Candles are kind of like a good bottle of wine: whether you’re shopping for a friend-of-a-friend host, your cubicle mate, or a Secret Santa name that’s got you stumped, they make a pretty snazzy gift.
With so many variations in scent and packaging on the market, however, some candlemakers are turning to out-of-the-box vessels to ensure their products stand out from the pack.
Exhibit A: Vancouver’s very own Drink Wicks Candle Co., which upcycles empty wine and spirit bottles into containers for soy-wax lights.
“I’ve always loved buying candles, and I also drink a lot with friends,” the company’s founder, Joyce Woo, tells the Straight by phone. “And there are a lot of nice bottles that I never want to get rid of. So I thought, ‘Oh, why don’t I try cutting it?’ ”
Some trial and error with her father’s wet-tile saw and a few broken bottles later, Woo had discovered her new pastime.
Working from her Kerrisdale home, the financial worker by day carefully cuts the tops from her impressive collection of shapely cognac bottles, Champagne flasks, locally crafted gin containers, and more, filling them with naturally scented wax and a single cotton or wood wick.
Woo prefers “tree-type” aromas, which she imparts using essential oils derived from eucalyptus, basil, and lemongrass, for example. Sometimes, however, she’ll draw perfume inspo from the bottle.
“If it’s a peach Ciroc,” she offers, “I try to find a peachy, fruity smell.”
Brian Constantine, founder of the East Vancouver–based Black Candle Supply Co., favours nontoxic, biodegradable soy wax and earthier fragrances too. He houses his candles in stainless-steel or white- and grey-washed concrete vessels, both of which offer a striking contrast to the black wax that burns within.
Although the decision to colour the wax in a dark hue was one rooted in aesthetics (“I personally get inspiration from minimal design, symmetry, and really neutral palettes,” Constantine says), the black also hides unsightly soot.
“As it burns, you don’t really see any of the wick droppings in the wax because it’s just a silky black pool,” he explains, adding that, in meditation, the inky shade is also believed to rid spaces of negative energy.
Combined with musky scents provided by organic elements like patchouli, tobacco, and cedar, the candles’ stark designs appeal to both men and women. One version is decorated with frankincense tears and myrrh resin, which slowly melt away with the wax.
“I think that, a lot of time, guys are embarrassed that they buy candles,” Constantine notes. “So that’s why I started making ones that I like personally.”
Both Drink Wicks Candle Co. and Black Candle Supply Co. will be offering their goods (from $26 and $18, respectively) at the Portobello West holiday market, taking place this Saturday and Sunday (November 26 and 27) at the Creekside Community Centre (1 Athletes Way).
Vegan skincare and candle producer the Good Oak, meanwhile, will have a selection of unscented Mason jar candles on hand. Founders Julie Kertesz and Christina Pietrangelo will be offering market attendees a chance to sign up for their upcoming candlemaking classes, too.
“I think people don’t realize how easy it is,” Pietrangelo says by phone. “You can make them at home with just a double boiler, wax, jar, and a wick.”
No matter what style you opt for, however, you can count on having a functional object long after the wick fizzles out.
“People like the idea of recycling the bottle and actually making something useful out of it,” Woo says of her candles. “Because once you finish burning it, you can use it as a vase or storage container as well.”