The shortening days and descent of gloomier Northern skies can only mean one thing: candle season is upon us!
The UK is one of the world’s biggest scented candle markets, with The Independent reporting in early 2019 that Brits spend a massive £90million on them every year, a figure which is only likely to have increased throughout 2020. But while lighting a scented candle at the end of a long day is undoubtedly a wonderful way to de-stress, many of the most popular brands use paraffin wax in their products; a byproduct of the oil industry that pollutes the air when burning, and can also irritate sensitive lungs, while many are also scented with synthetic fragrances that can cause headaches and exacerbate allergy symptoms.
Instead it’s far better to seek out those made with soy, rapeseed, coconut or beeswax and naturally scented with essential oils, ideally from small independent brands who mix in small batches to keep their carbon footprint low. Luckily there are several fantastic eco candle brands doing just that in the North of England! In this post, Fabric of the North meets three such brands with gorgeous looking, and most importantly, wonderfully scented candles that you’ll want to add to your self-care routine, or Christmas wish lists, right now!
“I’ve always loved candles and home fragrance products,” says NOA founder Natasha Boorer, “but I was shocked by the amount of terrible toxins and chemicals that go into generic store candles, and found that if I wanted to buy the more eco friendly, handmade and vegan options I would have to take out a small loan to afford them! I wanted to change that and make vegan homewares and self care accessible to all types of people, no matter how much or little you have to spend.”
I don’t see why nice smelling products and homewares should be tested on animals. Why should animals have to suffer for that?
All of NOA’s candles are handmade using natural soy wax and lead-free braided wicks, and scented using a blend of the purest essential oils and cruelty-free, phthalate-free fragrance oils. Natasha hand pours every candle herself in her central Manchester studio, and sources all of her recyclable and biodegradable materials (from product to packaging) from UK suppliers too. NOA’s signature amber apothecary jars have been hugely inspired by the urban and industrial side of Manchester, along with the Ethos behind the brand. “The vegan community in Manchester is constantly growing,” says Natasha, “and people are always looking for a sustainable product. When you live in a city you are constantly on the go and self care tends to take a back seat – all the products I make are designed to make self care just that little bit easier!”
Natasha tells me she knew right from the start that NOA would be a 100% vegan brand. “The vegan lifestyle is something I massively value as an individual,” she says. “I don’t see why nice smelling products and homewares should be tested on animals. Why should animals have to suffer for that?”
Having launched in February 2019, NOA has gone from strength to strength over the past eighteen months, and often sell out of many of the popular scents within the first few hours of a restock. For Autumn 2020 she welcomed a new blend to the autumn scent family, Autumn Equinox, which she tells me reminds a lot of Bonfire Night! “Lots of rich tobacco notes, leather, amber and burnt firewood,” she says. “It’s perfect for those who prefer the more earthy, moody, autumn blends, as opposed to the classic sweet pumpkin scents!” The most popular scent at this time of the year though is Sweater Weather, a blend inspired by the warmth of the campfire on cold Autumn nights, sweet cocoa, spiced woods, vanilla and cedar. “It is such a difficult blend to describe,” she says, “but many have referred to it as ‘Autumn in a jar’, so I must be doing something right!”
The Winter Collection as also just landed on the website, and leading the cavalry is Slumber, a blend of freshly ground coffee and vanilla. “It’s warming, sweet and cosy aroma is perfect for those cold Winter mornings,” says Natasha. Slumber will be joined by Winter Solstice, an uplifting mood boosting blend of fresh pine and peppermint; Fireside, a rich, warming blend of chocolate orange, burnt firewood and allspice; Apricity, a fresh, awakening aroma of bay and rosemary, inspired by the warmth of the sun on a cold winter morning; Gingerbread, blending sharp notes of ginger with creamy vanilla butter and allspice; and Cinnamon Swirl, a sweet, warming scent mixing cinnamon and vanilla butter, perfect for cosy winter mornings.
Natasha has also introduced a matte black candle snuffer to her candle accessories selection recently, which she tells me she had had multiple requests for from customers. These sit alongside NOA’s wick trimmers, both of which Natasha considers to be super essential to help maintain and prolong the life of your candles. “I have also introduced some new candle rests,” she says, “which are heat proof and protect the surface your candle is sitting on. Before we had agate slice rests and selenite rests, which I loved, but I wanted to go for something a little more minimal that would complement every type of decor. I also think it is really important to source things that are organic, handmade and ethically sourced – which these are!”
“The pandemic has been a really crazy time for NOA,” she tells me, “and it has definitely shown how many people can support small when they want to! I was processing more orders than I would at Christmas, and at times it was really stressful, but ultimately so rewarding knowing that my candles were providing people with that little bit of extra light during such a dark and difficult time for many of us.”
