, “Maybe I could sell these?”

After some cold-calling and negotiations with the main office of our local shopping center, we were approved to sell our boards to the masses! It soon became a family affair; we tirelessly sawed wooden surfboards in my mother-in-laws backyard every weekend (and on week nights after work) until summer came.

 

I can’t fail again …

Then the time came … it was time to sell my crafty boards.

I remember thinking, “My stomach hurts. I can barely breath.”

It was surreal. In just a few short months I had gone from losing everything to starting a small business. But at the same time my mind overflowed with negative thoughts of self-doubt and imminent failure. So much so that I felt sick and nearly threw up.

 

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘In just a few short months I had gone from losing everything to starting a small business.'” quote=”‘In just a few short months I had gone from losing everything to starting a small business.'”]

 

“I can’t fail again!” I thought, 

as I sat there in my booth waiting for customers to approach and orders to roll in. Again, fear crept in and overtook me. I considered how my latest destined-to-fail venture would affect my family, my future, and my grocery bill next week.

That day, my husband came to the shopping mall to check on me and see how I was doing. He, too, sensed my disappointment. As lunch-time rolled around, my mother-in-law and a friend of hers took me to a local sports bar across the street. My husband graciously filled-in.

I needed a break. I wanted to drown in my sorrows. A few shots later I thought:

“Really! This is failing too?!”

“How much can a person fail before they are 30!” I wondered.

A few more shots later I swiftly shifted gears into crisis mode, eagerly and desperately searching for a plan B. As I sat there in the pity party I had thrown for myself, a few moments later my cell phone rang.

It was my husband. “Hey babe! You need to get over here fast! We have orders!”

My heart stopped. I gasped, “You’re lying. There’s no way!”

Again, he persisted.

I stumbled out of my chair and back to our booth across the street. It was around 6pm that evening. As I arrived I learned that, apparently, everyone was at the beach during the day and shopped ’til they dropped at night! Yes. I should have known this living there, but it didn’t even cross my mind.

So, I sat there painting surfboards (slightly tipsy), knowing that things were changing. When I look back on that day, I knew then what I know now, “God has a plan… He always does!”

 

A fresh new start

Over the next two months I hand-painted over 1,000 decorative surfboards. I learn to paint fast to meet the high demand. I’d sometimes find myself painting 60 surfboards in one night, staying up until 2am, and then delivering them the next day. I would even paint in the back of my jeep during rain storms with a good friend.

If someone wanted a hand-painted surfboard I would find a way to paint it and sell it. I knew every cent I earned was going towards my family’s future. It was in that moment that I felt empowered realizing that I can always change my family’s situation. I finally understood that bankruptcy wasn’t the end … it was actually a new beginning.

My devastating experience had ushered in a fresh new start. It taught me how to be smarter with my money and not borrow over my capacity to repay. And most importantly, it taught me how to fight for what I want.

 

Defining moments

That defining moment, downing shots at a local sports bar on my first day of business, has become one of my favorite and yet most terrifying memories.

In one moment I had hit rock bottom and in the next I was radically catapulted to the top!

 

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘In one moment I had hit rock bottom and in the next I was radically catapulted to the top!'” quote=”‘In one moment I had hit rock bottom and in the next I was radically catapulted to the top!'”]

 

The confidence I gained that summer has driven every decision I’ve made since. I learned that even after a slew of bad decisions, I could turn to art and my faith to keep me going.

Today, my business has evolved. I throw art parties! And it all started because I wanted a little extra money. I didn’t know it would lead to so much more!

I see, first-hand, the power that art has to heal people. Every art party I throw I end up hearing a story of how someone has used art to heal through depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-doubt, and much more.

I’ve talked to women who had lost their husbands and listened as they shared how painting had given them purpose again. I’ve learned how someone with PTSD can use art to help themselves feel whole again. I’ve even painted with a woman who found out she had cancer, watching the joy in her face as she painted her canvas, forgetting her harsh reality in that moment.

My art business has shown me the power of a simple painting class and how it can turn into so much more … endless ripples of healing through art.

In my quest to find my purpose and passion, I realized it is my obligation to teach others how to heal through art, and most importantly how they change their families circumstances as well.

 

This article has been edited and condensed.

Heidi Easley is an artist and founder of Texas Art and Soul. Heidi lost everything in 2007 and used art to heal her soul and started a surfboard painting business that became an instant hit, selling 1,000 boards in just two months. After moving back to Texas she started holding paint parties to make extra income. Since 2009, Heidi has held hundreds of successful art parties and works as a studio artist selling her cherished “Day of the Dead” family portraits! As a very passionate artist she thrives by helping others discover their potential at her art parties while showing others how art can heal your soul and your bank account! Connect with @easley_heidi on Twitter.

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