Here I sit, enveloped by the glow of flickering light, rain pouring madly outside while gales blow so ferociously. I fear for the garden furniture, which will likely be discarded across the lawn in the morning. The latest storm to hit our green and pleasant land has been intense, so much so the power in our old barn has cut out several times, leaving us in a silent state of shadow lit darkness for the odd few seconds here and there. Thankfully earlier in the evening when I arrived home my first task was to light the oddly shaped candles scattered around the house, as if I had some sixth sense of their practical requirement for later.
From the moment of pulling out a match and lighting the wick, with the instant waft of cordite fading into the honeyed scent of beeswax, candlelight creates a feeling of warmth, a sense of nostalgia and hunkering down to shelter from the world outside.
When nights are long and dark, there is something comforting about the light of candle, whether it's some inner desire to extend the light of the day, to capture it and hold onto it in my home, or whether it’s just as simple as the warmth of light given by the flicker of a flame can never be matched by electric lighting, either way, there is a magic to candlelight.
A short history of candles
Candles historically were not made from unctuous beeswax, but instead leftover animal fat that had been rendered to create a cream-like substance. The soft fat would melt in the same way as today's wax, however it would burn with a rather acrid smoke, leaving the scent of meat sizzled on a griddle. Whilst a wonderful use of a byproduct I can understand not wanting to fill your home with a constant meaty air.
By the middle ages tallow was replaced by pure beeswax. The beeswax burnt far longer and left a more pleasant residue in ones home. Beeswax candles were initially very expensive and were often only found in churches or amongst the homes of the wealthy gentry.
Today wax for candles can come from a variety of sources; paraffin, soy and palm - are the most common, with only a few makers using pure beeswax or animal fats.
At home I try to avoid the use of as many artificial substances as practical. Candles are an area where I do not compromise. To me, the lighting of a candle retains a ritual like feeling, a way of leading a simpler life, and so it feels right to use something pure and derived from nature.
While often more expensive than their paraffin alternatives, I have found natural candles tend to have a longer burn, a sweeter scent, and while they cost my pocket a couple of pence more, they are not costing the earth.
Our range of natural candles are also made by proper artisans who carefully craft each perfect candle by hand, often with scents inspired by the natural world around them. I don't know about you, but supporting small scale producers who really care about the craft they make, fills me with a little extra warmth.
Inspired by my love of a flickering flame, we have launched a range of thoughtful candles that I hope will give you equal joy.
Hand-dipped beesewax candles
Made in Alston in Cumbria, by the inimitable Ted Thompson and his team, these beautiful candles have a natural tapered shape, the result of the process by which they are made, properly crafted by hand using beeswax.
For every ten tons of honey, only a quarter of a ton of beeswax is produced. Larger beekeepers in this country can keep over a thousand hives, often this wax is wasted and so it’s a delight to see these beautiful objects light up our homes using a waste product.
The last few months have been challenging for makers such as Ted, who have small workshops and rely on a small team of family members to make each candle. Here Ted reflects on his lockdown experience...
"The sun has shone so much through spring all the familiar sounds on Alston Moor were amplified, with peewit and curlew calling, snipe drumming and ewes with lambs in the fields. We are most fortunate up here to have space to get out in, and there’s a good community spirit. Moorlands Candles are finally back in production now. Back then life was different, and we learnt what was important. Still look out for the neighbours. Solidarity! Keep well. Ted Thompson"
The range starts from just £6 for two stunning tapers perfect for dinner parties. You can shop the range here.
Candles inspired by nature
I instantly fell in love with this range, straight away evoking wild walks on Cornish moors, or brushing against autumnal hedgerows on a lazy afternoon wander.
"St Eval Candle Company was born from humble beginnings, crafting candles by hand in our family farmhouse kitchen. 25 years later, we still use the same traditional artisan methods as we believe they are well worth preserving."
Each candle is unique and ever so slightly different. At St Eval the team apply a combination of artisan methods including Drawing, Pouring and Moulding so that each candle is made with a personal touch.
Our range of St Eval candles are each inspired by nature. From the Earth and Sky collection that evokes the spirit of our surroundings, to pretty tea lights that smell sweetly of hay meadows.
Starting from £12.75 for a medium sized candle trussed up in a pretty pot that can be used time and time again. Find St Eval Candles here.
Lanterns and Candlesticks
Once you have chosen your scent and shape to burn, the next step is to adorn your home with an array of vessels that will protect from dripping wax and slow down the burn, making your candles last just that little bit longer.
We have chosen a stunning range from our local friends Nkuku, based about half an hour away from our farm in South Devon. Nkuku work directly with artisan makers they meet on their travels.
"We were inspired and humbled by the talented craftspeople and their beautiful work, that we met on the journey. It then encouraged us to do something different, so on our return, we moved out of London to rural Devon and started working with artisans throughout the world, supporting and celebrating their skills by bringing their products to a wider audience."
Alex goes on to say "The relationship between an artisan and a beautiful handmade piece creates a story, which makes each product not a mass market item, but an individually crafted piece. The traditional skills used by our suppliers have been handed down from generation to generation.
We value this age-old knowledge and hope to help keep it alive. We love the character in each item, the handmade nature of our products is what we believe sets us apart. We want to protect these skills."
You can explore our beautiful range of lanterns and candlesticks here.