All posts by Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

Understanding the Art and Craft of Chandlery and all that Beeswax

Medieval Craft of Chandlery

 

The advent of residential electricity changed our lighting needs dramatically and eliminated a once critical position in the medieval household – the Chandler – the person responsible for the candles. Click here for a detailed description.

Next time you strike a match to light the candles on your dinner table consider what it takes to make a candle.

#Beeswax #Candles @Beeswaxworks blog post

According to Jill Smith, the owner of Salt Spring Island’s Bees Wax Works, the key ingredient in chandlery (besides the obvious: wax) is patience and more patience. Smith is a former ballet dancer and music industry professional who describes her career change as an “Opportunity to work independently, make things and grow a business.”

#Beeswax #Candles @Beeswaxworks blog post

Becoming a chandler

Smith apprenticed under the company’s previous owner before she assumed the full responsibilities of Bees Wax Works. Although candle making was a learning curve, Jill Smith says “Making things with my hands has always been a part of my life. My mother taught me fibre arts at a young age and we were encouraged to ‘make things’.”

Did you ever “make” candles as a kid, by melting paraffin and pouring the molten liquid into milk containers? If so, the work that Smith does in her workshop is another world. She describes her studio as

“The best smelling garage on Salt Spring Island, with lovely windows and views of the Salish Sea.”

Process from raw wax to candles

There is a process to transforming a 45-pound block of beeswax into beautiful, clean-burning candles. The work requires smashing (she says this step is therapeutic), heating and reforming. According to Smith, chandlery steps are simple, and the tools rudimentary (a melting pot, simple hand tools, and steady hands). However, the age-old craft requires enormous amounts of patience.

#Beeswax #Candles @Beeswaxworks blog post

Smith chooses to work with beeswax exclusively.

“It is pure and simply the best wax for candles.”

However, not all beeswax is created equally. Smith sources her wax from apiarists in Alberta. A family who have been beekeepers for three generations because their wax is the cleanest she has found.

Did you know beeswax changes colours with the seasons, depending which flowers are blooming?

Simple Fern #Beeswax #Candles @Beeswaxworks

At Atelier, we are thrilled to feature some of the Bees Wax Works signature BWW Collection candles. The new line of candles required Smith’s close collaboration with a ceramist.  Together they developed moulds that reflect the art of candle making. This collection mirrors the “hive to home” philosophy at Bees Wax Works.

Made with high-quality wax and the steady hand of a professional chandler these contemporary candles are perfect for gifts (or for your home) check out the collection here.

Image credits: Photos provided by and published with the permission of Jill Smith @ Bees Wax Works

5 Reasons Why to Choose Beeswax Candles over Paraffin

Most of us would admit that Ikea furniture shared a place in our homes at one stage. Whether it was for your first apartment or outfitting kids rooms the renowned Swedish brand with the DIY, feel still is an affordable option. Ikea’s tea lights – sold in bags of 100 – are strategically placed on your way to the checkout. An impulse buy? Maybe.

Beeswax versus paraffin

Recently, we finished our last bag of tea lights and have yet to make the trek to the furniture warehouse. The thought of battling the parking lot and crowds to pick up some cheap paraffin candles started us thinking about the ecological impacts of these little light sources.

#Beeswax #Candles @Beeswaxworks blog post

What we discovered was the benefits of beeswax candles far outweigh mass produced paraffin versions.

6 Reasons to choose beeswax candles

  1. Beeswax is a natural product. Produced from the wax glands of honey bees (females) it is a natural, renewable product. Although, it is hard work for the bees who must fly long distances collecting nectar for honey. From 6 to 30 pounds (estimates vary) of honey is formed to produce a single pound of wax. Regardless of the number, you begin to understand why the wax is expensive.
  2. The expense equation. Beeswax candles may be costly to purchase, but due to a high melting point, the wax is slow burning and lasts much longer than paraffin versions.
  3. A clean, smokeless burn. Now, that we understand the impacts of second-hand cigarette smoke on our health. What about the toxic fumes from paraffin candles? Paraffin is a refined petroleum by-product. The black crude sludge is bleached, then acrolyn and stearic acid are added to provide texture and hardening properties. You can read more here.
  4. Light quality. Beeswax candles produce a brighter light than paraffin candles.
  5. Reinforcing traditions. For centuries, versatile beeswax has been used as a sealant, a lubricant, for artwork (think batik), in cosmetics and candles. Archeologists have identified traces of beeswax in Roman ruins and Egyptian tombs.

