Candle Musing

I love a winter’s evening when it’s cozy inside and I have a candle or tart burning, a sharp contrast to the wind and snow outside my window.

 The scent, whichever one I’ve chosen, is delightful. Whether it reminds me of my mother’s baking, a sophisticated perfume or even a floral that reminds me that spring will come, the aroma evokes a positive feeling.  And who doesn’t love the mesmerizing glow of fire?  I admit nevertheless, that my candle burning is mostly relegated to votives and tarts.  This leads me to wonder if I am part of the majority or whether my candle desires are just simple compared to others’.

 

I do see container candles frequently, and at craft shows I enjoy those amazing candles that look like dessert.  You know, the candles that look like apple pie or pie ala mode or even banana splits.  They fill booths with their delicious splendor and aromatic attributes that cause one’s mouth to water.  And yet, I burn votives.

 

Speaking of scent,  I remember several years ago, being told that candles could not be made with essential oils; but more recently, I’ve seen many essential oil candles.  Apparently, it is possible, although I’m certain that not all essential oils perform well in candles.

 

Candlemakers, it’s time to join the conversation.  What kinds of candles do you make?  If you sell them, which types are most popular?  Are essential oil candles and tarts a popular choice?

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne, for the Saponifier

Suited Up and Suitable for Soaping (and Candlemaking)

How do you dress to make soap or candles?  Are you covered head to toe in protective gear or are you be found in a t-shirt, shorts, and bare feet?

 

If it’s the former, you’ll want to read on to feel good about yourself or to make sure you’re doing things the right way.  If the latter, well, consider this a lecture.

 

Making soap and candles comes with inherent dangers, mainly pertaining to heat and caustic substances.  We’ve all heard stories about people being burned by lye, caustic soap getting in the eye, burns from a forgotten pan of wax.  To be sure, things happen.  Soap gets spilled on the floor, unnoticed.  A pot volcanoes, sending soap lava out of the pot and all over the surface it’s sitting on.  The candle wax heated up faster than you thought it would and flames appear.  A properly suited up person is in a better position to react quickly and safely than one who isn’t.

 

If it seems like overkill, think about it as if you were an employee of a company or that one of your loved ones was.  What if that company allowed its workers to be barefoot, making soap?  What if your child or other loved one were put to work in that environment without access to safety gear?  I can predict that you would rightfully expect that both you and your loved ones would be properly protected, so offer the same to yourself.

 

Chandlers, think you’re off the hook?  Not so fast!.  Hot wax is dangerous and cannot be removed easily, so as with soapmaking, shoes and socks and a heavy apron are essential equipment for protecting from splashes.  Long sleeves and eyewear are also important.

 

Even in creating bath and body products, certainly safety rules must be obeyed.  The first one that comes to mind is a mask to filter out particulates from powders such as cornstarch and powdered herbs.  The second is to protect the skin from scent by wearing gloves.

 

Finally, wearing a respirator mask when working with scent, whether fragrance oils or essential oils, is just plain smart.  We often worry about scent in regards to our customers, but tend to forget that we are exposed to much stronger scents, more frequently and for longer time periods than  the average user and thus, are more likely to develop problems with scent than the general public.

 

My advice:  get yourself suited up so you can safely pursue your craft!

 

Until next time,

 

May your days be filled with bubbles &  wax.

 

Beth Byrne

Color My World–or at Least My Soap

Color–one of my favorite topics.

 

 I find myself drawn to color, which probably explains why I like gardening, flower arranging and soapmaking.  They allow me to enjoy creativity in coloring, whether blending or just enjoying the beautiful hues.  The possibilities in creating color patterns are literally endless and I can admire photo after photo of colorful soaps that my fellow soapmakers have created.  The same is true of candles.  I’m a stickler about the color matching the scent, but I enjoy the many colors and designs in candles.  At the same time, I want to see a lilac scented candle with lots of purple.  Don’t confuse me with something red!

 

One scent/color combo that I find disconcerting is peppermint.  Have you noticed that it can be red, blue, or green?  How confusing.  Give me something easy like lemon.  The soap or candle will be yellow; but, simple, common peppermint, and I have three choices!  It can really wear on a person trying to decide which color to use in a case like this.

