A history of candles
Candles have played a vital role in the history of Britain for centuries, providing light and warmth to homes and communities before the invention of electric lighting. The use of candles in Britain dates back to ancient times, with the earliest known candles made from tallow or beeswax.
During the medieval period, candles were an important commodity and were produced by chandlers, who were skilled craftsmen that specialised in candle making. Candles were primarily made from tallow, which is derived from animal fat, and were used by the church for religious ceremonies and by households for lighting.
In the 15th century, beeswax candles were introduced and became the preferred choice due to their clean burning properties and pleasant scent. Beeswax candles were expensive, and only the wealthy could afford them. This led to the production of cheaper alternatives, such as rush lights and tallow candles, which were made from rushes and animal fat respectively.
During the 18th century, advancements in technology led to the development of a new type of candle called spermaceti candles. These were made from spermaceti, a waxy substance found in the head of the sperm whale, and were prized for their bright and steady flame.
In the 19th century, the use of paraffin wax in candle making became popular due to its affordability and availability. Paraffin wax is derived from petroleum and can be easily moulded into candles of various shapes and sizes. This led to the production of decorative candles, which were used for ornamental purposes and as gifts.
During the 20th century, the popularity of candles declined with the advent of electric lighting. However, candles remained an important part of British culture and continued to be used for religious ceremonies, special occasions, and as decorative items.
Today, candles are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, with many people using them for aromatherapy, meditation, and relaxation. In recent years, there has also been a trend towards eco-friendly and sustainable candles, made from natural waxes such as soy wax and beeswax.
In conclusion, candles have a rich history in Britain and have played an important role in providing light and warmth to homes and communities for centuries. From the earliest tallow candles to the modern soy wax candles, candles have evolved over time and continue to be an important part of British culture.
Tools of the candles trade
Candle making is a traditional craft that requires a range of tools to create beautiful and functional candles. Here are some of the main tools used in candle making in the UK:
Double boiler: a type of pot used for melting wax and other ingredients over a gentle heat. It consists of two pots, one nested inside the other, with the outer pot filled with water.
Thermometer: used to monitor the temperature of the wax as it melts. This ensures that the wax does not overheat or burn, which can affect the quality of the finished candle.
Wax: the main ingredient in candle making, available in a range of types such as beeswax, paraffin wax, soy wax and palm wax. The type of wax used depends on the desired properties of the finished candle.
Wick: the part of the candle that burns and provides the flame. Wicks are available in different sizes and materials, such as cotton, hemp, and wood.
Wick holder: a small metal or plastic device that holds the wick in place while the wax is poured.
Fragrance oils: used to add scents to the candle. These oils are available in a wide range of fragrances, from floral to spicy to fruity.
Dyes: used to colour the wax, available in a range of colours.
Moulds: used to shape the wax into different forms, such as pillars, votives, tea lights, and tapers. Moulds are made from materials such as metal, plastic, and silicone.
Melting pot: used to melt the wax and other ingredients. These can be made of metal, such as aluminium or stainless steel, or plastic.
Scissors: used to trim the wick to the desired length.
By using these tools, candle makers can create a wide range of beautiful and functional candles, from simple pillar candles to ornate tea lights. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced candle maker, having the right tools is essential to producing high-quality candles.
Materials used in candles
Handmade candles are a popular craft in the UK, and there are many different materials used to create them. Here are some of the main materials used in handmade candles, along with specific candle examples and their uses:
Wax: The main ingredient in most candles. There are different types of wax used, including beeswax, soy wax, paraffin wax, and palm wax. Beeswax candles are known for their clean burn and natural aroma. Soy wax candles are popular for their long burn time and natural, renewable source. Paraffin wax candles are commonly used in commercial candles and are known for their bright colours and strong scents. Palm wax candles are made from sustainable sources and have a unique crystalline texture. Examples of candles made from wax include pillar candles, container candles, and tea light candles.
Fragrance oils: Used to add scent to candles. There are many different fragrance oils available, including vanilla, lavender, and sandalwood. Essential oils can also be used to add scent to candles. Examples of candles scented with fragrance oils include aromatherapy candles, scented votives, and scented pillars.
Wicks: The part of the candle that burns and provides the flame. Wicks are available in different sizes and materials, such as cotton, hemp, and wood. Examples of candles made with wicks include floating candles, tapers, and votives.
Dyes: Used to add colour to the wax. Dyes are available in a range of colours and can be mixed to create custom shades. Examples of candles made with dyes include multi-coloured pillar candles and taper candles.
Additives: Used to change the properties of the wax. Examples of additives include stearic acid, which can harden wax and improve opacity, and UV inhibitors, which can help prevent candles from fading in sunlight. Examples of candles made with additives include outdoor candles and emergency candles.
Decorative elements: Used to add visual interest to candles. Decorative elements can include dried flowers, herbs, and glitter. Examples of candles made with decorative elements include floating flower candles and glitter candles.
Containers: Used to hold the wax and provide a base for the candle. Containers can be made from glass, ceramic, or metal. Examples of candles made in containers include jar candles and tin candles.
These are some of the main materials used in handmade candles in the UK. By using different combinations of these materials, candle makers can create a wide range of beautiful and functional candles.
Techniques of candles
Fill the mould with water and measure it, to calculate the amount of wax needed, where 3 ounces of wax are needed for each 3.5 ounces of water.
Put wax into the top saucepan, fill the lower pan a third full of water and begin heating it gently on the stove.
