On Candles


The Current Climate

There is a new movement of spirituality occurring on a larger scale. More people are redefining their understanding of the world and there is a greater amalgamation of blending practices related to healing, therapy, and general contentment. People are learning and practicing all manner of habits that keep them in tune with their bodies. This has created a larger interest in personal and natural healing. Restorative practices like yoga and meditation have been centered for a variety of social groups and, as such, are developing in new ways.

The Candle Fixture

There are a variety of reasons people love to buy candles. Often, they are simple gifts that demonstrate love. Other times, candles are simple objects that help to liven and uplift a room. Currently, candles have been allowed to develop as important parts of personal and restorative spaces. Since their inception as sources of light, they have been able to grow into something susceptible to variation and artistic interpretation. Candles have surpassed their original use and people have been able to experiment with them, under new light. Candles are now exciting. They are fixtures for any home. In fact, they are often an expression that allows people to place a greater stake in their environment, to further claim something as their own, to express themselves continuously.

Candle Chemistry

In the development from simple tool to artistic expression, people begin to find a need for classification and explanation. While human senses and the ability to recognize scent or aroma have existed for millennia, it was only recently that there have begun to be major systems of classification. People like Michael Edwards have allowed for deeper exploration into the sensory world. Because of Edwards and others, there are now classification tools like the Fragrance Wheel and Olfactory Pyramid. These simple spectrums help people put their sensory intake into words.

The wheel and pyramid have helped to create a basic spectrum of smells and their composition. These scales have helped to distinguish scents and their ability to linger, further helping people express a sensory form that was otherwise limited to mixing and hoping for the best. There is a general consensus that Woody scents like vanilla and patchouli are base notes. These are the notes that linger for several hours or days but are often softer and less intrusive. Then, there are the Heart notes. These are scents classified as the soul or personality of a fragrance that last between 20 and 60 minutes. They are aromatic and floral scents like violet or rose, which linger almost as if you’ve taken a mouthful of a scent. Finally, there are the Top notes, those notes are quick bursts of fragrances; active and intense. These last for only minutes at a time but provide a sweet and impactful scent, coming from most citrus, ginger, or mint. 

In this manner, scents prove themselves as complex chemical reactions. They provide a stimulus open to response based on the interests of each person and on the awareness of their own senses. Any individual floral, fresh, oriental or woody scent – or combination thereafter – provides a unique experience for any person. Greater then, is the fact that these basic spectrums open up to greater classification and variation, allowing for unending expression and exploration. 

Scent and Subjectivity

Candles and candle-making, then, have been allowed to become their own form of artistry. This artistry can be as simple as a hand-made thing or more complex as something one creates through risk and experimentation. Regardless, chandlery is a manner of expression. Further, this expression represents the separation between objectivity and subjectivity. While early candles were simple forms of technology, they have now become something more complex with their mix of fragrances, methods of production, and a variety of visual variation. Candles are no longer simple tools to produce light, they now have a greater meaning for our homes and personal lives. Our basic senses have allowed us to communicate in a variety of other methods making candles a perfect manner in which we can share experiences, allowing for greater connection with others.

Yet not all experiences are the same, and, at some point, subjectivity takes over an objective form. People begin to attach their own experiences – memories to a scent – onto the features of the world around them. People overlay their thoughts and responses, which can change a simple fragrance. Additionally, people can create their own blend of scents to represent unique experiences with which others may agree or disagree, like or dislike. The greater challenge then – as with any artform – is the opening to any and all forms of criticism. Candles are something that are widely accessible and people are now allowed to critique and speak out against them, creating a very different environment for candles than we have experienced before.

Professional Chandlers

This popularity surrounding candles has created a new space for creativity. People are trying to bottle a scent that showcases a memory they’ve nearly forgotten. People are also looking to create completely new scents. This new form of expression has been widely adopted, showing the greater creativity that comes through combinations and imagination. This creates a difficult task for the chandler: to imagine new scents and to turn abstract perception into something tangible while the receiver and critic waits to approve or condemn a scent based on any number of classifications. In this manner, we must not try to be extremely harsh on the chandlers. We must respect their craft and allow them the opportunity to experiment and take risks. Scent is a complex sense that remains widely misunderstood. While there are more common tangibles in senses like sight and touch, the nose creates a difficult task because it depends more upon the subjectivity of a person. With scent, there is a greater contribution of preference as people can disagree over their enjoyment of the same aroma. Still, we must try to navigate these unknown territories, we must work to create some understanding of the role of fragrances as they pertain to different cultures and individual people. It is easy to dismiss a candle because one often forgets about the chandler or craft required but, with their growing relevance and use, it is all the more important to recognize this deeper artistry and the personal desire to create a scent for every memory.