“I curate a custom-blended scent from a library of fragrance oils, reaching for and combining those I feel will convey the story.”
Truly Handmade – Embracing Our Differences
Urban Chandlery candles are truly handmade. The containers are washed, wax is cut, oils are poured, the wax and oils are blended, and candles are cleaned and packaged all by hand. I like to believe that the kinetic, hands-on contact with my candles infuses with them with special energy and quality.
Like people, each one is an individual and will have variations. No two will ever be exactly alike. Natural variations in fill level, the angle of the label, and even wick placement and length attest to what a truly handmade product each one is. Cherish each one as you would a friend and embrace their diversity!
It All Begins With A Story
Each Urban Chandlery candle scent begins with a vision. Scents form lasting impressions, create fond memories, and add a timelessness to our experiences.
When creating scents, I draw inspiration from many sources – a longing for a place or time, the desire to pay homage to an old friend, a sense of spiritual reverence, an to urge heal and comfort, or even simply provide something playful to amuse and lighten the heart.
From this vision flows the ‘story’ of the candle, told with scent. Just as a writer sits with a blank page and draws from a library of words to express an idea, when creating a candle I curate a custom-blended scent from a library of fragrance oils, reaching for and combining those I feel will convey the story.
My interest in making candles was sparked while visiting friends in Scandinavia (which has become a second home) and came home with me to my native California, itself a mashup of so many cultures and lifestyles. You’ll find both Scandinavian and Californian influence in Urban Chandlery’s candles and their stories. From childhood I’ve had an interest in the mythology, spirituality, and different cultures of the world and this is expressed in Urban Chandlery’s many scents that pay tribute to the history, traditions, and ways of life of both regions and beyond. I also find laughter is indeed the best medicine and sometimes I just want to crack and a joke and make people smile. My sense of humor is pretty dry and dark and that can sometimes be reflected in my candles.
Sometimes I’ll stumble upon a scent so compelling that I know I’ve got to find a story for it. The ‘earth’ in Eden, redolent of fresh soil, inspired me to think about the creation myth of the garden of Eden, while frankincense & myrrh reminded me of the Catholic churches of my childhood. Alchemy can work in either direction and I’ve had many happy accidents, surprises, and revelations along the way.
“Transforming these visions into fragrances is the best part of chandlery (candle making) and remains my favorite.”
The Library (aka The Lab!)
My favorite part of the candle making process, the ‘mad scientist’ bit, is experimenting with blending my library of oils of until I’ve created the perfect balanced combination to express the story I want to tell. Some scents take longer than others – Rich Hippie was perfect on its first try, but Eleven took several experiments until it was just right and evoked the vision I had for it.
“When your candle is done burning, you can clean and reuse the glass for years to come.”
Containers – Fat-Bottomed Glasses Make the World Go Round!
Once the scent is ready, it’s time to get down to the technical aspects of candle creation and prepare our containers for pouring. Glass containers are washed and dried to remove any residual dust and to prepare them for wicking, while metal containers come ready to go.
We chose our standard heavy-bottom rocks-glass containers for their stability, simple beauty, and sustainability. The design provides a nice weight to provide extra safety (plus we think it looks luxe and sexy!) and blends with any decor from minimalist to global eclectic to baroque. When your candle is done burning, you can clean and reuse the glass for years to come.
Our travel tins provide lightness and portability without sacrificing style, insuring you can bring your candle with you easily in car, purse, pack, or pocket. Our one-ounce ‘babies’ are prefect for a single evening away from home while our four-ounce ‘lagom’ (a Swedish expression meaning ‘just right’) size will last for several evenings. Our travel containers can also be washed and reused, making very cute ‘stash boxes’ for your tiny treasures.
When it strikes our fancy, we sometimes make one-off or bespoke batches in a variety of containers that move us with their beauty – we’ve poured them into mercury glass, gold chevron votives, ceramic vessels that resemble sea-creatures, chic minimalist cement blocks, and many more that have spoken to us (yes, they sometimes do whisper, ‘pour wax into me and set me on fire!’ as we walk by).
“Then, like every mad scientist, I set out my tools for the pour, including a melting pot, pouring pots, my mixed oil blends in small measuring glasses, wick centering devices, and thermometer. We’re now ready for showtime!”
Wicking – The Goldilocks Factor
I have found wicking to be the trickiest part of making candles, likely because I use coconut wax, which is softer than paraffin, soy, or most other waxes. A wick that’s too small will result in ‘tunneling’ and wasted wax (with all that scented goodness! The horror!) and a wick that’s too big will result in the wax burning too fast and some smokiness, so wicking is definitely the ‘Goldilocks’ part of the process.
