We had the good fortune of connecting with Heidi Nielson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Heidi, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
My idea of work life balance has certainly evolved over time. As a lawyer by day/artist entrepreneur the rest of the time, work life balance has been a constant struggle for me. What I’ve come to accept is that each day the balance may look different. What is important is that each day has a little art, a little of my law life, and a little of the things that keep me sane like my relationships and health. Some days the amount of art is very small and some days I get to spend the whole day painting.

A concept that has helped me that I learned from a fellow entrepreneur is moving pots on a stove between the front and back burners. As someone with an unusual number of pots on the stove that I need to keep from boiling over, I’ve learned over time that it’s OK if something gets put on the back burner for a little while to make room for a project, relationship, or life event that needs the front burner. I can always shift things back around when there’s room on the front burner again.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I currently have both a design studio and a fine art practice. In my design studio, I create both custom work for clients and original illustrations that celebrate strong women, especially women lawyers, inspired by my own background as a Japanese American lady lawyer by day. These designs have brought me so much joy and the reception to them helped me realize that it was a strength to embrace what made my voice and experience unique. I still tear up when I get an order for my “Elle Reimagined” print, an illustration I created in collaboration with my friend Paulina Vera who started Hermanas in the Law. Seeing them go to the offices of new lawyers or law students of color brings me so much joy and hope for the future.

In my fine art practice, I have been building on the lesson of embracing my unique voice and style. My work over the last two years has been deeply personal and has helped me work through the complexities of my experience as a bi-racial Japanese American, ex-Mormon, queer woman with a very non-linear career path and set of interests. Since embracing my love of experimenting with new mediums and being willing to share more about my inspiration even when it is uncomfortable, I have seen my work, and the reception to it, grow.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Whenever I am staying with my family in Phoenix, I always make time to have a “desert day.” I love to go hiking by Four Peaks and, if the weather is good, bring a picnic lunch. Bonus points if the lunch involves fresh tortillas from a local bakery.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
While there have been so many people, groups, friends, and loved ones who have supported me in innumerable ways, I want to give a shoutout to my very supportive husband, who has worn many hats since I started my business about five years ago. From helping me with my business license paperwork, to building my first artwork display, to manning art fair booths for me so I could take bathroom breaks, to just being OK with general chaos in our 1 bedroom apartment on big project or painting days, he has always been nothing but supportive of this dream of mine.

Website: heidinielson.com

Instagram: @heidinielson.art

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heidinielson.art/

Image Credits
Headshot photograph by Elizabeth Moon.

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