Friday, November 5, 2010

"A Day in the Life with Jennifer"

One more week down, one more week closer to the holidays:  are you ready for them?  Haha, I’m not either.  (some of you better have said “no” ~ be honest now)  But for now, it’s onward and upward.  People that know about Etsy probably know about Etsy threads or forums.  Well, I met this person on an Etsy thread back in 2009.  I eventually made a purchase from her and now, I just can’t resist some of her fantastic scents.  
Today, let’s spend . . .

A Day in the Life with Jennifer, owner of

Click here to enter Jennifer's Etsy Shop
Dude:  How long have you been creating candles?

Jennifer:  I started making candles in junior high in 1973.  For a couple of years I sold them to friends at school and actually made some pocket change.  By high school the molds were stored away and I didn't take them out again until the spring of 2009.  So the answer is 37 years or a year and a half, depending on how you look at it!   

Dude:  What inspired you to get into the candle making business?    

Jennifer:  In 7th grade there was a girl in my class who was making candles and selling them at school. It looked so cool that I wanted to do it too and I REALLY wanted to make money! So I just stole her idea, bought my own molds from a catalog and took over her business.  I made the candles on a hot plate while sitting on the floor downstairs in our unfinished family room. Looking back, I’m amazed my mom let her 13-year-old work unattended with a vat of hot wax.
Your Hazelnut Cappuccino is ready

When I was laid off from my job in a Boston law firm two years ago, I took out the molds again just for fun. I hadn’t looked at them in well over 30 years and I immediately remembered how much I’d enjoyed making candles. I decided to try selling some on Etsy just to make enough money to buy more supplies. Then it suddenly took on a life of its own and before I knew it my husband and I were selling candles at 8 different farmers markets in the summer and at craft shows throughout the fall.  Losing my job turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. I'm finally doing something I absolutely love and I don’t have to sit in rush hour traffic for 2 hours a day anymore.

Dude: Tell us a little bit about your process for creating.  

Jennifer:  I tend to spread out all over the house until there isn't one inch of clean tabletop left. We’ve been having a lot more take-out lately because I’ve taken over the entire kitchen!

       The pouring process

Preparation involves being sure the molds are clean (and free of cat hair!) and setting in the wicks. Whether I am using soy wax, palm wax, paraffin or a blend, the process starts at the stove where the wax is melted in a double boiler.  Paraffin requires some additives to make the fragrance adhere to the wax and of course requires dye for color. I don’t use dye in my soy candles but keep them the natural cream color of the wax. Soy, however, has its own challenges. It must be poured at just the right temperature and it responds differently to different fragrance oils, so a lot of the process is trial and error to get the optimum fragrance with a smooth finish.  Some candles require a second pour after they cool while others do not.  Some jars get heated in the oven before pouring while the paraffin votives and novelty candles spend a little time in the freezer to cool more quickly. 

The other thing I love to do is to make my own labels.  Since all of the jar candles are cream colored, the labels give them their distinct characteristics and I am really proud of my display that gets lots of compliments.    

One of our display shelves
The one thing I hate doing is packing things up to mail. Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband who serves as the “shipping and receiving” department.  He packages all the candles and drives them to the post office. He loads and unloads the car for all of our shows and is a far better sales person than I am.  The women love him!

Dude:  Where do you typically get your supplies?      

Jennifer:  Most of my supplies are purchased on line because most of the things I need are not available anywhere in our area.  I get some of my wax from Pennsylvania and some from North Carolina and my fragrances from a dozen different suppliers around the country.  As my husband will tell you, I spend WAY too much money testing fragrances from different suppliers until I find one that smells exactly right. My one little trick though – I get my jars from Walmart because it is less expensive than paying on-line shipping.

Dude:  Where do you get your ideas for your items?

Jennifer:  Most of my good ideas happen in the shower! When I first started making candles in 1973 they were all paraffin and made in plastic molds.  When I started up again in 2009, it soon became apparent that most people wanted soy candles rather than paraffin and our line has now evolved into mostly soy jar candles.  Our niche seems to be growing in the “weird smells” arena, with things Bacon, Beer, Lawn Mower Clippings and New Car Smell drawing people into our booth.  Believe it or not, Bacon is our biggest seller on Etsy!

I still make paraffin votives and novelty candles and have also recently introduced palm wax, which creates a unique feathery effect. I enjoy coming up with votive samplers or gift boxes that have different themes.  While we carry things like a traditional Holiday gift box (with Fraser Fir, CandyCane, Gingerbread and Egg Nog) my favorite is the Old Hippie Sampler with tins of Patchouli, Nag Champa, Frankincense and Myrrh and Vanilla Sandalwood. 
Our cat collection

I love getting new molds and enjoy working in paraffin to make unique novelty candles. One of my new projects combines my love of cats and my cat shelter work with my love of candle making. We now carry a whole line of cat candles in every cat color you can imagine.  The two- and three-color cats require a multi-pour process where one wax is poured in, allowed to form a wax shell and then poured out. The shell is then hardened, removed from the mold, carved and put back into the mold for a second pour of wax to create a cat of two or three different colors.  I think the thing I like about doing this is that it makes me feel more like an artisan than just a candle maker.  I'm not just pouring wax into a jar or a mold but I'm creating a truly one-of-a-kind item.  We also donate all the money from the cat candles to our local shelter.

Dude:  Where do you sell your items? 

Jennifer:  About 1/3 of our sales come from Etsy, and 2/3 from farmers markets and craft shows all around our area.  I just started putting some candles in a couple of local shops that specialize in handmade items and so far they have been doing very well.  I have been asked a number of times about wholesaling, both locally and around the country.  While some people like to do wholesale work, I really prefer making things up fresh and interacting with the customers. Besides, we keep our retail prices so low that if I tried to translate that into wholesale rates, I would actually start losing money         
Pumpkin Pie

Dude:  Anything else you'd like us to know?                                

Jennifer:  The thing I enjoy the most about what I do is hearing people say “wow, that is amazing!” when they smell the candles. There is no greater affirmation than having return customers who say they bought from you before and just loved the candles. So I do this because I love to create and enjoy making people smile.  While I may not get rich doing it this way, I’m definitely having the time of my life!

One thing Jennifer didn’t mention is all those “yummy” props in her photos.  I’m sure she’ll come gunnin’ for me later, but I asked her about that long ago.  Yep, you guessed it.  Those are for eating once the photo shoot is over.  We can never let good food go to waste. But I’m sure she shares with her hubby.  After all, he’s such a good worker!  Hahaha

Jen, thanks for the interview.  I’m gonna sit back now and 
enjoy that cappuccino and pumpkin pie!  
Have a great weekend everyone.  :)


goodgosh said...

I smell cat pee.

Hey! I was just talking to you and here you are! Great info on the making of your candles! I personally LOVE the soy tarts ~ the scent last forever!
Good job dude.

jj said...

I love kitt and her candles are just fabulous!
great interview.
(gg you always smell cat

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I had a feeling the smell of cat pee was going to enter into this somewhere! lol
This is a great article and I have to add my own "these candles are amazing"! I love candles and so does my daughter so I have smelled countless scents - none are as true and realistic as Kitt's candles!

Happy Hound Creative said...

Very interesting to hear the process!! I have yet to try Kitt's candles but you have reminded me that I should!

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