With her drive for excellence and dedication to expressing beauty and joy through art, Jamie Higgins has inspired many. Raised as an only child to a working single mother in California’s Bay Area, she came from modest beginnings. Her mother, “a fiercely independent woman,” had a rough start to life and worked hard to give Jamie the stability she longed for as a child. “She is the one person I can count on in my life,” Jamie recalls.
Although they did not have much, young Jamie was unfazed by their economic circumstances. She fondly recalls the early 80s with carefree, unsupervised adventures around her apartments with neighborhood friends. Jamie’s mom recognized her interest in art rather early. She tried her best to encourage and support her daughter’s budding talent. The kitchen counter became an art studio during quiet evenings as Jamie spilled her imagination on paper. She watched her mother craft and began helping, adding to these early creative experiences.
The next few years ushered the pair into a series of difficult moves. They eventually settled in the Central Valley of California to be closer to her maternal grandmother. It was here the pair finally found a place to call home. She became a latchkey kid, taking care of herself after school. It was a lonely time.
Jamie blossomed in her teens as she got involved in her High School’s Regional Occupational Program, studying floriculture and leadership. These years laid the foundation for her professional development. Jamie worked her way up, eventually becoming the first student manager of the program’s plant and flower shop. For three years, she led her high school’s winning floriculture team in FFA completions held at Universities throughout the State. A huge acknowledgment of her striving for excellence came in her senior year when she was awarded as the top floriculture student in California. Following graduation, she was invited back to the school multiple times to tell her story, encouraging students to follow their calling. She continued participating in local flower shows, receiving best-of-show awards.
Jamie worked odd jobs to put herself through college, eventually moving to Southern California. She dabbled in many different majors, from computer graphics to business management. It was by chance she found her true calling in photography. In the late 90s, she attended a photoshoot for her then boyfriend’s band, but the photographer was a no-show. Jamie was asked to stand in as their photographer as daylight faded at the beach. With no training or experience and minutes to figure out how to use an SLR camera, Jamie managed to capture the spirit of the moment. Although many of the photos on this initial roll of film turned out blurry, luck would have it that one of the last images from the evening was a winner. The band used it on their album cover, which she was invited to design. This was her first encounter with Photoshop, a tool she would come to use professionally.
The following year, the newly inspired Jamie moved back to the Valley and switched her major to photography. She seemed to be a natural at it. The darkroom became her favorite place, where she would lose track of time as she perfected her craft. While pursuing this degree, the owner of the company her mother worked for sat Jamie down to have a heart-to-heart. She watched Jamie grow up over the years and knew how intelligent she was, but she expressed concern over Jamie’s chosen artistic path. She believed that art was not a worthwhile career and encouraged Jamie to pursue a field that would reward her financially. Jamie turned this admonition into a motivation to show what is possible as an artist. She moved forward with new resolve and her mother’s wholehearted encouragement.
Her talent began to grab the attention of her professors as they encouraged Jamie to join local photography organizations and enter her photographs into contests. She began accumulating awards for her images, recognized by photography artists and professionals. Jamie’s work colleagues also saw her potential, as they started hiring her to capture their children’s portraits. These first paying clients helped Jamie build a substantial portfolio that would benefit her future endeavors. She recognized these steps in her journey as confirmations, which gave her confidence that she was on the right path.
During these years, a loved one’s death from cancer awoke a longing in her heart. She began a spiritual search, turning to Scripture and attending church services. This longing led Jamie to a talented group of friends in Fresno who would change her life forever. During a “magical” photoshoot with two young ladies from the group, Jamie was introduced to the Baháʼí Faith for the first time. They invited her to their Ayyám-i-Há celebration taking place that same evening at the Bahá’í Center. While at this event, Jamie quickly realized how many of her new friends shared this Faith.