“I know many of us small businesses noticed a surge in sales too – not just candles. So many makers also released ‘Do it Yourself’ kits and virtual workshops, proving it was definitely an opportunity to adapt and release things relevant to everyones’ lives right now. I released the Mindful Moment Kit as I, like many others, was experiencing lapses in my mental health during this time, and wanted to provide a kit that could help people find a little bit of calm outside the craziness in the world. I also released my Candle Making Kit, since I find candle making to be super therapeutic and relaxing, and everyone who purchased one said how much they enjoyed it too!”
As someone juggling university studies with a fully fledged and thriving business, Natasha knows a thing or two about the potential for burnout, and the value of making time for self care. “ I always have a face mask handy,” she tells me, “and sometimes even pop one on when I’m packing orders! I also love foot masks, skincare and a good bubble bath too. The bubble baths are rare these days sadly, but when I really need to relax you will find me in the bath, surrounded by NOA candles! I’m also trying to meditate everyday as this really helps my mindset and outlook,” she says. “When you run an online business it is so easy to fall into the endless realm of scrolling all day – I often don’t notice how much I am on social media until I switch off!”
Long term she would love to see NOA stocked in a big retail store. “I always had the dream of NOA being in Urban Outfitters, but am open to anything should the opportunity pop up. Right now, I’ve got a lovely small business pal working on some top secret accessories for me, and I can’t wait to share them! I am also hoping to have a unit soon too, and also grow the range to feature some more gift sets. Hopefully in 2021 I may even get to do some trade shows – but of course, that’s entirely up to Covid!
Images © NOA, used with permission.
With a scientific background in Zoology, the precision of the processes involved in candle making satisfy both the creative and methodical sides of Woodspring Co’s co-founder, Steph Glover. “I have always loved candles, home goods and interiors,” she tells me, “so I started experimenting with candle making because I wanted to do something creative in my spare time, and really enjoyed it!”
We chose soy wax because of its clean burning properties and minimal impact on the environment.
“We chose soy wax because of its clean burning properties and minimal impact on the environment,” she says. “I tried other vegetable waxes, but this just worked for me. Our wicks are cotton and we also have 3 scents that use wooden wicks, which crackle as they burn which adds to the atmosphere when burning.”
Co-founder Chris Steers has a background in design, and Steph tell me his creative eye played an important role in the creative direction of the brand. “We have very similar taste,” she say, “so we work well together! I’m drawn to very simple, plain, Scandi-style interiors, and I think this helped us to visualise our products in this style of interior environment and informed the style of our labels and branding.”
Having launched in May 2019, the couple offer three different collections of candles: the original and classic series, ‘The Collective’, ‘The Herbary’ which is curated using essential oils, and ‘Stories’, which uses luxury fragrance oils to evoke memories from different environments. “Each scent in ‘The Collective’ is suited to a room or a particular time you would like to burn a candle,” Chris says. “So, for example, if you are hosting guests, we would recommend Black Pomegranate as a gentle and elegant aroma to be burning in the background. Bamboo is a great scent to accompany a freshly cleaned home, while Bergamot, Orange + Coconut is probably the most popular. On a summer’s day the coconut is reminiscent of holidays, and on a rainy day it’s mellow and warming.”
“‘The Herbary’ collection uses only essential oils,” says Chris, “and each scent is based on a specific herb with its own aromatherapy benefit: Lavender for its calming properties to encourage sleep; Lemongrass for its uplifting and antidepressant properties; and finally, Rosemary with its woody-balsamic undertones to be refreshing and awakening.
“We launched Date Night for Valentine’s Day,” says Steph, “which was very well received, and has now found a place in our new ‘Stories’ collection. In fact, it inspired the collection! We originally named the candle Date Night because we had an idea that you light a candle because of an event or specific occasion. Evening is also proving very popular, as it is very woody and smoky, and sits alongside Wilderness which is reminiscent of a refreshing woodland walk, with the fresh, herbal accord of eucalyptus combined with green moss and a hint of wood smoke. We also have our Christmas scents launching this month, which we are so excited about! We have brought some scents back from last year, and we are going to introduce a few new ones too. Candle season is the best time of the year!”
Of course, it can be difficult to choose a scented candle based purely on the description on a website, but Woodspring Co. has got that one covered. “We know it’s difficult to choose a scented product over the Internet,” says Steph, “so we created a Sample Box for our customers to allow them to experience each of the scents in the collection as a tea light first, before committing to purchasing a full-sized candle.” Each of the sample boxes come with a scent description card, and are packaged in recycled tissue paper, biodegradable boxes, and shipped in a compostable packing bag.