The Key to My Heart #Beeswax #Candles @Beeswaxworks

Check out Salt Spring Island’s Bees Wax Works story on our creator’s page here and the beautiful candles made with 100% Canadian beeswax, to enjoy the benefits of this natural wax.

Image credits: with permission from Bees Wax Works

Designer Shopping and 6 Reasons to Buy from an Artisan

Thoughtful Consumerism

The water crisis in California, VW’s diesel emissions scandal, pipeline spills, smog warnings, carbon taxes and global warming. Some days, it feels like being hit over the head with negative environmental messages. Stop to think about any one of those issues and it’s overwhelming. What can one human can do to facilitate change given the magnitude of the problems?

Designer Shopping Buy Artisan

You can help!

Take small steps to reduce your personal environmental footprint through thoughtful designer shopping. As an e-retailer, we would be crazy to tell you not to shop. Here is why we think you should buy from an artisan designer:

  1. Support the arts. Whether they are creating a new art form or reviving an old traditional craft, these creators are following their passions.
  2. Buy local. Purchasing from an artisan means you are supporting the local community.
  3. Quality materials.  An artisan selects the best materials to create their products. If not, why would they make the effort in the first place?
  4. Make a Personal connection. Gain an understanding of the person behind the product (not an assembly line at a factory).
  5. Look for one-of-a-kind.  Why? Because you know that it sucks to show up at a party wearing the same outfit as your hostess.
  6. Go green. Happy knowing that you are making your contribution towards reducing the impact of those global environmental issues.

Check out our artisan creators here, and their products here.

French Designer Fashion Style. What is a Carré Silk Scarf?

Surprisingly, it was not Hermès that invented the word carré, but once the company launched its line of square silk scarves, the luxury fashion world has not looked back. Since 1937, there have been over 2,000 unique designs for Hermès carré silk scarves. Worn by royalty and coveted by many, you can read the Hermès story here.

French Carré Silk Scarves

A luxury scarf does not start with humble beginnings; the silk has to be top quality. In the case of a carré silk scarf, the fabric must be cut in an exact square. The raw edges are sewn and then rolled and finished by hand — roulottage is the mark of a premium brand.

French Carré Silk Scarves

Why buy a square scarf? The shape allows for more options for wearability. You can see what we mean with in the Hermès Maison des Carrés.

Petitjean Paris is a new line of ready-to-wear silk clothing for women. Léa Petitjean is the company’s founder, she completed a degree in luxury marketing and has gained an appreciation for excellent craftsmanship, from her work with Van Cleef & Arpels jewelers. However, it is quality fabric that “speaks” to Petitjean. Her approach to nothing short of perfection becomes clear when you understand that she vetted many French artisans before determining whom she would trust to execute on her vision, including established silk printers in Lyon.

French Carré Silk Scarves

Atelier has been fortunate to secure a limited number of silk scarves from Petitjean Paris’s introductory line – Les Jurassiennes. These scarves are “Designed in Paris and made in France.” Gorgeous enough to frame – order your carré today.

French Carré Silk Scarves

Image credits: Photos provided by and published with the permission of Petitjean Paris

3 Reasons to Visit Bowen Island and Handcrafted Wooden Serving Boards

Bowen Island was a discovery for Kathy Clarke when she and her husband moved to the coast from British Columbia’s interior (Okanagan). In her words, “I could not believe that this paradise was in such proximity that my husband could commute into the city, and I could work from home. We moved here on a whim about five years ago and now cannot imagine living anywhere else.” The best part was that Bowen Island also fulfilled her lifelong dream of living on an island.

Kathy Clarke Schooner Lane Designs Bowen Island

Kathy says she continues to be amazed by Bowen’s artisans – the talented craftspeople – who have also chosen this west coast island for their home.