Melt the wax to a temperature of approximately 180°F. The thermometer should be dipped into the wax, but not touching the bottom of the pan, to ensure readings are correct.
Place a length of wick into the melted wax and remove it when it begins releasing bubbles, indicating that sufficient wax has been absorbed. Using a heat proof implement, remove the wick from the hot wax and pull it tight and lay it flat to dry.
When the wick has hardened, put it through the small hole at the top of the mould and pull it through, securing it around a wick support such as a pencil.
When the wax reaches the required temperature, add 1/2 tsp of vybar and 3 TBS stearic acid for each one pound of wax and when the additives have dissolved add colour.
Add one ounce of fragrance oil for each pound of wax and stir gently for a couple of minutes.
Use the jug to pour wax into the mould. Metal moulds should be preheated prior to pouring using a blow torch or low temperature oven.
Tap the sides of the mould a few times before the wax sets, to release trapped air bubbles.
When the wax becomes tacky, poke small holes around the wick to release air pockets in the candle which could be a fire hazard.
Leave the candle for a few hours to set. Wax contracts as it cools and consequently you should top up the mould by melting and pouring some more wax.
When the wax has set, remove the candle from its mould and if necessary smooth and even its base.
Let the candle stand for at least a couple of days before lighting it. This allows time for the scent to bind with the wax.
Tips and tricks of candles
1. Prime Presentation: Display your candles on multi-levelled stands or tables, ensuring each level is stable and visually appealing. Using different heights creates a cascading effect, captivating potential buyers.
2. Thematic Arrangement: Group candles by themes such as scent, colour, or season. This categorisation helps attendees find and select their favourites efficiently.
3. Engaging Descriptors: Employ descriptive tags and labels. For instance, instead of simply “lavender”, choose terms like “Lavender Dreams” or “English Lavender Meadow”. Narrative descriptions can captivate the imagination.
4. Quality is King: Uphold a high standard of craftsmanship in each candle. Consistency in design and finish assures customers of your professionalism and dedication.
5. Tactile Encouragement: Encourage visitors to touch and smell your candles. Provide tester candles to facilitate sensory exploration.
6. Fair Pricing: Conduct thorough research on UK market rates to establish prices that reflect the quality and craftsmanship of your candles.
7. Eye-Catching Signage: Use distinctive signs for brand recognition, pricing, and special promotions. Personal touches, like chalkboards or well-crafted banners, can be effective.
8. Offer Bundles: Create sets or bundles that encourage larger purchases, such as a “Seasons Collection” or a “Relaxation Set”.
9. Local Ingredients Highlight: Emphasise if you employ British ingredients. The UK market values local sourcing and production.
10. Clear Communication: Develop a concise and compelling narrative about the unique attributes of your candles, be it a rare ingredient, a specific crafting method, or a limited edition series.
11. Live Demonstrations: Where possible, showcase the candle-making process in live demonstrations. This can attract larger audiences and serve an educational purpose.
12. Environmentally Aware: If your candles are produced sustainably or use eco-friendly materials, prominently display this information. The British market is growing increasingly environmentally conscious.
13. Loyalty Scheme: Introduce physical loyalty cards, offering discounts or incentives for repeated purchases. This approach can foster customer loyalty without digital reminders.
14. Business Cards at the Ready: Keep business cards or informative flyers accessible for distribution, ensuring potential customers have a means to contact or reorder.
15. Networking: Cultivate relationships with fellow craft fair vendors. Their insights, shared clienteles, or potential collaborations can be invaluable.
Always remember: every craft fair serves as both a sales opportunity and a learning experience. Gather feedback, note customer interactions, and refine your approach for subsequent events.
Ideas and inspiration for candles
Handmade candles are a popular item to sell at craft fairs in the UK. Here are some ideas for candles that makers can create and sell at craft fairs, along with specific candle examples:
Aromatherapy Candles: Aromatherapy candles are a popular choice for people looking to create a relaxing atmosphere in their home. Examples include lavender and chamomile scented candles, or a eucalyptus and mint blend.
Beeswax Candles: Beeswax candles are a popular choice for those who prefer natural products. These candles have a clean burn and give off a subtle honey aroma. Examples include pillar candles, votives, and taper candles.
Container Candles: Container candles are a great way to incorporate unique designs and materials into the candle-making process. Makers can use glass jars, ceramic pots or tin cans to hold the wax. Examples include candles with dried flowers, glitter, or even seashells embedded in the wax.
Soy Candles: Soy candles are a popular choice for those looking for a long-lasting, eco-friendly option. These candles are made from soy wax, which is derived from soybean oil. Examples include jar candles, tea lights, and wax melts.
Pillar Candles: Pillar candles are a classic and elegant option. These candles are usually made from beeswax or paraffin wax and come in a variety of sizes and colours. Examples include multi-coloured pillar candles or hand-carved beeswax pillar candles.
Emergency Candles: Emergency candles are a practical item to have on hand during power outages or other emergencies. These candles are usually made from paraffin wax and have a long burn time. Examples include candles in a tin with a screw-top lid or candles with multiple wicks for extra light.
Tea Light Candles: Tea light candles are a popular choice for use in tea light holders and lanterns. These candles come in a variety of scents and colours. Examples include soy tea lights, beeswax tea lights, and floating tea lights.
These are just a few ideas for candles that makers can create and sell at craft fairs in the UK. By using their creativity and combining different materials and techniques, candle makers can create unique and beautiful candles that will appeal to a wide range of customers.