Thursday, February 26, 2015

Candle Making

A couple I admired as a teen once told me that they made a vow to light candles everyday. Lighting candles had a much deeper connotation. It meant, taking the time to linger in one place for a while, to spend time together, to celebrate. I loved the meaning behind it and vowed that I too, would always make that effort when I was grown. 

Candle made by John and me
Now that I am in school to become a Spiritual Director, I am understanding the spiritual  importance of lighting candles. It is an instant way to bring a sense of warmth and invitation to a room. It can be done with an intention like remembering the Spirit is present in this place bringing light into our lives. Lighting a candle is a simple way to show that you are present to a moment, a space, a person, holiness. It is attributed with offering, taking the time to present the effort of light to the Holy and the Sacred. In light of this symbolism, Joel and I try to light a candle anytime we sit down for dinner together. I light a candle when we are reading in the living room or when I am journaling alone, or when we have friends over. For me, a candle is a reminder of life and being whole in the Light. 

Setting the mood
This is all well and good, but one must also recognize that candles come at a price. I used to be a candle snob when I began this journey and wanted only to have Yankee candles in my house. I thought they smelled heavenly and I liked that they seemed to last the longest of any candles I'd previously used. The trouble is, Yankee candles are crazy expensive. After a while, one of my friends began to sell Mia Bella candles and those burned almost as long as Yankee and smelled just as good. They were also about $10 cheaper which I considered a plus. Last year, I was wandering around Walmart with a friend and was shocked to discover some pretty nice 20oz candles for $5. I immediately began to question where this candle snobbery ever originated and bought myself a few Walmart candles for our house. 

Every time a candle would burn until the wick was gone, I'd just throw away the glass and buy a new one. That is, until last fall.

Candle Jars I used to just throw away that I now reuse

It was a Friday night and my friend, John, called me up and asked if I'd be interested in making candles with him. I said I'd love to, so we met at Michaels. We bought some paraffin wax, a package of wicks and some oil scents. He had a collection of mason jars at his house so we just headed to his kitchen to get to work.

We chopped up the wax and melted it on a double boiler on the stove. When the wax was totally melted we poured in the scent and stirred it well with a spoon. Then we formed a cone with some newspaper (because we did not have a funnel). We stood the wicks in the mason jars and very carefully (and slowly) poured the wax into the jars (making sure that we did not loose the wick in the process). We used chopsticks to hold the wick straight up while the wax cooled and discovered that if you wash the pots out with hot water they clean in seconds.

We were stunned that with 8 pounds of wax we could make 7 large candles and had only spent $20 each. Michael's is one of the more expensive craft shops in town, so we wondered how much we could find wax for online or elsewhere to continue this candle making journey. Over time we found better deals and then discovered something more important: wax is everywhere. 

Candles that burn wicks fast and leave lots of wax behind- easy to reuse

I started to notice wax all over the place. Those candle jars with a little wax left in the bottom that I threw away could easily be melted down and added to a new candle. The chunky decorative candles that burn out in a few hours can be melted down to make more candles. It just happened that I was to help clean out my grandparents house and in the process I came across a store of wick-less candles that my grandmother had saved for some reason. I ended up with around 25 pounds of multicolored candles ready to melt down and give new life.

One of 4 bags I collected from my Grandparents house (all with destroyed wicks which you can pull out and use again once you melt the wax down).

I started keeping old jars, pottery, mugs, anything that I didn't really have a functional use for and began melting down my found wax to make new candles. We even spent an  evening learning how to burn the ends off beer and wine bottles to make glass jars for our candles. This proved much more tricky than YouTube made it seem, by the way. Suddenly a new world had opened up to me and I realized how much I had wasted. I can make my own candles. 

Odd shaped candles also can leave behind lots of extra wax to reuse.

Making candles is easy, it requires very little set up or clean up and all we have needed to purchase are wicks and scents (if we want scents). I am learning to make my own wicks (reuse ones that were trapped inside wax) and to use herbs and essential oils that I already have to scent my candles. After all this, it is hard to remember why I used to buy candles.

It is a satisfying thought to know that it is possible to light a candle everyday without burning through your money.