 

Quite often, a scent doesn’t conjure up an obvious color.  As a matter of fact, I recently made a soap using a sandalwood vanilla fragrance.  What color should it be?  I think it should be a light brown, because sandalwood is a tree and tree trunks are brown.  Also, vanilla beans are brown and the scent will turn the product brown, so I’m just being realistic.  I ended up making it light brown and blue.  Why blue?  I don’t know.  I just liked the blend, and thought it would be appropriate for a unisex soap.  You might say I’m breaking my own rules, and I am.  In my defense, however, I do attempt to offer my customers a variety of colors so that if they’re looking for a soap to match the bathroom or kitchen, I have it and for some reason, I don’t offer much in blue.

 

Do you feel the same way about color?  Must you color your soap and candles, or is it unimportant to you?  If you use colorants, what are your favorite ones?

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne

Remember When? A Request of the Experienced

Remember back to the days when you first began to make soap or candles.  For some of you, it’s a distant memory.  For others, it’s easily recaptured.  Regardless of the time and path traveled from then until now, try to remember how “green” you were– maybe far enough back that “green” only meant the color or that you were new to the craft!  Are you remembering how confusing everything was, how many terms you had to learn, how to procure the equipment and supplies?  Remember carefully studying the safety tips others gave you?  I want you to put yourself in that place again for a moment.

 

 

Why?  I have a couple of reasons in mind;  one of them is empathy.  If you can remember how much there was to learn and the trepidation that you felt at the beginning, you can feel empathy for the newbies you run across.  Yes, it may feel as if you’ve answered a certain question a hundred times and yes, it might seem obvious what the answer is to another.  Nevertheless, you can answer that question or help the person figure out the answer, paying back what has been given to you.

 

I don’t have to tell you that soap and candlemaking have been serious industries and crafts for centuries, their secrets closely protected and passed on to future generations.  Just as in the past, this vital information must be passed on to others now, so the crafts will be preserved for the future, which is my second reason for asking you to think about where you began.  I personally remember many teachers I had–Rita Scheu of  TLC Soaps and many others I “met” online who taught and encouraged me along the way.  Indeed, I’m not finished learning.  Just a few days ago, I asked a question which other soap makers helped me with, and that knowledge will make me a better soapmaker.

 

Potential and beginning soap and candle makers these days face a different challenge than many of us faced.  Before the explosion of the internet,  instruction was difficult to find.  Today, they are barraged with information, much of it inaccurate at best, and dangerous at worst.  If you can lend some encouragement along the way and show newbies where they can find good information (Saponifier), you’ll be doing them, the craft, and you, a world of good!

Until next time, bubbles up!

 

Beth Byrne

Artist or Artisan, Which are You?

What kind of soapmaker or chandler do you consider yourself?

 

Are you an artist, creating and offering soaps and/or candles that are intricate and beautiful pieces of art that customers are more likely to admire on a shelf than to use?  Or, are you a pragmatic artisan, offering to-be-used, but plainer soaps or votives and tealights?

 

At first, I made melt and pour soap and loved coming up with new ideas for making beautiful soaps.  People purchased them as gifts or to display in their bathrooms, for the most part.  Later, I learned CP soapmaking but still wanted to make artistic soaps.  In talking with a fellow soapmaker, however, she offered her observation that plainer soaps sold better.  The purchaser was more likely to use them and come back for more, not to mention the fact that they took less time to make so there was more profit to be made.  Since I was having trouble mastering the swirl, I quickly decided the plainer but more profitable, artisan route was for me.  I did miss the fancy m&p soaps and decided to make them in a few seasonal soaps if I got around to it, and I’m still working on my swirls and other techniques that challenge my creative side, but that is no longer my focus.  Part of me wants to do more, but the business side tells me to concentrate on my main product.

 

I am not a chandler, but have seen others’ work, and the artistic vs. artisan influence is certainly at work there.  I admire the candles that look like sumptuous desserts, for instance, but are unlikely to be burned, and I also admire a nicely made candle in a tin or a votive that burns well and makes the room smell pleasant.

 

One is not intrinsically superior to the other; it’s more of a preference, a market, and what one finds fulfilling, but just in case it’s not clear, here is how I separate artistic from artisan:

 

Artistic:  not the basic bar or candle; features colors, swirls, shapes, and other visual appeal designed to delight the eyes.

