Marissa Heerdt knew early on that she loved art. But her road to being a full-time artist took a few twists, turns, and even airplanes.
“When I was a teenager—or maybe a little younger than that—my mom was employed by my dad’s advertising agency as an art director. She was very artsy, and I took a lot of inspiration from her,” she says. “And as a kid, I would always draw or paint or make things. I took art classes throughout high school and then majored in it in college.”
After college, she worked as a high school art teacher, but after a few years, she realized it wasn’t the best fit.
“Around that time, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go skydiving,” Heerdt says.
She did and realized that she loved it—so much so that she left teaching to work in the skydiving industry.
So that she could quickly distinguish her gear from other people’s, Heerdt dusted off her artistic background and painted a design on her helmet.
The eye-catching art drew attention.
“People saw it, and it kind of snowballed into a business,” she shares.
Heerdt had grown up and was living in Illinois but began traveling the country, going to various skydiving destinations, and offering to paint people’s gear.
One of her requests for a painted helmet was serendipitous—it came from a man named Bill, whom she would later marry.
In 2018, the couple moved to Arizona. Heerdt briefly went back to teaching, but by early 2023, she was missing being an artist, and the draw of entrepreneurship was calling to her.
By that March, she had found a space in Carefree that she felt would make a perfect gallery and workspace.
In late 2023, Heerdt opened Compass & Crow Studios. The space allows her to display examples of her artwork—most of her work is custom—and a range of skills, while providing an area where she could also create.
“My work is custom-tailored to each client and what they want, so any artwork you see in the space are samples of what I can do or what I’m capable of, but I do mostly custom artwork for clients,” she explains.
Today, Heerdt specializes in helmets of any kind, golf clubs, and canvas art, and she even completed an 8-foot door mural she was commissioned for this past summer.
“The client’s imagination is the only thing I’m limited by,” Heerdt shares. “We can get as creative and crazy as they want. I’m not tied to a surface to paint on.
“My specialty is any type of skull or bone,” she continues. “I love painting skulls. But I also do landscapes, and I can do pet portraiture. I do anything except for human portraits. I can also recreate business logos.”
Heerdt’s artwork is colorful and detail-oriented, and has been likened to a cross between illustration and tattoo art.
Heerdt also works closely with each client to ensure the process is collaborative.
“I’m very communicative with my clients,” she says. “I make sure they’re very involved in the process, and I send pictures and videos every step of the way so that they feel they were very involved.”
For her, this has been the perfect venture.
“I love working with my clients, and I’ve met some really wonderful people through my business,” she says.
In addition to being an artist, Heerdt has many other creative outlets for which she’s passionate.
“I love to knit, I love training my dog, I’m a Master Gardner, I’m a certified herbalist, and I’m a rare aroid plant collector,” she shares.
And while she and Bill don’t skydive much anymore, the sky’s now the limit for Compass & Crow Studios.