It’s not often people are welcomed into an artisan’s studio to view works in progress while they make their purchases.
But that’s exactly what happens five days a week at Northern Lights Candles in Fanny Bay. And, if visitors are lucky, they may get to dip their own candle.
On Friday, the chandlery celebrated five years of creating high-quality, long-burning candles, all lovingly crafted by hand.
“Tapers are my favourite,” admits Donalda Lauzon, owner and principal candlemaker. “They’re so elegant and provide such a nice glow.”
Lauzon worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital for 19 years before taking early retirement to enter the candle business.
To find a cozy chandlery tucked away on a rural property was a surprise. To discover how much effort goes into a single candle was even more so.
Who knew a standard 10-inch taper can involve more than 50 dips in hot wax?
“The wax is affected by the weather, air pressure and how warm the air is,” explains Lauzon. “Some days I’ve dipped a taper 100 times and the wax just won’t build up. Over time I learned to do something different on those days.”
The studio is a rainbow of coloured candles with each colour also
hand-crafted on site.
“I start with a primary colour — they come in very fine powders — and beat it into the wax by hand,” she says. “I mix and match the powders until I get what I want. It can be tricky as the colour changes as the wax cures.
“Creating colours is a real science.”
Lauzon focused on wholesale production the first two years but, as she got a feel for craft, began playing with patterns and colours. Now, up to 70 per cent of her work is custom-made.
Some are embellished with leaves, coffee beans or other ornamentation. Her most popular item to date is the Sea to Sky pillar. This hand-poured candle is created in layers with the finished product resembling a West Coast landscape.
As well as the candles, which come in all shapes, sizes, colours and luscious scents or fragrance-free, I was intrigued by the candle-making machines.
One, which makes 200 votives at a time, was built in China in 1936. Another converts 45 gallons of hot wax into 92 stick candles, while a separate device allows the operator to dip a series of lead-free wicks into vats of molten wax to create tapers.
As Lauzon removes an old quilt from what she calls the Big Dipper, another machine with 15 pots of gorgeous colour, I learn just what a slow, thoughtful process candle-making can be.
“When you’re hand-dipping to add colour you have to let the candle cure between each dip,” Lauzon says. “A multi-coloured candle can take four days.”
Northern Lights Candles also hosts workshops, as well as a variety of You Dip Parties and fund-raising options. In Victoria, Boys Scouts sold fire starters made from old wax and wicks to raise money for one of their projects.
One of my best finds at Northern Lights Candles was the online Tips and Care page. This section provides all the information you need to prevent unevenly burning candles and puddles of wax all over the furniture.
As a convenience to shoppers, Northern Lights Candles offers online shopping, with the bonus of no shipping charge aside from a $5 handling fee.
But if you really want to save — and see how your candles are made — visit the studio.
The studio is located at 415 Station Rd., home to the Lauzon family for 25 years. If travelling from Courtenay, turn right at the Fanny Bay wharf.
Northern Lights Candles is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment on Sundays and Mondays.
Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record’s arts and entertainment section. www.paulawild.ca.