You slide open the matchbox. Strike the match. Light the wick. And before you can even extinguish its flame, a warm aura begins to steep through the room, infusing the very space you inhabit with handcrafted candlelight and healing aromas. Be it an old growth forest, late night around the summertime campfire, or a day just spent in an aromatic tea garden - candles hold the power to help us escape through their finely tuned and often soothing scents.
Meet Jess Drawhorn and Carson Howse, two art school buds who have combined their knowledge of good design, thriftiness and fine sense of smell to form hand crafted candles under their guise, Wax & Wane. Last week we had the privilege to pop into the Wax & Wane headquarters (or depending on your visit, Jess's apartment). With perfectly positioned windows, the natural lighting of the room almost begs for the warm glow of a few, homemade candles.
The makers of Wax & Wane want you to know, that around each of their hand-poured candles lies a story worth the listen, literally. Before the well-crafted hand poured wax, there's the treasure hunt for each unique candle vessel. Good design and thrifty powers combined, Carson and Jess often span North Florida flea markets & locally owned thrift and antique shops in search for these perfect containers. These re-purposed finds, with timeless quality and practicality, fall so easily into their new role in life. And in Wax & Wane HQ belongs boxes of these back-town hidden treasures. Of pieces that you naturally would not assume could be made a candle, but once they made just seem so well-fit.
This sort of ingenious recycling is that a small business like Wax & Wane provides is really where the concept of sustainability fits so perfect into our post-post-modern world. Each candle is crafted thoughtfully with simple and organic ingredients like soy wax, organic hemp wick, plant based essentials oils, at times even pressing and extracting their own. After the making process, each pour goes into a unique, reclaimed container. And then to come full circle, as the candle burns though the wick, what's left is simply the container. Which you can then re-purpose for another magical candle from our ladies, or of course use as like, a mug.
Moving on to the most important part to any candle lover: the scent. Some of us are ridiculously specific about fragrance, i.e. can't really stomach anything sweet or fake. The nature-lovers in us at bloom are attracted to woodsy, slightly musky & citrusy scents. With a lineup that includes: Torreya (grapefruit & pine), Tea Tree, Atlas (star anise & dillweed), Weekend (lemon, gardenia & red thyme) and their seasonal Heirloom (peppermint & cedar), it's clear that Wax & Wane has a back-to-the-earth kind of approach to their candles that we couldn't resist.
Furthering the local ethos, Wax & Wane is currently collaborating with local maker Marina Mertz of Anhaica Bags. Providing the perfect gift bag, Marina hand sews well tailored, heavy and waxed canvas candle bags that seem like the perfect match to what treasure is hiding inside.
While each crafted candle scent is incredible, the heirloom is our own personal fave. But of course half the fun is finding your own chosen scent! Wax & Wane provides their candles from anywhere between $10 and $100, depending on the size and the style of container. You can easily order the candles online here. There’s no better way to battle the big box stores than by offering items that are truly unique, hand crafted and locally sourced.
But enough from us -- read the interview below with these two beautiful and talented woman:
Typical day at work?
Jess: Lately, it's been Carson showing up at my house with a carload of new glass treasures to unpack, and me claiming that we're not selling any of them because I'm keeping them to myself. Then I gush about all the new ideas I've been researching. A lot of the work is done in stages, but we typically work together to prep and pour each batch of containers. Every big workday is uniquely challenging, but it’s always fun.
Tell us a bit about each of your rolls with Wax and Wane…
C: I do most of the container shopping and all of the design including social media graphics, labels, future packaging plans, and display pieces for our shows/sales. On that note, we want to give a shout-out to a good friend and fellow junker Dawn Davis at Magnolia Mercantile who collaborates with us and lends us any and all display pieces for sales. We highly recommend checking out her shop located right off of Miccosukkee here in Tallahassee. I also work a lot on our inventory organization and online shipping orders. I know Jess does so much with the actualized candle making…I try to help wherever else I can!
J: I make the candles! Which means one part candle pouring for every three parts testing and researching.
Do you make any scented candles? If so, what do you use to scent your candles?
J: Yes! Right now we've got two major scents. 'Torreya' is grapefruit and pine essential oils- slightly sweet, definitely citrusy, but also smoky and woodsy. On the name, we really wanted to dedicate this scent to one of our favorite local State Parks, Torreya is a very easy going and beautiful place to go for a hike or spend a weekend. The idea of a citrus coupled with the woodsy pine really makes a great unisex scent reminiscent of an early, light breakfast in the woods while someone relights the campfire. A body care specialist that we know actually advised us against this combo, she thought they would smell awful! We're so glad we tried it, because Torreya is the one we're most proud of.