Wicking is done by hand for each and every container. We use cotton wicks in our metal containers and our beloved crackling wood wicks in our standard rocks glasses.
Creamy Crack – About That Coconut Wax
Another fun part of creating candles is cutting the wax. Unlike soy wax, which usually comes in bags of easy-to-handle flakes, coconut wax comes in large sheets of twelve pounds (5.4 kg) each, usually in a box of five sheets or sixty pounds. The sheets are big and slippery and require a steady hand. I love to set up for a lengthy cutting session and listen to music while I slice the wax with a dedicated knife (saged before every cutting session) into two-pound portions. I’ve found that two pounds at a time is the perfect amount per pour. The geometry of cutting the wax is fun and I play with different shapes – perfect squares, skinny rectangles, odd shaped chunks that break off – they all melt the same, but it’s a bit like a game of tabletop Tetris portioning them and fitting them into their storage containers.
In preparation for pouring, I set the wicked containers onto dedicated trays, usually pouring a mix of glass and tin travel candles to make the most of the wax. Temperature fluctuations can impact the wax, causing ‘wet spots’ (where the wax has pulled away from the glass; it’s important to know that this is purely cosmetic and in no way changes the quality of the candle, but we try to be as perfect as possible, so we do our best to minimize these variations!), so if it’s cold I’ll set a small heater on the work surface to keep the ambient temperature warm and help the candles cool slowly. Then, like every mad scientist, I set out my tools for the pour, including a melting pot, pouring pots, my mixed oil blends in small measuring glasses, wick centering devices, and a thermometer. We’re now ready for showtime!
“When I first started making candles I thought ‘the fresher the better,’ only to find out that the longer the candle has to mature and deepen, the better.”
Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble
– Pouring the Wax
Wax is liquified in the melting pot until it reaches the ideal temperature. It’s then carefully poured into the metal ‘pouring jar’ where it’s allowed to cool to the perfect degree (too hot and your fragrance oil will vaporize and you’ll lose all that good scent!). I slowly and gently add my mixed oils to the liquid wax, stir, wait any tiny air bubbles to dissipate, and then it’s time to pour. It takes a steady hand, as the wax must be poured with care to produce the best possible aesthetic (and least mess). Once the wax is poured, I quickly set the wicks with centering devices and then let them sit while I tidy up.
One of the highlights of this craft is pouring the candles late in the day – or even late at night, with no distractions – and letting them sit overnight. Upon re-entering the studio the next day, I am bowled over with fragrance. It’s really something and always makes me feel joyful and proud.
I let my candles sit and cure for at least a day, sometimes up to a week, before finishing them with the packaging process. When I first started making candles I thought ‘the fresher the better,’ only to find out that the longer the candle has to mature and deepen, the better.
“Every label on the side of our tins, as well as the dust covers on the glass candles and the cotton bags they come in, is personally stamped in the studio.”
After curing, it’s time to clean them up and get them ready for packaging. Each candle is given a once-over for integrity and gently wiped to remove any residual wax left over from pouring to create a nice, clean surface for labeling.
Labeling can be tricky but it’s also the fun part! Each Urban Chandlery candle has some aspect of hand-stamping to it. Every label on the side of our tins, as well as the dust covers on the glass candles and the cotton bags they come in, is personally stamped in the studio. Amusingly, the stamping can be fun, too – another Goldilocks game of placement, pressure, and execution!
“I donate $2.20 from every Paloma and Benito Canelo candle in any size to Rocket Dog Rescue, a Bay Area-based rescue whose work saving dogs is truly revolutionary.”
I believe every company and individual should strive to give back to the community in whichever way suits their personal and organizational philosophies. I’ve had the gift and privilege of being ‘Mum’ to four rescue dogs, as well as having fostered and helped rescue countless more (and a few cats, too!).
Several of my candles are named after my now-in-spirit dogs as an homage to their lives and the joy they brought me. I donate $2.20 from every Paloma and Benito Canelo candle in any size to Rocket Dog Rescue, a Bay Area-based rescue whose work saving dogs is truly revolutionary. Why $2.20?
My first two dogs both passed on the 22nd of different months (and at the waxing crescent moon), so now ‘22’ is my special number that represents their memory. My hope is for their memory to live on, continue to bring happiness, and help other dogs find new lives and loving homes.