Reasons to Visit Bowen Island

“There are so many reasons to visit Bowen and to pick a top three is nearly impossible! There’s a stepping back in time feel to it. The Island has a great history, the pace is slower, the people are friendly, and the sense of community is apparent. There is something for everyone; great hiking and beaches, unique shops, wonderful restaurants, an incredible arts community, an award winning golf course, community events. The list goes on.”

Heart Handle Schooner Lane Designs Wooden Serving Boards

Bowen Island Artistic Inspiration

Harnessing her creative talent and inspired by her surroundings, Kathy launched Schooner Lane Designs.

“The first boards I made were for Christmas presents. I loved making them and was pleased with how they turned out, so I decided to make a few more and take them to our local Christmas craft fair. The rest, as they say, is history.”

Schooner Lane Designs wooden serving and cutting boards are made with Canadian food-compatible hardwoods — walnut, maple and cherry. Kathy chooses rough off-cuts of timber that have lots of interesting knots, grain and rough edges. All of the boards are made from a single plank of wood (no gluing or laminating), and hardly any wasted material.

Schooner Lane Designs Wooden Serving Boards

In her outdoor studio (see below), Kathy cuts each piece freehand without a template. Once she finds a shape that she is happy with the wood is sanded to a smooth finish before preserving with beeswax and mineral oil paste. “That’s my favourite part you never know just what the wood is going to show you until it’s oiled and all its beauty shines through.”

Workshop Schooner Lane Designs Wooden Boards

Schooner Lane Designs “Board out of my Mind” ~ Cheese, Chopping & Serving Boards. Are available in several shapes and sizes: small, medium, large and baguette.

Perfect for gifts, for your home these one-of-a-kind boards are sure to be keepsakes.

Image credits: photos provided by and published with the permission of Kathy Clarke

What are the 5 Good Reasons to Buy a Cashmere Sweater

A few years back I was invited on a girls’ trip — massages, pedicures, shopping and cocktail bars. Wrong! We were hiking.

What to pack for a long walk on the Camino de Santiago? The resounding answer was a cashmere sweater. The group was headed to walk a section of the Camino Frances starting at the French-Spanish border and over a six-day period we would cover about 120 kilometres.

As our departure date loomed the email volume escalated (the group was not exactly “What’s App” savvy at the time). Well past our youth hostel days, we chose a self-guided, partially supported pilgrim tour. In other words, we had engaged a service to move our bags from one destination to the next, and to book our accommodation. Yes, I admit we were doing a bit of a “princess” tour and thrilled we had picked that option when our first three days were rain-filled downpours that would have made Noah proud.

Luxury Cashmere Sweater Anouk Cardigan Artigiani Milanesi

Here, are five (of many) reasons you should own a cashmere sweater:

It is a natural fibre – Cashmere comes from the soft undercoat of Cashmere goats that have been bred to produce the hair in greater quantities. Think of this filament as the fleece layer that you put on when the weather gets cooler. The cashmere belly-layer is “harvested” when the animals begin shedding, typically in the spring (May-June). The cashmere is combed or sheared (less desirable) and sent to a de-hairing facility to remove the coarse hairs. Only then, is the fibre ready to be spun into yarn.

It is not itchy – Unlike sheep wool,  the cashmere fibres are separated by hand from the coarse outer hairs leaving a soft, downy textile. This time-consuming process is manual, but the result is well worth the effort for the wearer. Did you know that it takes, four-six goats to produce enough fibre for one sweater?

A perfect travel companion – Honestly, who doesn’t like linen, but for backpack travel talk about wrinkles! Cashmere, it can be folded, rolled, stuffed and it still looks perfect.

Lightweight – Have you ever put on a wool sweater to get rid of a chill, only to feel weighed down? Cashmere is eight times warmer than sheep’s wool, yet significantly lighter.

You deserve it. Is there is a favourite sweater (or two) in your closet, the one with threadbare elbows? It’s time to buy a new one. A high-quality cashmere garment made with longer hairs that have only been combed (not sheared) should never have the annoying tiny pills on your sweater.

Handmade in Canada from 100% Cashmere, nothing less.