‘Weekend' is a very specific blend of lemon, gardenia and red thyme. We wanted to balance the heady floral notes of the gardenia with the soapy citrus and bite of the thyme to create a scent that would invigorate and energize, but also make you feel calm and grounded. We think everyone needs that one “so fresh and so clean, clean” scent to get us through Saturday chores or to help me fight off the Sunday blues…it’s that rejuvenation we long for all week long!
What are some of your favorite candle makers out there right now?
J: Our plan for the next few years is to grow W&W beyond candles, adding products like room spray and hand salve, so we definitely try to keep a good eye out for all sorts of home goods makers and apothecary shops. There’s usually a specific aspect that attracts us to the artists and makers we keep up with. For example, Man Ready Merc out of Houston is great because they use essential oils also and though they’ve really grown into a larger shop, candles are where it all began! We like the simplicity of candles from P.F. Candle Co. in Los Angeles and we adore Juniper Ridge out of Northern CA for their rad design and overall production process.
How/where do you find your candle vessels?
Carson: Every spare moment you can find me at an estate sale, thrift shop, garage sale, or antique shop quickly skimming the glassware selection. The meccas for W&W though are the fleas. There, it’s about quality and quantity where we know we can get the most bang for our buck in the shortest amount of time. At the flea market, it’s not about luck but instead time - how quickly I can scour to the get the best goods. They require a night spent in a cheap hotel with a 5AM wake up call from the front desk. By 6:30, I’m out in the fields with a headlamp greeting vendors and getting warmed up on some wheeling and dealing. For me, these experiences I encounter with friendly seasonal sellers and the strange stories that come with them - this is exactly why we do what we do. The stories picked up from the family’s life prior to the Estate Sale or the wild Canadian biker selling milk glass at the flea - we really want to pass these experiences along to others. The second you start using newly made containers with no story behind them other than the factory they came out of, that’s when the fun and, to us, the purpose is taken away. Each container is unique, one of a kind, and always comes with a story to tell.
J: So many reasons. Last summer, Carson and I were talking a lot about where our futures were headed. Going through art school can be a very confusing and isolating experience and I think we were both looking for a way to get out of our own heads and commune with others. Personally, I wanted to make a product that would bring people comfort and I think candles really lend themselves well to that goal.
C: I can reluctantly say, that I initially went into this venture with Jess for shallow reasons. As a designer, I often find my purpose for beginning projects simply because I want to make things look good. This was sort of the case for W&W in the beginning, to be honest. I needed a real project to work on creatively that would involve branding and label design, because I hadn’t ever had that opportunity before. Okay, wait. I’ll also admit that the summer Jess and I started talking about the possibility of a side biz on our commutes to work in Thomasville, GA - I was going through a major candle craze. I bought every thrifted candle and holder I could find and filled my back porch with lots of tapers, votives, and big pillars. Though they didn’t last long in the Tally heat and usually smelled pretty awful, they were there with me when I was making and selling fish paintings to scrape by post art school graduation. A couple of late night séances definitely happened too. So in summary, it didn’t take long for me to get hooked on our own candle making process and falling in love with the product – it’s usually hard to give them up.
What is your creative and production process like? And what about it is your favorite part?
C: Our creative process usually happens individually and ends with a series of 1,000 texts to the other person, sometimes at 2AM. With Jess in the service industry and me in the 9-5 world, we have to work extra hard to share our research and discoveries. I think we’d both say that any time spent together laughing about “Janky Candle Company” possibilities (i.e.: “mandles” - man candles in mugs or novelty shot glass candles) is especially important in keeping our process fun. For me, the wicking process is my favorite because once we’re in the mindless groove, it gives us a chance to catch up on each other’s lives and helps us remember that we’re not just business partners, but also close friends!
What’s the most important philosophy you live by on a daily basis?
C: My life has been a whirlwind of constant phases. It feels like I’ve been so many versions of myself. For a while, that really bothered me. Now, I see it as a positive sign of growth and curiosity about life and the people in it. My philosophy would have to be something along the lines of “It’s never too late to be what you already are.” I think it’s important to not take yourself too seriously and try not to judge others who do, but instead lead by example and embrace new perceptions. On a daily basis, I try to remind myself to: ask questions and don’t feel stupid about them, don’t skip lunch, dance a lot, and remember to look away from the computer screen every half hour.
J: This is where you find out where we got our name, 'Wax & Wane'. I think Carson said it as a joke, but it really resonated with both of us, and nothing else seemed as fitting. Some days I get these wild ideas and spend the whole day thinking that I'm going to take a year off and backpack the country with my dog, and then some days I lay in bed under the covers all day reading my favorite cooking blog. I too am incredibly phasic, so I try to remind myself to seek balance every day. I'm learning to be ok with the natural rhythms of my existence, accepting what's outside of my control and taking responsibility for what is.
Where do you source your materials? How do you incorporate natural & local ingredients into your candles?
