I grew up in a house pretty much devoid of candles, unacquainted with their simple pleasures until I flew the nest. My mother is very scent-sensitive (seriously, the woman can catch a whiff of a Reese’s peanut butter cup from 15 feet away) and is an insurance adjuster who’s seen too many house fires start from unattended candles. So, I discovered the charm of a nighttime candle only in college, at which point they were banned in dorm rooms (understandably so), and were all the more precious since they were at constant risk of confiscation.
Fast forward to my adult life, and boy do I still love the evening ambience. I’ve got multiple candles in every room, set up with little jars of matches for whenever the mood strikes. I’m far from alone in this, as well, according to the explosion of candle content to be found on the internet in the past year. We’ve seen people of all ages reshaping, making, reviewing, and caring for their beloved candles like never before, and it’s really a pretty wholesome hobby to indulge.
Twisting & Bending
At this point, the candle-twisting trend has been pretty well-documented. I, myself, have a smattering of bendy, twisty candles around my apartment that are the result of multiple videos demonstrating the method for Home52 social media. The idea is this: taper candles get submerged in hot water for 15-20 minutes to make them pliable, then they can be rolled, twisted, and bent into sculptural (albeit, not super functional) pieces. It’s a really easy, low-stakes DIY project, which I think is why it took off so meteorically.
If you’re interested in trying your hand, I’ve found great success with these specific candles which don’t seem to break and crack under the pressure like some people have reported their candles doing.
Perhaps it’s the rise of TikTok, perhaps it’s the quantity of people who’ve started small businesses in quarantine, or perhaps still it’s the push away from big-box stores and toward individual makers, but candle-making has never been hotter. A far cry from the cringey, Papyrus-logoed “Serenity by Jan,” the surge of candle-makers online has seen lots of passionate young professionals launching expertly branded lines of candles for purchase and personal use. With so many tools at our disposal now (high-quality phone cameras, design apps, wholesale supplies) it’s no wonder everyone’s jostling for a piece of the candle pie.
Sure, I may have been late to the game, but I was also shocked a few years ago when I realized just how much people were spending on high-end candles. I get it, really powerful scents are often very complex, which explains the general sensibility that a perfume is an investment. There’s lots of talk about top notes, middle notes, and so on—which tends to feel very similar to sommelier-speak—but for something that burns and is gone after 60 hours? I’m still not totally sold. Does this mean I don’t have the much-buzzed-about Santal 26 candle? No, I have it, but it was a gift and I’ve managed to keep an inch left at the bottom for about six months now.
At some point, candles became a status symbol, like owning a designer bag or sporting a pair of red-bottomed shoes. If you look closely on any Instagram post from an influencer or designer of their home, you’re likely to see a casually-placed Diptyque, a just-happened-to-be-there Jo Malone. What’s even more fun to spot is how long that fancy candle sticks around in someone’s home, because they’re not for regular burning, of course, but for premium decor.
With expensive candles come people who specialize in reviewing them, of course, which is a very enjoyable thing to observe. One of my favorite people to watch sniff candles is Ashley Hosmer, who gives in-depth (and honest) summaries of various high-end candles, so I don’t have to buy and burn them myself. She hits all the major players, including the questionable (Gweneth Paltrow’s highly-covered niche scent), the trendiest (millennial-branded candle company, Otherland), and the dupes for more expensive ones.
Caring for Candles
More candle information that’s bubbled to the surface these past few years? Apparently many of us are not properly caring for them, reducing the burn time and polluting our homes with ash in the process. News to me, but not to some, who thankfully share the most essential bits of candle care, like burning for at least two hours the first time to prevent tunneling, trimming the wicks to avoid black buildup on the glass and inside your home, and smothering the flame with a snuffer to keep smoke to a minimum.
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