Serendipity could describe, most effectively, the way in which I connected with writer Alisha Sommer.
Being a late bloomer, I only just discovered how fun Instagram was last summer. Somehow, and I can’t quite track exactly how, I stumbled upon Alisha’s Instagram stream of coolly contemplative photos of her hand wrapped around cups of coffee. These images showed up day after day, in similarly soft, limited palettes of colour, and they just kept enchanting me.
So I did what I do when curious, I followed links. Which led me to her website, her offerings, her writing, and I have remained enchanted.
Alisha Sommer lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three children where she edits and publishes BLACKBERRY: a magazine, a literary magazine featuring black women writers and artists.
She is also a contributing writer for the lifestyle website by Carrie-Anne Moss, Annapurna Living, and co-facilitates a creative writing course which plays with images and words.
I’m really honoured to share her thoughts here in this interview.
What does it mean to be an artist? And when did you know you were an artist (aka intensely creative person)?
When I was younger, like most people, my definition of an “artist” was someone who used paint, charcoal, or pen as their medium.Now I define an artist as someone who embraces their gifts and uses them for creative self-expression.
I first knew I was an intensely creative person when I was very young, probably in kindergarten. I was the kid who drew pictures for all of her mom’s co-workers and I loved writing stories. In elementary school I baked and made jewelry for friends. In middle school I wrote what would now be called fan fiction and drew fashion catalogs.
I don’t remember a time I was ever not creating.
When you consider the words luscious and soulful, what comes to mind? Is there anyone you know who embodies these traits? When do you feel luscious and soulful?
Luscious and soulful. Those are both such sweet words.
There is something sumptuous about the word “luscious,” like a perfectly ripe plum or velvet or silk. And soulful…it’s candlelight and hands over heart and eye contact.
I feel like there are so many women in my circle right now who embody these words: Hilary Rain, Carrie-Anne Moss, Mara Glatzel, Lisa Charles, Akilah Richards, Alicia Thiede, and Isabel Abbott to name a few.
I feel my most luscious and soulful when I feel rooted and embodied, after I’ve written something I’m really proud of, or after I’ve had soul-stirring conversation over coffee.
What do you love most about your body? And why?
What I love most about my body are my legs.
I am so grateful for the way they hold me and allow me to move from place to place.
What brings you pleasure? What senses are involved?
Oh wow. So many things that bring me pleasure.
I love the smell of the sea and salty air. The smell of coffee and freshly baked bread. I love the sounds of the birds and when the wind rustles through the trees and the kid’s giggles. I love the feel of linen and cotton and silk against my skin and the roughness of old wooden floors beneath my feet.
Fire brings me pleasure; its heat and how it dances.
Communing with other soulful women brings me pleasure. There is something about a room where everyone is seen, heard, and held that warms the spirit.
If you had to throw a dinner and dance party how would you do it?
Though I love dancing, I always envision my home being the place where everyone gathers.
I’m dreaming of a long wooden table outside that is set with raw linen napkins and brass tableware. There are white flowers and sheepskins on the benches. Flames from the tea lights reflect off of stemless wine glasses and mason jars full of ice water. And all of the trees are dressed in fairy lights, casting a glow on our faces.
Everything is served family style; casserole dishes full of vegetables and pastas, breads and butters, meats and cheeses.
Then at the end we’ll all have affogatos while The Black Keys and Lana Del Ray plays softly in the background. Can you tell I’ve thought about this a lot?
Where/how do you find your inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from noticing the things going on in my current life: how the tree is bending under the weight of the sun, the angle of my daughter’s legs draped over mine, the sound of the coffee percolating in the background.
I am so in love with the visual stimulation I get from Instagram. I recently started following more food writers and indie magazines.
I’m also very inspired by other mamas who are living their creative and entrepreneurial dreams in a soulful way.
What does your ideal day look like?
My ideal day looks like kale and bacon with coffee and kids sitting nicely at the dinner table.
After I get the kids to school I get back home to write and work on my various projects before bringing the wild rumpus back home. We all eat come home for a quick snack and homework before dinner around the table.
After the kids go to bed there’s wine and some tv and laughs before bed. Then up again to do it the next day.
What advice would you give to your younger self? How old is she when she needs this advice?
When she is 20, I want to tell her that she should spend more time learning how to be alone with herself. That it’s when we go in that we learn how to be.
What is your most treasured possession? Tell a little story about it.
So, of course I love my children but right now, I’m in love with two new possessions. One is an antique turquoise ring made by a Zuni Indian. Turquoise is my favorite stone and I am quite certain I was a Native American man in a past life.
The other is a little votive filled with Spanish moss from my last trip to New Orleans. I try to bring something back with me each time I return and this handful of moss reminds me of intrigue, sunshine, heart and soul, home.
Inspired resources: please share any heart-moving soul-shaking artistry or experiences that have moved you. What made it so powerful?
I recently attended a lecture by Dr. Cornel West about the legacy of Martin Luther King and all I can think about is love and what love looks like in my life.
He said that love in public looks like justice and that love in private looks like tenderness.
Just let that sink. Simple words, powerful truth. It has totally made me think about how I experience love, give love, receive love. Live love.
Who are your favourite artists? And why?
At the moment, one of my favorite exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago is by the artist Jesús Rafael Soto called Pénétrable de Chicago. You walk into this white room where thousands of translucent filaments hanging from the ceiling.
Walking through these filaments is indescribable. It’s like being touched by tiny god fingers.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you and your art?
I am always trying to do better. And I think that’s what is true for any artist. We are always trying to push ourselves to the next edge.
ps – to see more great interviews, check out the Lusciously and Soulfully interview series.
pps – if you know of any amazing artists I can profile in this series, send me an e-mail with their info – I’m always excited to connect with interesting amazing creatives.