I’m not quite sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way I became a candle collector.
It wasn’t really a conscious decision. As a blogger I’m lucky enough to frequently be gifted candles from some of my favourite lifestyle brands, and over the years I’ve amassed an enviable selection of beautifully packaged and exquisitely scented candles that gather in curated huddles in many corners of my home.
There’s a reason so many brands choose to have candles as part of their product offering, and why gifting them forms an integral part of their marketing campaigns. Creating a signature scent is the perfect way to capture the essence of a brand in a way that visuals and words cannot. Scent transcends the barriers of language and the limitations of aesthetics to connect with an audience on a deeper, far more personal level: the faintest whiff of fragrance has the power to transport you to another geographical location, or a different time.
I’ve attended fragrance workshops before – notably with Experimental Perfume Club and when I visited Grasse – so when I was invited along to a candle-making workshop with Earl of East London at their new Coal Drops Yard home near Kings Cross, I knew I had to say yes! I’ve always been intrigued by the process of candle creation and how the different scent layers are incorporated and, given that Earl of East create some of my favourite candle scents, I knew they would be the best people to learn from.
Bonds is a space for independent brands, creators and makers originally formed in Hackney in 2017, who have built a whole community surrounding the Earl of East brand, based on the concept of making bonds. The original Hackney outpost is tucked down a quiet side street between London Fields and Hackney Central, small and cosy and inviting, with a coffee bar at the front and small candle workshop to the rear. As whole-hearted believers in the power of physical retail spaces in today’s ever-increasing digital world, Bonds are at the forefront of accessible multi-concept retail thinking, prioritising community, connection and collaboration. Their new space at Coal Drops Yards is merely an extension of their Hackney home, in the heart of a new retail complex full of destination brands and independent dining venues; a place where “art, commerce and culture come together.”
I’m naturally a sucker for any concept store that brings coffee to the fore, and the moment you walk into Bonds’ light and airy store you’re greeted by a prominent coffee counter and the scent of freshly roasted beans. the adjacent shelves are stacked with an array of lifestyle products from Ferm Living, Kinto, Sans[ceuticals] and Frama, a bounty of magazines, and – of course – an extensive selection of Earl of East candles.
At the back of the store is the scent lab, where the magic really happens! There is a regular schedule of beginners candle-making workshops held here, offering the perfect environment to get to grips with your favourite scent profiles and blend your own bespoke candle fragrance. My session was led by candle maker Robyn, who joined the Earl of East team after taking part in a beginners workshop herself a year or so prior, and falling in love with the process.
Alongside a group of fellow bloggers, she introduced us to individual scents and asked us to consider our own favourite smells and the memories they evoked. Then we stepped inside the tiny ‘scent lab’, where we daubed paper sticks with the essential oils we were most drawn to, before heading out into the more neutral scent space of the store to see how we could best combine our selection to create an appealing blend.
I always find myself drawn to warm, woody fragrances with a hint of spice, and those with fresh but earthy top notes. The aromas of rosewood, green fig, soft leather and cedar all called to me, and of course I knew I had to work a bit of ground coffee into the mix too!
It helps to have a ‘destination scent’ in mind when layering your palette – memories of a particular place, a moment in time, or a specific person – but just combining your favourite scents can also work equally well, which is what I ended up doing. Robyn helped me to adjust the quantities of oil needed for each layer to create a harmonious balance across the various layers, which were then poured into the hot candle wax and gently whisked to combine. Once poured into the candle container, the cotton wick was secured with a wooden clothes peg and set aside for a day or so to set fully.
My final creation, which I’ve naturally named fabricofmylife, is a candle which combines all the ‘scents of my life’ into one warm and inviting fragrance to infuse the fab flat with. It’s been wonderful to light in the early evening when I’m sat on the sofa watching telly, and have its comforting aroma waft around me. It’s definitely a scent that makes me feel cosy and relaxed – just as I’d intended – and the scent lingers for a long while after the flame has been snuffed out.
Have you ever created your own bespoke scent before, whether as a fragrance, candle or otherwise? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to know which scents you’re most drawn to!
→Bonds, Coal Drops Yard, Stable Street, Kings Cross, N1
My candle making session was provided free of charge as part of a press event experience but all opinions and thoughts are, as always, my own. All photography © Kate Baxter.