After graduating with her photography degree, Jamie ventured off on what would be the first of many international trips, photographing sights around Europe for two months. She was able to immerse herself in her investigation of the Faith during this journey. One memorable encounter with a fellow traveler sought to challenge her spiritual inquires. Knowing her love for the arts, he falsely stated that Baháʼís do not support artists and musicians, which she knew to be untrue. Jamie later learned the young man was the son of a well-known Australian Televangelist, which clarified his motives. This confirmed the growing strength of her budding faith as she remained grounded in her beliefs against another entrenched in their own.
While Jamie did not have her next career move mapped out, she returned from her travels with a new outlook on the world. This new Faith was undeniably calling her, and she moved to Fresno to be closer to her Bahá’í friends. In the fall of 2002, she officially declared her faith in Bahá’u’lláh.
She was twenty-five at the time and did not want to miss the opportunity as a youth to embark on a Year of Service. Within months of her declaration, Jamie was eagerly serving her new Faith at Bosch Bahá’í School in the Santa Cruz mountains. These fourteen months of service allowed her to further develop her skills and talent in art. She photographed friends, several weddings, and created a series of watercolor paintings featuring quotes from the Writings. The time at Bosch helped to develop a strong sense of Bahá’í identity for Jamie. It gave her a deep connection to the community, as well as insights into her next steps in life.
After her year of service, Jamie returned to school to further her education. A fun class in ceramics turned her curiosity into another medium she would thrive in, earning her a second degree as a ceramics major. She transferred to Fresno State University’s studio art program and expanded her art interests to painting, printmaking, and sculpture.
Around this time, a dear friend introduced her to a Baháʼí from Cameroon, whom he was serving with at Bosch. Their interest in one another was instant, and the two married after a year of courtship, starting their life together in Fresno. In 2007 Jamie earned her third degree, graduating with the highest honors and as the top student in the University’s studio art program. With encouragement from her professors, she planned to pursue a Master’s degree in Fine Arts. However, she set that dream aside to support her husband’s nursing education. He was the eldest of nine, so the couple also sponsored the education of his younger siblings in Africa. Yet, soon Jamie was faced with the challenge of solely taking on the couple’s financial responsibilities. Without funds to pay for next month’s rent, she took a leap of faith in God and herself. Reflecting on her talents and experience, she launched her career as a full-time photographer.
Enjoying her prior experiences with photographing children, she insightfully tailored her business to this niche. Being an unknown amongst her new target audience, she had to get creative to earn her initial bookings. The word spread quickly, filling her schedule and leaving her with a waiting list. This early success allowed her to open a studio named I See Beauty Photography.
While Jamie started off thinking she would work with children of all ages, her unique infant portraits drew significant attention. She soon became the most sought-after baby photographer in the Central Valley. Naturally, her services included maternity and family portraiture as well. She would continue to grow her business for the next decade, making these years some of the most fruitful and prosperous of her career.
However, life was not without its challenges. After four years of marriage, the couple divorced. “The most difficult part was not the break-up of the marriage,” Jamie shared, “but of loss of the children and future I longed for.” Photographing newborns, yet never having a child of her own, proved heartbreaking at times.
Seeing her deep desire, nurturing and caring nature, her clients encouraged Jamie to explore alternative avenues to motherhood. This set her on the path to becoming a single foster parent. With the success of her business, Jamie purchased her first house. It is here she would welcome a total of four girls into her home and heart. Of the four, she adopted one and took guardianship of another, raising them to adulthood. She did her utmost to mentor the girls and develop their artistic gifts.
In 2014, Jamie’s life would take another unexpected turn. A serendipitous encounter would lead her to the love of her life. She met a single father of two, raised by Bahá’í pioneers in Japan, living just three hours away. As they got to know each other, it seemed their life experiences were all in preparation for one another. “We were like each other’s twin flame… and still are.” Neither was actively seeking a partner, but it did not take long for them to know they were meant to be. With overwhelming joy, friends and family traveled great distances to witness the two get married just ninety-five days after their meeting.
