Hands on Traditional skills and where to learn them

Sat, Nov 26, 2011, 00:00


What are they made from?Candles are made from wax that is melted and rehardened. A wick is primed by being covered with melted wax, then carefully and steadily positioned in the centre of a mould or container before the melted wax is poured in.

How is it done?Candlemakers use a mixture of paraffin, vegetable wax or beeswax. Soy wax is also used by some candlemakers because it melts and burns at lower temperatures, gives off a cleaner flame and carries scent well. “Every candlemaker has their own recipe for making candles,” says Larry Kinsella of Moth to a Flame candles, in Bennetsbridge, Co Kilkenny. Stearin or stearic acid is added to the melted wax to prevent candles dripping excessively. It also helps to make the wax opaque and to distribute colour. It prevents the wax smoking and makes the candles easier to remove from moulds. Once the wax mixture is melted, the colour, in the form of soluble dye or pigment, and the scent are added. Scents used include essential oils and aromatic herbs and flowers. The melted mixture is poured into moulds or into ceramic or glass containers. Many candlemakers make their own moulds.

How long does it take?It depends on your approach. Some candlemakers prefer to melt large quantities of wax overnight at low temperatures, then pour the mixture into their moulds during the day and leave them to harden slowly. “I use this approach because it makes the most of the colour, allows the candle to glow and gives a textured finish,” says Kinsella.

Other candlemakers prefer to melt small quantities of wax, building up sections of coloured wax to create fun candles. “I always work with small batches and build up colour in small batches, too, to make a variety of candles, including cupcake and sherry trifle candles,” says Fleur Daly of Bluebell Eco Candles, in Kilquane, Headford, Co Kerry. To create layers of different colours, you must leave each layer to harden before adding another. It’s important to remember that wax can never be melted over direct heat but must be warmed in a saucepan that sits over a saucepan of hot water.

Where can I sign up?You can buy candlemaking sets to make your own. ColArt Fine Arts and Graphics, a UK company, makes good-quality candlemaking sets under the Dryad brand. Specialist shops, such as Cork Art Supplies, in Cork city (corkartsupplies.com), and Cregal Art, in Galway (cregalart.ie) sell wax, wicks, wick sustainers, dye and moulds.

Some candlemakers demonstrate the process in their workshops. Fleur Daly will run classes at her studio from next April. The Craft Lounge on Hardy’s Lane (beside the Royal Marine Hotel), Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, is holding a soy candlemaking workshop on January 21st, from 3pm to 4.30pm. It costs €25. (086- 3309443; thecraftlounge.eu.)

You can find candlemakers on the Craft Council of Ireland website, ccoi.ie.