Meeting the Maker: DIP CANDLES
Meet Alice, a restaurant owner in the serene town of Martinborough, New Zealand, who found her passion in an unexpected place - beeswax candle making. In this interview, Alice shares her journey from receiving a gift of beeswax to crafting enchanting, sustainable candles with a touch of artistry.
BZZWAX: Can you share a little bit about yourself and what led you to become a beeswax candle maker?
Alice: Hi, I’m Alice I live in Martinborough a small rural town in New Zealand. I own and run a restaurant and wine bar here. It’s a beautiful vineyard town with rivers, mountain ranges and of course bees.
During our lockdowns Xanthe, a good friend and cook at my restaurant was given a bunch of wax from a local beekeeper; so, she did a bit of research and made some tiny little hand dipped tapers. She gifted me a couple for my birthday and that was it. I fell in love with the charm, the smell and the handmade nature of slowly dipped candles.
From there we started dipping together most days…. We were in a lock down so it was a perfect time to indulge in a super time consuming craft. We started by using old olive oil cans filled with wax in a pot of hot water over the stove.
Turns out wax isn’t the best thing to have in your kitchen, we moved outside and heated our wax over a gas burner. We started moulding our candles while the wax was still warm. Neither of us were satisfied with straight tapers so our candles turned into bizarre pieces of art.
"The methodical and slow process of hand dipping has helped with my anxiety, given me something to focus on and slow down my brain."
How do you incorporate sustainable practices into your candle making process?
All of my beeswax comes from a local hive, Mountain Gold Manuka. The beekeepers Father, Freddi, melts down the wax - and does an incredible job too.
I just pop over to his house whenever I need a top up. There’s not a lot to it with hand dipped candles - so it’s very minimal waste. It’s such a simple process involving, wax, heat, a bit of water and a cotton wick.
The coloured candles are made using natural dyes, ground-up annatto seeds for orange and activated charcoal for the black.
I reuse old wine and spirit boxes from our restaurant so I’m not buying any new packing.
What aspects of beeswax do you find most special compared to other types of waxes?
The smell and variation. Depending on the season, which hive it comes from, the behaviour of the bees… each time I buy a batch it smells slightly different and colours can vary from almost brown to bright or deep yellow. Different batches heat and melt differently too which leads me to create new shapes. It’s alive!
Any advice for individuals interested in starting their own candle making journey?
Give hand dipping a go, it’s absolutely the most cathartic thing I’ve ever done. You can do it on a small scale using an old can in a pot of water. If you’re wanting to do it on a bigger scale make sure you have access to a good supply of wax. Chat to local beekeepers to understand the process and where it comes from.
How has your contact with beeswax influenced your understanding of the natural world and the need to protect it?
I barely knew soy from paraffin before I started playing around with beeswax. It’s made me appreciate all the positives of a clean burning candle for me and the environment. The smell produced due to the bees collecting nectar from, and pollinating our native Mānuka trees is so special.
We lost a lot of our native forest here in colonial days, but, it’s coming back slowly with a lot of love and replanting. It’s all connected and it’s great that a candle can shine a light on that, rather than just being decorative homeware.
Could you share any stories or experiences that demonstrate the positive impact your beeswax candles have had on people's lives?
On a simple note they make people happy, the smell is calming, they’re tactile with their twists and bends. They’re heart warming little blobs of wax. But really the main experience I can share is my own. The methodical and slow process of hand dipping has helped with my anxiety, given me something to focus on and slow down my brain.
"Give hand dipping a go, it’s absolutely the most cathartic thing I’ve ever done."
Do you have any exciting future projects or developments planned?
I’m just getting started! I’ve finally got a permanent space to dip so future projects are in the planning stages - it’s a side hustle at this stage so I’m just keeping up with stocking my website and custom orders at the moment.
I’d love to stay home every day making candles. That might be the end goal.
Alice's dedication to craftsmanship and sustainability in her candle making is truly inspiring. Through her unique beeswax creations, she not only brightens spaces but also highlights the importance of preserving our environment.
We look forward to her future projects, as each of her candles tells a story and invites us to embrace the wonders of nature.