Indie candle-makers in Singapore spark demand

Singapore artisanal candles are gaining a following for their quality and scents

A bad gift of a handmade candle spurred two friends to set up their own candle-making business.

Ms Chelsea Low, 24, had bought a candle-making kit online to make Christmas gifts, including one for her ex-colleague Nicole Su, 27. They had become friends when they worked at a public relations company.

However, the result of Ms Low's hard work - following instructions from the kit to double-boil the wax mixed with fragrance oils - stank. The candle gave off an "overpowering and artificial" smell, says Ms Su.

It got them talking about the difficulty of finding good and affordable candles, and the conversation set the wheels in motion for them to start their own candle business.

It has been two years since Ms Low's amateur attempt. The business partners have since honed their craft and launched their label, Hush Candle, and work on it part-time. Their day jobs are in marketing and public relations for a retail company.

Hush Candle uses natural soya wax and essential oils containing aromatherapy properties. They hand-pour the candles in batches in a workspace at Ms Low's house.

Ms Su says hand-pouring the candles in small batches lets them keep the quality consistent and costs low. Each candle-making session takes about four to five hours and yields about 200 candles.

Their 14-month-old venture, for which they put in a "few thousand dollars" to get started, has taken off.

At least 4,000 of their Lemongrass and Lavender candles have been sold since they were launched. Today, there are eight scents available.

Hush Candle is one of a few Singapore indie candle-makers lighting up the candle market here. The others include Candles Of Light and Artisan's Garden.

They make "cleaner" candles that use soya wax or beeswax, which are from natural products, instead of paraffin wax, a petroleum by- product. Many also use pure grade essential oils which are said to have health benefits. Lead-free wicks are also an environment-friendly feature.

These indie candle-makers are usually a one-man show. They hand-pour small batches of candles in their homes or small workshops, and market the product themselves. Many get started after taking candle-making classes or getting good responses to their first candle-making attempts.

Ms Daphne Tan, 32, explored candle-making while on a sabbatical and started Candles Of Light. She used to work in public relations. "I took a basic candle-making workshop two years ago and fell in love with it - in particular, the ability to create or recreate a moment using scented raw materials."

Likewise, Ms Susan Tann, who is in her early 50s, did courses in South Korea and Australia to hone her skills in candle-making. She started Artisan's Garden about two years ago, after leaving corporate life in 2013.

Diadem Candles' Ena Briant, 33, decided to sell candles after her wedding favours were a hit. She had hand-poured 150 candles for friends and family and received good feedback about the vanilla, rose and baby powder scented candles.

The former office manager decided to work full-time on Diadem Candles about 11/2 years ago, after launching it in 2013.

To publicise their products, these candle-makers often take part in pop-up flea markets and fairs.

Mr Robert Upton, 44, who started A Dose Of Something Good in 2012, has seen the candle market grow. His candles are now stocked at lifestyle stores Keepers and Naiise in Singapore. He has also branched out overseas, with his candles available at two stores in Taiwan and another in Tokyo, Japan.

He says candle-making is getting popular as people are increasingly interested in craft activities. Candles are also easy to make and raw materials are readily available.

He adds: "Over the past few years in Singapore, there have been a lot of new multi-label stores popping up and they are hungry for locally designed and locally made products."

Indeed, retailers are taking notice.

Besides retailing at Tangs at Tang Plaza in Orchard Road, Candles Of Light's Ms Tan made two candles with lifestyle museum store Gallery & Co that are inspired by paintings by artists Chua Ek Kay and Wu Guanzhong, whose works are shown at the National Gallery Singapore.

Lifestyle retailer Naiise has 15 brands that sell candles, among which four are Singapore labels such as Hush Candle and A Dose Of Something Good.

Candle lovers here wax lyrical about the offerings by indie brands. Candles from established brands from America and France can cost about the same or slightly more.

Corporate communications manager Charlene Sng, 28, bought candles from Candles Of Light's booth at the Public Garden market last year. Besides the natural ingredients, she loves "the way Ms Tan markets her brand through attractive visual merchandising".

Ms Christine Tan, who does marketing for a shoe company, is another fan. She has collected six scents from Hush Candle.

The 24-year-old, who used to buy candles from mass-market brands, says: "It takes effort and a lot of work to hand-pour candles. I like that they are not mass-produced."

Even non-candle brands are also putting out their own candles. Furniture and home furnishings Scene Shang added two scented candles, White Pagoda and Jade Courtyard, to their range; while tea company The 1872 Clipper Tea Co launched three tea-scented candles.

Ms Pamela Ting, 32, co-owner of Scene Shang, says: "A certain smell can take you to a different place or remind you of a memory."


Eight places to buy

1. CANDLES OF LIGHT

What: Daphne Tan creates candle scents according to the time of day and the kind of emotions they evoke.

Two offerings are Dawn, which has refreshing citrus, lavender and mint essential oils; and Dusk, which is made from a relaxing geranium and patchouli blend that is good for winding down. All the essential oils and botanicals are hand-blended.