 Artisan:  more of the basic geometric bar or candle.  Although visually appealing, not designed for artistic market.  Designed for everyday use, instead.  Focus is on the performance of the product.

 

Of course, both are artisans.  Neither one is intrinsically superior to the other; it’s a preference, a market, or what one finds personally  fulfilling.

 

So, here’s my question:  what do you do?  Do you strongly prefer artistic soap and/or candle making or are you an artisan?  Perhaps you’ve combined the two?

 

  Until next time, happy suds and wax!

 

Beth Byrne

Calling all Chandlers!

I confess that I don’t make candles.

 

It’s not that I dislike them or that I have no interest.  In fact, I’m more and more tempted all of the time to give it a try, but it seems overwhelming to learn everything.  I would need to know which wax to use, how to choose the proper wicks and wick size, and then I would have to test each type and scent.

If you were my teacher, how would you guide me?  Is there a certain book you’d point me to?  A website?  Would you suggest one type of candle that is “newbie friendly?”

How did you start out?  Did you dive right in, learning by trial-and-error, or did you have a mentor guiding you along?

Share with us!

 

 

 

Recycling and Social Media: What About You?

All those bits and ends of candles, you’d like to find a way to use them, but how?  Erica Pence comes to the rescue in Recycled Candles, explaining just how easy it is to remake those stubs into tea lights, votives and even decorative candles.  She even gives simple directions for making candles in pumpkins and other seasonal produce for a lovely holiday theme! Naturally, I purged my leftovers not long ago, but will save them again so I can give Erica’s advice a go.

Have you tried this yet?  Let us know how it went.

In this day and age, you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Social Media.  Clearly, the buzz phrase of the decade, Social Media brings to mind probably at least a couple of types.  The question is, how well do you make use of it as a tool for marketing your business?  Is the entire topic an unknown that you’re afraid to explore?  Or is it a lake that you’ve dipped your toe in, but you’ve been afraid to jump?  Perhaps you feel as if you have jumped in, but belly-flopped.  Read, Five Steps to Social Media Success:  An Interview with Donna Maria Coles Johnson, written by Beth Byrne.  In it, dM as she likes to be called, outlines the major Social Media types, as well as a few not so major, and helps us to both understand them, their purpose, and how to use them effectively in our businesses.  Ever amazed by dM’s knowledge of the latest and greatest in marketing and technology, I just know you’ll find her thoughts helpful in your own efforts.

Have you implemented any of the strategies mentioned in the article?  Share with us how it’s working for you!

Until next time, happy bubbles!

What About Candles?

Let’s turn our attention to candles this week.  How many of you make candles?  Do you make soap and bath and body, as well, or just candles?

At one time essential to daily living, candles now provide us a serene or romantic ambience when lighting a dark room.  Their endless colors and designs decorate our homes and other spaces.  Their scents bring us pleasure, evoking memories of the past, or just making us feel good.

No longer limited to tallow, we now make candles with paraffin, soy, or palm oil, beeswax, or gel.  Are there any I missed?  Even the types are unlimited–jar, pillar, votive, and so on, and the colors and designs that can be made, endless.  So much to try, so much to know!

What kinds of candles did you start with?  How would you suggest that a “newbie” begins?

Are you like Ben Franklin’s Father?

Back in the early days of colonial USA, living in cities and towns would be a tradesperson who made soap and candles.

As a matter of fact, Ben Franklin’s father, Josiah, was a soap and candle maker and seller, supporting his family with this business.  The family was not particularly well-to-do, but if Josiah Franklin could support 17 children, it couldn’t have been too poor a vocation!

It’s easy to see why Josiah and others like him manufactured both soap and candles, because they were both made from tallow.  The tallow they used was beef tallow, but many other animal fats are called tallows, also, such as deer and bison.  The most notable exception to that is lard, which is pig fat.  Why it’s not called pig tallow, I have no idea, but, I digress.  I have never seen or heard any of my candle-making friends speak of tallow candles, so that natural association no longer exists, but it makes me wonder how many of our readers do make both soap and candles.

Do you make both?  If so, why?  What is the common bond between the two products that makes one a natural lead-in to the other?

We’re looking forward to reading your answers!