“Sourcing products from the UK is a big focus for us, as well as the effect our products and processes have on the environment,” Steph says, “and we’re always looking for ways to improve too. For example, we supply a bar in Tarporley, Little Tap, with candles that they burn in the bathrooms, and they give us back all the empties afterwards to reuse. We hope to continue to grow organically with people who love our candles scenting their homes, and to focus and improve on our core values of sustainability and protecting our environment.”
Images © Woodspring Co., used with permission.
KIP Candle Co.
“KIP Candle Co. was really born out of our passion for travel,” say co-founders Anna Passey and Kyle Pryor. “Everywhere we went we would collect beautiful smelling candles and incense to bring back to relive our adventures in our home.”
With both working as actors by day, Anna and Kyle were keen to take their favourite scents with them, wherever they might be. “It’s amazing how quickly a scent can take you back to a moment or place,” says Anna. “We wanted to capture scents from nature and effectively bring the outside in with us. This led us to create our own Travel Candle Range to take wherever we went.”
With their busy on-set lives, Anna tells me that Kyle used to make his own candles as a way to de-stress, while she has always had a slight obsession with candles. “I find the combination of scents and the glow of a flame incredibly calming,” she says. “Much of the product development comes down to science,” says Kyle. “Different waxes and fragrances behave differently, and different wicks are appropriate for different combinations of these waxes and fragrances. We always set out to make ethical and environmentally sound choices, finding the best and most responsible materials that we could. We use a paraffin-free eco soy wax – we never use palm oil – and use sustainable wooded crackle wicks. We know where they come from, and adore the extra sensory element of a cosy crackle.”
We chose our metal containers as not only do we love them, but they are perfect for reusing after the candle has all burnt out.
KIP candles have an endearingly homespun quality to them. “We chose our metal containers as not only do we love them, but they are perfect for reusing after the candle has all burnt out,” says Anna. “Our customers use them for all kinds of things afterwards, and we love seeing plants and cacti potted into them. Our candles come in hand dyed cotton bags for the same reason; we were aware that the kraft card boxes we were using before were mostly being thrown away, whereas the bags get kept and reused for storing all sorts of handy things.”
The branding grew out of Anna’s obsession with DYMO labelling. “Everything in our home – from coffee to shampoo – gets labelled with a DYMO, so it happened naturally that we made DYMO labels for our candles,” says Kyle. “As the company grew we began to be aware that the tiny amount of plastic in these labels was adding up, so we replaced the actual DYMO labels with a printed version.”
The couple tell me that their Surfwax candle, inspired by Kyle’s time spent living in New Zealand and Australia, is currently proving their most popular. “I wanted to create a scent for our home that would remind me of those sunny days out in the water,” he says. “Surfwax is the scent of the ocean, the fragrance of a board being waxed in the sun and every time we light it you can feel the warmth of those moments, the salty, sandy, happy tired feeling of a day spent out in the water. I think a lot of people loved this fragrance as it reminds them of their own personal associations with the sea and the beach – often a happy place that serves good memories.”
Another popular scent is the Spiced Orange. “This candle smells exactly like my mother’s house through autumn and winter,” says Anna. “With a chill in the air outside, there is nothing sweeter and more exciting to me than hurrying into my mum’s kitchen to see what she is making! This time of year there is always some type of jam being made, cookies being baked or fruit being picked and preserved. Orange, clove, cinnamon mixed in with twine, the warmth of the fire and pinecones scattered around. Again the idea was that if these scents conjure up these feelings for me, hopefully they will do the same for other people.”
The pair are excited to be adding a new scent to their Autumn/Winter 2020 fragrances this month. “With woodsmoke, amber and moss, Embers has that gorgeous aroma of ever so slightly damp wood being put onto the log burner,” says Kyle. “It smells of campfire, of stove, of reading a story by the fire. It is so earthy and cosy all at once – we are excited to see what associations people have with it. For us it holds all the excitement of warming up after a long chilly hike, right through to putting that all important plate of cookies and sherry by the fire on Christmas Eve.”
Since launching in early March, just prior to the Coronavirus lockdown, the company has been growing steadily and organically. “We really love what we do,” says Anna, “and the biggest surprise to us has been really getting to know our customers. At such a young stage, we already have some loyal and lovely customers who share our love of candles, fragrance and the outdoors, who report back to us what they like about a scent, who share pictures of our candles burning in their homes, and honestly it feels like such a privilege. We just want to keep doing what we are doing. Maybe one day we’ll have a physical store; part coffee shop, part candle studio, with flowers and cakes and lovely people!” Wouldn’t that be lovely?
Images © KIP Candle Co., used with permission.