It all started on the stove top…….

It all started on the stove top…….

Once COVID 19 restrictions had firmly taken hold, The Nelson’s were at home a lot… together…. Not something we were accustomed to… And. We. Were. Going. BANANAS.

Jacki had always tinkered with candle making, tarts, smelly little knickknacks that landed around the house but never on my radar. One day she asked if I wanted to make candles with her (it’s likely I was driving her crazy with another indoor nerf gun fight, or was describing plans of a living room fort), so I said “sure”.

Her candle pot was the size of a coffee pot, one that your grandfather would’ve had tucked away with your family’s camping gear in the shed. It was metal, banged up, and all the supplies required to make candles fit inside it. Now enter me. Big, clumsy, and (to a fault, even) always looking for a way to create efficiencies. We are both trying to be courteous to each other, after all… this is something we are doing as a couple… but it’s not easy… I’m receiving instruction, executing directives, tripping over my own feet, and hers. I’m not graceful… I was not helpful. But… I was having a lot of fun. I’m a process guy, candle making is a process. Step one… step two… so on and so forth. The result. A candle. Just like that, plan the work… work the plan. Celebrate your accomplishment. 

Over the course of several days… we made several candles.  One or two per session. We chose vessels we found in old boxes and bins from the barn, mason jars, cookie tins, cocktail glasses… our wick holders were bbq skewers held together with painters tape. Our kids were in and out of the kitchen, watching and making fun of our clunky system. They called out “that smells like Papa Steve’s Cabin!”, or “smells like bubble gum in here”… I won’t lie but was somewhat relieved and also slightly disappointed when they said “eww, what’s that smell?” Spoiler… it was whiskey… We didn’t have lids. We didn’t have labels.

But we had a process, and we had an epiphany.  

We live on a quiet street in a busy part of East Oly. We noticed while staring out the windows every moment of every day… that people walked… a ton. As things began to normalize, we walked too. We met in groups in our yards, at the street corners. We exchanged things… clothes, books, stories… our friend Katie held exercise classes in the driveway. 

Great ideas are borrowed, I believe. Down the street from us a neighbor built a neighborhood library box, you know the type. Take one, leave one (or don’t). I thought ‘what if we built one of those, and filled it with candles?’ Would folks stop? Would they smell a candle or two? Would they TAKE one?

Jacki showed me Pinterest that night. Before long I was swimming in plans for our little candle box. I’m proud to say our box can EASILY hold a dozen candles. However…. We didn’t have a dozen candles and we didn’t have a dozen remaining mason jars. Needless to say, our process had met a decision point.

More vessels? Yes. Labels, wick holders? YES. How about an enormous candle pot with a spigot on the side and thermometers and scales and hot glue guns, wick trimmers and a heat gun and enough wax, fragrance, and dye blocks to fill the candle box…. Twice? Well we can’t just fill it once, right?? What if people really like the candles? If we light this candle…When are we ever gonna get the chance to do this again? So we thanked our UPS and FedEx drivers when the loot got delivered. We pestered Jacki’s brother Justin until he designed us the logo… and our friend Andrea cut a bunch of them out on her Cricut. 

The weeks became months. We worked from home. We home schooled. We made candles. We made a shitload of them. The kids named them all. We talked about adventures we’d been on, trips we took, things we saw, and translated those into smells and stories. And our streetwalkers…. Started taking the candles. We attached stories to them, we left blank index cards for our friends and neighbors to leave us reviews… how did the candles smell? How did they burn? And they started leaving thank you notes. And we wrote back to them. We named candles after them. “Wanda’s November Rain”, “Mom’s Favorite”, “Paisley”, “East Oly”, “The Mocker Rocker”… we asked them to share their own stories about scents and memories. And they did. We dropped candles on people’s porches and stuffed them into mailboxes and felt so sneaky, and thankful, and wonderful. 

We donated candles to charity events, and gave them away as gifts. Our process refined over and again, and we were getting good. We could pump out 24 candles in an evening. In the early days candle productivity was directly related to (perhaps limited by) wine consumption. 

Friends and family would join us for candle making sessions… some have returned… some have not. Its not for everybody.

Nowadays… our supplier (Pete!) is just down the road in Tenino. He keeps us in wax, wicks, jars and lids. We shop around for fragrances and mix and experiment and try new things. We’ve gotten better. We poke relief holes, pre heat jars and cool on a schedule… re-melt the tops the next day for that store bought look…. We can pump out as many candles a night as we can stay awake for…. Still somewhat dictated by wine consumption, but hey, it’s just a hobby… 

Our friend Katie has a little boutique store in town… she started selling our candles. And selling out of them… that made us a little uneasy at first. We gave them away for free. Granted it’s not a sustainable business model, but that was our thing. But we gave her more… and she sold them. We chatted with the folks that run the country store at the end of the street…. They started selling our little candles… Jacki made a website… and now we sell them too. 

If you stop by our house, we will find a way to slip a candle into your coat pocket. That will never change. But we hope you enjoy them. And we hope that our smells and our stories can transport you too, somewhere in your mind where a smell and a memory are linked up, just like it did for us. And we hope that makes you smile.

Thanks - The Nelsons 

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