So, I’m from Detroit, and I moved to Grand Rapids eight years ago. I came to Grand Valley State University for my master’s degree and kind of stayed around after that. My background is in social work; I have a bachelor’s and a master’s in social work. I’ve always lived in a space where I enjoyed that piece of my life, but I also really, really love the arts and creativity. Growing up, I went to a performing arts middle school and high school. So, that’s always been a huge part of who I am and what I enjoy.
I still do social work as half of how I spend my time, but my desire is to be making candles full time. Being in the professional world, there’s definitely pros and cons to it. But I just knew that I was missing that creative aspect and being able to just imagine things, create them, and bring them to life. I also realized that I wanted the freedom to work for myself, create my own schedule, and work how I wanted to work.
When I first started making candles, it was for fun. Like, it was for Christmas gifts for family and friends. I wasn’t even thinking about starting a business or anything like that. Then, some of my family and friends suggested that I turn this into a business. And I remember thinking don’t nobody want my lil’ handmade candles like that (lol). And my husband actually was launching his own thing and he had this pop-up shop for local businesses. So, I decided to just have a table and see what happens. I almost completely sold out that day! And I was like oh, this actually might be something. Like, there might be something here. That kind of encouragement was what I needed to push, try, and see what happens. My ultimate goal is to be doing that full time. And it’s nice because I still get to interact with people and talk to people and have that social work-type piece in my life.
When I was in the initial stages of doing my candle research, I found out that a candle maker is called a chandler. As far as my creative process, for me, scripture is big in the inspiration behind my candles and wanting them to be an encouragement to others. So, that’s kind of in the back of my mind whenever I’m creating candles. I’m thinking about how this can inspire someone, how can this can encourage someone, how this can – in a literal sense – light up someone’s space and warm their heart. From there, I’ll imagine different color schemes, décor, etc. I have two different color schemes: the first one is very colorful and pastels with gold lids, and then I have a clean, chic, modern-type line that’s all black and white with the natural soy color. So, my process is really just envisioning something in my mind and then thinking about how I can tie it to some message or encouragement. I also get feedback from other people, asking what looks good, asking if I should change anything, etc.
So, my company, Five14, comes from Matthew 5:14, which is you are the light of the world. My hope is that as people have these candles, it just reminds them that you are the light of the world and it brings that encouragement to them. Doing this work comes from my passion for creating. I just love the arts in general, like it’s doing something artistic on my own personal time. For example, I like to dance, I love to color, and I love music. There are all of these aspects of the arts that I enjoy. So, what inspires me first is my general passion for creating. And also, I love the responses I get from people and people always share such great feedback and that fuels me, especially since social work can be a difficult space where people aren’t always thanking you and you don’t always see things get better, progress, or see improvement. But, to see someone smell a candle and smile, or to see someone pick up a candle and think oh, this would be such a dope gift for this person, like, that inspires me to continue with what I’m doing. It’s confirmation that I’m doing something pretty cool, and it’s helping and serving others. Both of those two things together are what’s really important to me and what keeps me doing it.
One of the newest lines I’ve come out with is called The Life Collection. Every candle has a different word on it, like peace, joy, love, forgiveness. What I had in mind for that line is that I wanted whichever candle you had to take that word in and for that to touch you. If you really needed courage, get that courage candle and let that sink in. If you had a friend that was struggling and really needed peace, I give them the peace candle so that can touch them and be what they receive from it. Everything that we need as humans, as people, especially in difficult times – that’s what my hope is, what people receive from my candles. There’s definitely the natural aspect, like they smell good, but I want my candles to touch hearts in a personal and meaningful way.
One of the ways I did my business was pop-up shops, vendor events, that sort of thing. I was really trying to get in front of people. I’ve noticed that depending on which pop-up shop it is or where it’s located, I may or may not be as well received as other vendors there. This could just be a unique thing to West Michigan, but I’m always reminded that whatever you do, whatever your business is, it’s not going to be for every single person. It’s not for everybody, but for the people it is for, that’s who you focus on. That’s who you cultivate those relationships with. For me, that’s how I’ve overcome comparing myself to other people. I have to be true to myself and if my candles aren’t for you, that’s totally fine. I’ve had to learn how to build that confidence within myself to say who this is for and focus on those people.
People should be intentional about supporting local Black artists because it’s important to continue to uplift art in our culture and in our community. It’s important to really support one another. When you’re supporting other Black artists, you’re supporting their families, you’re supporting their community. It’s also important because you’re keeping the dollars within our community. Economy-wise, for us, that’s super important. There’s so much data saying how the American dollar leaves the Black community so quickly and is going to other places. Also, when you support Black artists, it builds one another up and elevates their work. It’s also a great example for other people. People start to think I see them doing this. I can do that, too. Like, that’s a possibility for me, too. I think there’s so much good that comes from that, culturally and what that means to us, but also, it’s an example for others and encourages them to seek out their art, express themselves, and know it will be received well. It perpetuates this positive cycle.
Black artists should be celebrated beyond Black History Month because they’re not doing their art just in Black History Month. It’s not just in February that their art is being done. The art is amazing, and we need to celebrate that. This is happening every day throughout the year, and it deserves to be celebrated and acknowledged every single day. Not just with art, but with so many other things related to Black work and Black culture. It needs to be highlighted, brought to people’s awareness, and put to the forefront of their minds in order to support beyond once a year.
I encourage people to pursue their passions and their dreams, and to pursue the expressions of their heart and who they are. I think that’s something that’s also encouraging to me, just really seeing people walking in their purpose and using their gifts. That’s what’s fulfilling, that’s what helps others. When we do that, it’s so encouraging. I want to do what I feel called to do. I’ve been inspired by some amazing people doing some really, really cool stuff. We don’t realize that a lot of times, people are watching and that it’s making a difference.
Alisha Lauchié, Chandler
Grand Rapids, MI
The Black Artists Series highlights local Black artists and their journeys. Due to COVID-19, we’ve turned our original video series into a blog-style series. The blog is fully in the artist’s own words.