J: Our supplies like soy wax and bulk essential oils come from Bulk Apothecary and Mountain Rose Herbs. The organic hemp wick comes from a small producer in Hawaii. Locally, we shop at small thrift stores and flea markets and we get beeswax from a guy in Bristol through Anhaica Bag Works. I just bought a ton of herbs from Athena's Garden in RRSQ to start developing and testing some new products.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
J: I have a super weird working method- I listen to the first Youth Lagoon album and than this one King Krule song on repeat. I read a lot of blogs written by herbalists and sustainable lifestyle experts.
C: I can’t seem to get off my southern high horse lately, so I’ve been listening to all 6 albums from the music issues of the literary magazine Oxford American - Linda Martell & Louisiana’s Rev. Utah Smith to name a couple. I’ve also been hitting on some throwback childhood country favorites like Jo Dee Messina and Alan Jackson (denim on denim, yes!). Simultaneously, I browse site’s like Die Line for packaging design ideas, Skillshare’s class galleries for process inspiration, and of course the Instagram candle hashtags just to keep up, and sometimes crack up, with the latest boutique-y soy candle trends.
Do you make custom orders? Say, if there was a special vessel one wanted to be made a candle?
C: Absolutely! For a discounted price, we also offer refills on your W&W candle once it’s burned down. We want your candle containers to be cherished and to last, not discarded after each use.
Where can we purchase your candles?
C: On our website at: waxandwanecandles.bigcartel.com or at the occasional First Friday via Tallahassee’s Urban Outfitters makers market. We’re also going to be at Due South this year (April 26th), Thomasville’s annual art, maker, music festival benefitting the Thomasville Center for the Arts. We have dreams that Marina of Anhaica Bag Works will one day open a general store in Tallahassee so there could be an incredible place for our candles to proudly sit along with her own well-curated group of USA makers.
What are some of your favorite scent combinations?
C: We love balance. Usually a citrus, an herb and a flower makes a great combo. Anytime we can bring the smells of the outdoors inside with us, we will because there’s no better smell than- Outside. The main idea about scents we are trying to maintain and promote are natural smells. We know that so many people have had to adapt to “headache candles” as we call them and we hate that to be the case. Where we do understand the need for an occasional “masking candle” for your inevitably smelly dog, we also know that they don’t have to be made artificially or smell fake to solve this problem. Producers like Juniper Ridge who use all-natural and foraged ingredients including natural oils which are potent extracts all on their very own— we say apply liberally! Same goes for our candles, burn baby burn.
What’s in the future for Wax and Wane?
C: Jess has been knee deep in hand salve and room spray testing, we can’t wait to release new small apothecary products like this in conduction with our candles! In addition, we’re planning on honing in on more beeswax birthday candles and offering sets of tapers too. I’m also working on warm-water surf wax testing, in hopes of releasing a Wax & Wane small batch run this summer! Right now, we’re most excited about collaboration with Anhaica Bag Works —most likely limited edition beeswax votives. We’ve got lots in store, so be on the lookout soon!
J: Beyond our actual products, I hope that W&W will become an example for others to follow. Not that we're visionaries in the world of "Natural & Sustainable", but we're doing what we can with what we have. I hope to use W&W as an educational platform to show that every business can find ways to produce less waste, and every home can find practical ways to rely on plants and not chemical manufacturing.
What has been your most cherished memory along the way?
J: What a fun question! I'm going to roll up all the many, many times we made bonehead mistakes into one and that's my answer. Breaking glass; me encasing my phone in beeswax; pronouncing our ingredients incorrectly; forgetting to bring an extra box of candles to the candle sale after jokingly writing 'candles' on the packing list… We've had such a great time laughing at ourselves! My favorite thing about W&W is that at the end of the day, after all the accidents and mistakes, Carson and I are still able to deliver a product that we're really proud of and excited to share.
Wax & Wane candles bring a sense of revival to the rituals of life. Entertaining, relaxing, living, gathering. We get the feeling they appreciates rituals. Their selections and offerings make you want to participate in all of it. My sense (pun intended) is that W&W is cultivating an understanding of the way things interact with each other offering comfort & balance within our spaces to give energy and waken the senses.
A woodsy blend of grapefruit and pine, inspired by our beloved state park.
A subtle, musky, energizing scent and the perfect camper's compliment to Torreya.
We combined cedar and peppermint to recreate our most dear memories of holidays past. Whether it's a warm embrace or a cold-nosed cup of tea on the porch, we hope that Heirloom will be the cozy reminder of- or accompaniment to- your favorite gatherings.
This is our mix of Lemon, Gardenia & Red Thyme. Perfect for opening all the windows and airing out the house, it's that clean Sunday rejuvenation we long for all week.
Mix of Star Anise, Dillweed and a 50/50 beeswax soy blend.