SF Zine Fest talks with Alexis Jae Cohen

In three sentences, tell us what your work is about.

My creative passion lies in exploring the psyche - in the major archetypal themes and transitions of life, from universal rites of passage like birth and death, to the smaller initiations of dealing with the unknown in daily encounters.  In this light, I recognize storytelling as an important personal practice; it allows me to grow alongside my characters as they face their fears and themselves, and learn to recognize the importance of listening to their own voice through their journeys into the unknown.

How did you first find out about zines? What inspired you to make your own zines?

I first heard about zines several years ago when I was introduced to the underground San Francisco Art scene. I didn’t consider making my own zines up until the last few years and I really became excited about it when I was enrolled in a graphic novel class. I was moved to self publish my own books after I started to explore the more traditional publishing paths. The traditional paths felt narrow and rigid and really countered the freedom of making comics and graphic novels which for me is about pushing boundaries and expressing oneself freely. 

What do you do when you’re not creating?

When I am not making zines I am a birth doula (supporting women as the labor), hypnotherapist, illustrator and painter with a practice in San Francisco.

What is an unexpected benefit that you’ve experienced from reading/ making zines?

I didn’t realize how satisfying finishing a self published book would be. There is the added accomplishment of doing it all on my own without rules. It was so hands on!

How would you advise first timers on making their first zines?

It takes much longer than you think. So go easy and enjoy the process. It will be a  wonderful piece of art that you get to share with the community and you get to say exactly what it is that you want to say regardless of what anyone thinks. It is a medium of true free expression.

What are you working on for this year’s SF Zine Fest?

This year I am sharing my new book Jaya the Nighttime Faerie & the Music of Everything. It is an illustrated journey of a young faerie who learns how to harness her special gifts to overcome any challenge or fear. When Jaya comes out at night, she hears and dances to the musical rhythms of nature—sounds that no one else can hear.  When her playful explorations catch the attention of Mother Sky, she is given a gift - a guiding star - and is set upon a quest into the Land of the Unknown. On her journey she encounters things that are scary, but finds her inner wisdom and embraces her gifts to triumph over darkness. This story is a message of reassurance: even when we are most afraid—of the dark, death of a loved one or even our own power—we have an inner wisdom that can guide us.                                                        

I am also sharing a mini comic called “The First Stone” which explores a couple new characters I am working with for my next longer feature book Santiago’s Stones.

For more from Alexis, check out:

www.alexisjae.org