Ms Tan hand-grates the beeswax and mixes it with soya wax flakes. The candles have a cotton, lead-free wick. She will also be launching room and linen perfume sprays, and bigger candles next month.

Price: $28.90 for a 120ml candle

Where: Go to www.candlesoflight.com and various locations including Gallery & Co, 1 St Andrew's Road, National Gallery Singapore, 01-05; and Tangs at Tang Plaza, 310 Orchard Road, Level 2



PHOTO: HUSH CANDLE

2. HUSH CANDLE

What: Sick of artificial smells, friends Nicole Su and Chelsea Low decided to start their own candle label. They work on the label part-time, making their candles with 100 per cent natural soya wax and essential oils.

There are eight scents, including Jasmine Orange and Sandalwood Nutmeg, which were launched earlier this month.

Price: $18 for a 120ml candle and $32 for a 240ml candle

Where: Go to www.hushcandle.com or Naiise outlets, including Clarke Quay Central, 6 Eu Tong Sen Street, Central, 02-23; and The Bloom Room, 315 Joo Chiat Road, 01-01. From next month, the candles will be available at Stamping Ground Coffee, 87 Upper East Coast Road



PHOTO: BALISE WAX LIGHTS

3. BALISE WAX LIGHTS

What: The scents from this nine-month-old label are bound to transport you to other worlds.

Ocean Spray is reminiscent of the seaside, while Rainfall will remind you of rainy afternoons and the fresh, earthy scent after.

Balise (it means beacon in French) makes beeswax candles, hand-poured into frosted glass jars with a silver metal lid that doubles as a coaster.

Each candle is packaged in a woven cardboard box, with tissue paper and a care card, making the candle a chic gift option.

Price: $25 for a 500g candle

Where: Go to www.balisewaxlights.com



PHOTO: INDI NYAH

4. INDI NYAH

What: Founder Mel Marriott named the two-year-old brand after her second child and only daughter.

These soya wax candles are hand-poured in France by a perfumer who used to work for one of France's oldest perfume houses. At Indi Nyah, which sells candles exclusively in Singapore, only pure essential oils are used.

There are three scents available: Pomegranate and White Fig, Green Orange and Coriander, and Lime Basil and Mandarin.

Next month, Ms Marriott will launch seven other scented candles, including Shanghai Blossom.

Price: $60 for a 220g candle

Where: Go to indinyah.com



PHOTO: DIADEM CANDLES

5. DIADEM CANDLES

What: Scents aside, these colourful natural soya wax candles are a pretty sight. There are 12 fragrances to choose from, including Lime Basil and Mandarin; and Coconut and Lime.

For a touch of old-school decor in your home, opt for the candles poured into blue-rimmed enamel mugs (above).

All candles are fitted with cotton lead-free or wooden wicks.

Price: $12.90 for six cubes of Melt Tarts, $24.90 for a glass jar candle, $34.90 for an enamel mug candle

Where: Go to www.diademcandles.com, Excluniqueeee, 6 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square, 02-339; and Time After Time Shop, 62 Haji Lane



PHOTO: ARTISAN’S GARDEN

6. ARTISAN'S GARDEN

What: This two-year-old label specialises in handmade soya wax melts (above), where wax chips are melted in a burner and give off a scent more quickly than a candle.

There are 25 scents to choose from, including Himalayan Bamboo, Iced Tea and Mediterranean Garden Spa.

Its newest line is Soy Wax Tarts. Each 20g tart is handmade with blends of essential oils.

Price: $17 for 100g of Soy Wax Melts and $25 for a box of four Soy Wax Tarts

Where: Go to www.artisansgardensg.com and Scent Witch Wellness @ Square 2, 10 Sinaran Drive, 02-24/25



PHOTO: SCENE SHANG

7. SCENE SHANG

What: In keeping with Scene Shang's Asian contemporary wares, the home decor label's two candle scents are inspired by Asia. Jade Courtyard features a sweet and fruity blend of lily of the valley, musk, grapefruit and rose; while the more intense White Pagoda has a woody blend of bergamot, cypress, nutmeg, cedarwood and sandalwood. Scene Shang's founders Pamela Ting and Jessica Wong worked with an Australian candle-maker and the soya wax is hand-poured into elegant rose-gold hexagon holders (above). They were launched last year.

Price: $59 for a 250g candle

Where: Go to shop.sceneshang.com or 263 Beach Road



PHOTO: THE 1872 CLIPPER TEA CO

8. THE 1872 CLIPPER TEA

What: The home-grown tea company worked with Singapore perfumery To Be Calm to come up with three tea-scented soya wax candles named Romance of Travel.

The scent of each candle was inspired by the cities of Singapore, Paris and London. The Singapore Sunrise features a blend of passionfruit, mango and green tea.

Price: $23 for a 30g candle or $60 for a set of three

Where: Various locations including Tangs at Tangs Plaza, 310 Orchard Road, Basement 1; and Robinsons The Heeren, 260 Orchard Road, Basement 1

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2016, with the headline 'Flame fame'. Print Edition | Subscribe