It is not a stretch to think that a card company invented Valentine’s Day looking to make a bit of profit around a celebration of romance. According to the Greeting Card Association, 25% of all cards sent each year are valentines. The research firm, IBIS World clocked 2015 Valentine’s related spending at $19.6 billion that is a lot of cards, dinners, romance packages and so on.
However, the origins of February 14th predate modern printing by a long shot, dating back to 3rd Century in Rome with the feast of Lupercalia, a two-day celebration that involved animal sacrifice and beating women. Not your typical romance novel content. If you are curious about the dark beginnings of the now romantic date, keep reading here.
At Atelier, we would prefer to celebrate the less commercial and certainly the brighter side of this holiday with a giveaway to our readers. Two lucky winners will each receive a gift package containing a gorgeous “Key to My Heart” 100% beeswax candle and a keepsake lavender wand. To enter the draw – all you need to do is sign-up for our newsletter here.
Key to My Heart candles are part of a series of custom designs by Jill Smith the owner and chandler (candle maker) at Bees Wax Works. Jill manipulates 45-pound blocks of pure beeswax, sourced in Alberta, into manageable chunks that are melted down in a large vat. The hot liquid is poured into the ceramic moulds that Jill co-designed with a West Coast pottery artist. Jill’s beeswax candles are beautiful, and they burn brighter than paraffin candles.
In most of Europe, Lavender is the gift of choice to celebrate 46 years of marriage. During the Middle Ages, lavender wands (see video here) were included as part of a dowry to keep mites and moths away from linens. Lavender has long been a symbol of love.
Sign-up to enter the candlelight and lavender contest here. The winners will be picked (random draw) on February 14th – Valentine’s Day.
More reading on beeswax candles and lavender:
5 Reasons Why to Choose Beeswax Candles over Paraffin
The Art and Craft of Chandlery
Tis the Season Five Reasons to Buy a Beeswax Candle
Why is Lavender Essential Oil So Popular
Settling a Purple Question Lavender vs Lavandin
Perfect Hostess Gifts Lavender Wands
This DIY project requires 100 stems of freshly-cut Provencal lavender. Elsa Lenthal follows a process, an old tradition, that her grandmother taught her. Lavender wands, or in fuseaux in French used to serve a very practical purpose to keep mites and moths away from clothes. Today, although the wands can keep the bugs away, they also make for beautiful keepsakes or dried arrangements.
How does she do it?
The lavender stems are then counted and cleaned of any tiny shoots, by hand. The fragrant bundle is then tied just below the flowers with a piece of ribbon. Elsa then individually folds each stem over the lavender buds “capturing” the flowers inside. The final step is to weave a bright ribbon through the stems covering the entire packet. The result is a lavender fuseaux, essentially shaped like a baby’s rattle. It takes Elsa, after years of practice, one hour to make each lavender wand.
Elsa makes hundreds of these wands every summer in Provence; she works while talking to customers in 4-5 markets per week.
The lavender wands will last forever.
- 100 stems
- 100 % French lavender
- 100 % handmade
- 100% traditional
Why Lavender? Here are 10 reasons.
A perfect hostess gift!
A present for your mum
for a girlfriend
Available in limited quantities – buy now!
Laurene Bosc captures Elsa’s step-by-step process to make lavender wands in her beautiful video below.
Photo credit: Lua Williams Photography, Canmore, Alberta
When it comes to lavender you fall into one of two camps (pro or con), but that is likely because of your exposure to over-processed, or worse, chemically created scents that try to mimic nature.
Lavender essential oil is expensive, although not quite as much as a return flight to France (from North America). Having participated in the harvest and watched the distillation process, I fully appreciate how much product (lavender) needs to be grown to produce that little vial of essential oil.
Here, is a summary of the distillation process for traditional lavender growers:
- The flowers are cut, bundled and left to dry in the field for 1-2 days.
- Tractors loaded with dried bundles haul their purple loads to the distillery.
- This is where the bales of flowers are stuffed into enormous vats. It is incredibly hard work, but you smell terrific at the end of the day.
- Once the vat lids are closed, steam is pumped through the tubes (think large pressure cookers) until the flowers are hot enough to release their essence.
- This liquid has two components; a clear heavily scented essence and a fractional amount of essential oil. Both parts are collected and sold for commercial use.
What is the lavender essential oil used for?
Our friend Girl Gone Gallic wrote about 33 Uses for Lavender Essential Oil. Yes lavender scent is used in everything from ice cream to floor cleaner, from lip balm to massage oils.
- Household Uses – Shop here for 100% lavender “wands” for your linen closets.
- Beauty Uses – perfumes, scrubs, balms
- Relaxation Uses – massage, baths
- Food Uses – syrups, cocktails, cookies, ice cream
- Medicinal Uses – cuts, bug bites, eczema
GGG and I are wondering could there be 100 uses for lavender essential oil? Please read her post here and let us know what to add to the list.
Lavender is big business in Provence.
There is a significant agricultural industry built around the purple plants, which includes farmers, distillery owners and manufacturers (cosmetics, food). The is also an enormous impact on the tourism industry with countless visitors clamoring to get to see the rows of lavender plants at the peak of the blooming cycle. There are tour groups and private guides who count on the lavender playing a part in their summer business.
So, where do you see the fields? When is the best time for lavender viewing? Is there a driving route that you would recommend?
Franco-American blogger, Girl Gone Gallic answers all of those questions in her post:
Tantalize your senses… Visit the Lavender Fields of Provence
Lavender has always grown wild in Provence…
Every year thousands flock to the hills and valleys of Provence to visit the famed lavender fields. There are several different lavender routes (six official itineraries to be exact) that can be followed depending on the time of year and your interests…
Keep reading Girl Gone Gallic’s post here for details on lavender itineraries, drying tips and much more.
Can’t travel to Provence? We have the answer SHOP NOW! for lavender “wands” these make beautiful gifts, dried bouquets and they last forever.
To the untrained eye, and certainly the uneducated nose it would be a challenge to know the difference between lavender and lavandin. What is lavandin? Don’t worry you are not alone! We turned to our friend based in the “land of lavender” (Provence) and asked Girl Gone Gallic for her expertise in settling our slightly purple haze (not the Jimi Hendrix kind).
What is the difference?
There are actually 39 different varieties of Lavender. Lavender has always grown wild in Provence, and maybe you’ve been lucky to discover the wondrous sensory experience that are the lavender fields in bloom. Cultivation has been around even in ancient times, and was one of the holy herbs used in biblical times to prepare holy essence. During the Roman period, the price for one pound of lavender equaled a full month’s farmers wages. But can you tell the difference between Lavender vs Lavandin ?
Keep reading here… for the rest of Girl Gone Gallic’s post here to find out what the difference are and why real lavender products are worth the price.
Shop here! For 100% pure French lavender “wands” – shaped like a baby’s rattle – these are beautiful keepsakes, gifts and they will keep your clothes smelling of sweet Provence.
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.
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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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)” *
- Continuing the theme of “to wash” lavender often found in products such as perfumes, soaps, shampoos, cosmetics and creams.
- Lavender has some medically tested benefits that include reduced hair loss, eased anxiety and the ability to shrink canker sores.
- 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.
- 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.
- Inventive chefs and bakers infuse sauces, cakes, ice creams, soups, and honey with lavender flavour and colour.
- 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.
- 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.
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