Together they now had four adolescents, but they talked about the possibility of having another child together. Jamie had little hope as she dealt with infertility in her previous marriage. They prayed on it and chose to leave it to “the Will of God.” It did not take long to find out what His Will was; she was pregnant within weeks. They started calling the baby “Will, ” honoring God’s role in their lives. The birth of their healthy son was a true miracle in Jamie’s eyes.
Jamie had aspired to motherhood for years, and after working with hundreds of new mothers, she thought she knew what to expect. Yet, after giving birth, she began to face a deep sadness and thought perhaps it was due to her three-day labor ending in an emergency c-section or challenges nursing her son. She did not realize post-partum depression was setting in. She thought she could push through like she had always done during tough times; after all, she was her mother’s daughter.
About two years after the birth of their son, the family would answer the call to home-front pioneer for the Faith on the remote Northern Coast of California. The move forced Jamie to re-evaluate herself as a mother and a creative professional. She spent more than fifteen years building a successful photography career. The idea of restarting her studio was exhausting, and her passion was waning. “I was functioning… but some of the flame was gone,” she said. While attending mothers’ support groups in her new community, she got connected to the help she desperately needed. After nearly three years of struggling with post-partum depression, the fog had cleared and she started feeling like herself again.
Healing brought a new lightness to Jamie’s spirit. Her mother, who moved up north with them, had at some point proposed they return to their crafting roots and start a small business together. Though unclear exactly what or how she would do that, the thought of reinventing herself creatively began to linger.
Jamie’s daily focus was serving in the local Bahá’í community-building activities. With this, her art projects also began to focus on the Faith. Her mother had purchased a digital die-cutting machine, and Jamie saw the creative potential of this new tool. With it, she could cut out any custom design, limited only to her imagination. She began making simple Bahá’í inspired decorations for their home and local events. The friends’ enthusiasm for Jamie’s new pieces encouraged her to create more. With their shared love for the Faith, the mother-daughter duo opened an Etsy shop, A Gladsome Heart, offering art and celebration supplies for Bahá’ís around the world.
Jamie also began designing t-shirts with Bahá’í quotes, realizing they provide opportunities for meaningful conversations with friends and strangers alike. This prompted her to build a website, Garment of Glory, offering her Bahá’í inspired clothing to others. These parallel businesses are allowing Jamie to build new skills in production, creativity, and ways to contribute art to the worldwide Baháʼí community. They also give her a much-needed outlet to express her love for the Faith and bring joy to the hearts of others.
Jamie and her husband continue to raise their young son, who is showing a talent for art, music, science, and entrepreneurship. Over the years, she has mentored many young people in their creative journeys. Now, she is grateful to have the opportunity to do the same for her son.
Jamie considers herself a lifelong learner. While a disabling back disease has limited her physical capacity over recent years, it has not dampened her spirit. She affirms, “I always feel like I’m a work in progress. I know I’m not done and have so many more contributions to make in this world.”
Her steadfast faith has shown her that God has and will continue to take care of her. It is with gratitude that she walks through life with the ability to embrace the confirmations as they are presented. For over twenty years, she has maintained an autonomous career using her artistic and creative gifts to bring joy to many. She nurtures and encourages others while serving her Faith each step of the way. “Every adversity, challenge, and difficulty brought with them greater bounties and blessings. I recognize that now.”
Jamie strives to build upon her God-given talents day and night. She may not always know what comes next, but she puts her trust in the creative process. “From the time we first met,” her husband states, “I recognized she embodies the quality of ‘excellence’ and the spirit of ‘true reliance’ as called for in the Bahá’í Writings. She is a constant inspiration to me.” Turning to a page from the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, he quotes:
“True reliance is for the servant to pursue his profession and calling in this world, to hold fast unto the Lord, to seek naught but His grace, inasmuch as in His Hands is the destiny of all His servants.”