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.
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.”
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.
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?
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