Gracie Lacie Cardigan @ArtigianiMilanesi #cashmere

Looking for the Perfect Hostess Gifts? Buy Lavender Wands

Elsa Lenthal  spends her summers in Provence making  lavender wands  (fuseaux). Her grandmother taught her how to take 100 stems of just-picked lavender and thread the ribbon through each stem. Elsa spends passes hot summer days creating these wands to with a goal of keeping an artisan tradition alive.

Each fuseau is shaped like a wand or a baby’s rattle. The lavender flowers are “trapped” in the centre and the stems adorned with a weave of bright coloured ribbons. These beautifully scented objects are 100% natural, as only freshly harvested flowers are used. There are no artificial additives, and each fuseau will last a lifetime.

  • 100 stems
  • 100 % French lavender
  • 100 % handmade

These lavender wands are perfect hostess gifts or beautiful as a dried bouquet.

What Are the 10 Things You Should Know About Lavender

If you polled an audience for their opinion on the scent of lavender, you might get a split vote. Personally, I think that is because many people are only exposed to highly processed, concentrated potions. Regardless of where you sit on the lavender fan scale, there must be something to this herb that the Romans called lavare (“to wash”) and the Greeks called nardus (after Syrian City Naarda).

Here are the 10 things that we discovered about this ancient plant.

  1. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), a member of the mint family, does grow in the wild, but given the global demand for its flowers there is a large agricultural industry at 80-90 metric tonnes/annually (although production has decreased by over 50% in the last decade).
  2. The Mediterranean environment is perfect for the cultivation of this plant that loves dry, rocky soils and warm, arid climates. Slightly acidic, the bugs do not like lavender allowing for agriculture without the use of pesticides and fertilisers.
  3. Lavender essential oil is extracted as a byproduct when the dried flowers come in contact with scalding steam (steam distillation). A single acre of planted lavender produces “300 to 1,800 pounds of dried flowers (12 to 15 pounds of essential oil – about 2 gallons)” *
  4. Continuing the theme of “to wash” lavender often found in products such as perfumes, soaps, shampoos, cosmetics and creams.
  5. Lavender has some medically tested benefits that include reduced hair loss, eased anxiety and the ability to shrink canker sores.
  6. However, there are also many antidotal lavender uses that are yet to be proven such as relief from itching (eczema), insomnia, depression, colic, nerve pain and others.
  7. Lavandin, which might be considered a gardening mistake, resulted from crossing two lavender strains (there are 30 species) with the herb aspic. The benefits of lavandin from a commercial standpoint are obvious as the plant can grow at lower altitudes starting at 200 metres and the flowers produce more essential oil per tonne. However, purists do not consider lavandin to be “true” lavender. Lavender Wands from Provence Photo by Lua Williams
  8. Inventive chefs and bakers infuse sauces, cakes, ice creams, soups, and honey with lavender flavour and colour.
  9. Think of lavender and picture Provence? Not so fast! Bulgaria, not France is the top country for lavender production as of 2014. France’s production used to top out at over 50% of global production, but it has been falling in recent years due to diseased plants. Despite declining production, the agro-tourism industry is holding steady with plenty of visitors along les Routes de la Lavande.
  10. Lavender is not one of the flowers in the wedding anniversary chart. However, in Provence lavender wands (or fuseaux) were often included in dowries in the middle ages as it was thought to be an aphrodisiac – the herb of love. As a bonus, mites and other critters do not seem to like the scent so they stay away from the linen closet.

Lavender Fuseaux #Lavender #Provence #Handmade @atelier_boutiq

Check out our handmade lavender wands here. Made of 100 stems of 100% pure French lavender these will last forever. Lavender fuseaux make excellent hostess gifts.

*source: ATTRA Lavender Production, Products, Markets and Entertainment Farms 

** Vase photo credit: Lua Williams, Canmore

Indulge with Luxury Sweaters by Artigiani Milanesi Cashmere Artisans

Cashmere is now being handcrafted into luxury sweaters in  a country built on the fur trapping, down-filled coats and Kodiak boots! Artigiani Milanesi established its bespoke Italian cashmere tailoring on Bowen Island in 2014.

Rosa Palmira Feroldi (Rosetta) was only two-years-old when she and her five sisters, orphans of WWII, were taken in by the nuns at the convent in Cremona, Italy. The nuns would knit clothing for the children, and young Rosetta insisted they teach her how to use the knitting machines. At 21 years old, she left the convent and headed for the industrial fashion-centric city of Milan.  Rosetta established her cashmere weaving business in 1959 catering to local clients from Milan and international fashion brands.

Luxury Sweaters Anouk Cardigan Cashmere Artigiani Milanesi

Davide Bizzarri, Rosetta’s son, apprenticed with his mother to gain an understanding of their business – he officially took over Artigiani Milanesi in 1995.  Davide shares his mother’s enthusiasm, ruthless attention to detail and quality, and her design flair.

Milan’s frenetic pace prompted the Bizzarri family (Rosetta, Davide and his wife Rebecca) to relocate to Bowen Island. Artigiani Milanesi Milan was packed into two 40-foot-long shipping containers and shipped to a 1,600 sqft boutique and workshop on Canada’s West Coast.

Artigiani Milanesi are true artisans. You can find a selection of their essential cashmere pieces  – scarves, ponchos and sweaters for sale here on Atelier.

Discover Atelier and Find Out Why Your Art is her Business

This article was previously published by the Rocky Mountain Outlook November 25, 2015, shortly after the launch of Atelier.  We would like to thank Cole Carruthers and the Rocky Mountain Outlook for the following article, as it captures our vision perfectly.

You’ve spent hours, weeks and months shaping and honing a new piece of artistry, and now you’re ready to share it with the world.

Luckily for artisans who are too busy in their studios and workshops to stay up to date with the latest in marketing, social media and e-commerce, they have business owner and entrepreneur Carolyne Kauser-Abbott to turn to.

Kauser-Abbott’s latest venture Atelier is an e-commerce business and website dedicated to showcasing artists’ studios, a chance to read their stories and the ability to buy their products.

“I’ve been thinking about e-commerce for a number of years, but didn’t quite know what that model should look like. I just love great artisanal craftsmanship and I feel sometimes it doesn’t get enough airtime because the artisan is spending their time making beautiful products,” Kauser-Abbott said.

“They might have a website, they might go to some craft fairs, but really they also don’t have the time to be promoting maybe the way they should be or in addition to the way they’re already doing it.”

This is where self-proclaimed social media addict Kauser-Abbott comes into play. She has a proven track record in the world of e-commerce with her other ventures Ginger and Nutmeg, Perfectly Provence and Edible Heritage Technologies.

Atelier, being either a workshop or studio stuck with Kauser-Abbott since it encapsulates the artists’ space and the things they create.

“A great woodworker might not have the time or might not understand the ins and outs of marketing a product or just doesn’t enjoy it because they’d rather spend time in their workshop,” Kauser-Abbott said.

“This is my fourth website and I’m pretty addicted to social media, so I come from this with a marketing eye and angle that the artisan might not, so my intent long term is to build a social media and newsletter following to help promote the artisans.”

Presently, the business owner wants to focus on products befitting home-decor, kitchen-related, bath- or spa-related and gift items.

“Certainly there are some great artisans in the Bow Valley, and I’m hopeful a few of them might be interested in this concept and look at it as a platform to another marketing channel and another platform to showcase their work,” Kauser-Abbott said. “I’m hoping to not have hundreds of vendors, but to have a select group of really beautiful products and great stories and be able to showcase those.

“My next step is to start approaching artisans and hopefully have them approach me in order to get them on the site and for me to be able to tell their story too, because I think that’s kind of key to this. People want to know the vase they just bought was made by someone in Canmore and why that person got into making vases in the first place.”

A contact link is available at www.atelierboutiques.com, where interested artisans are encouraged to reach out to Kauser-Abbott for more information on the new venture.

“The email comes directly to me, that’s probably the easiest way, but via social media is fine too through Facebook or Twitter. At least for the near term my focus will be Canadian artisans for a number of reasons. I think there’s a huge community out there and why do I need to look further, so I think just concentrating on Canada and closer to home is a great place to start because we certainly have a lot of market-inspired, handcrafted beautiful work in Canada and maybe I’ll never have to look further.”