Lyrical Wax

Features Issue 17 Aug, 2010
Text by Selena Malla / Photo: ECS Media

What is comprised of cotton surrounded by an exquisite formation of  wax?  No, your dirty Q-Tips are not what we allude to – exquisite as your earwax may be.  We speak of candles: structures of wicked (as in containing a wick... although wicked cool is a possibility) wax that can radiate beauty, fragrance and, most importantly, light.  Not just any old light, mind you; light produced from a candle creates mood and atmosphere that not many other light sources can rival.

For example, why do you suppose romantic dinners are conducted by candlelight and not tubelight?  Apart from a candle being far more pleasing to look at, its light is natural, warm-toned, and soothing to the eye, and even makes the person sitting opposite you more soothing to the eye.  Non-romantic looking pimples and other skin blemishes appear remarkably diminished.  A youthful twinkle is restored to the eyes.  But don’t toss away the Clearasil and cucumber slices quite yet; u’ll need them in the morning!
Even if you’re not one for burning candles, their aesthetic appeal alone makes them worthy of existing solely for decoration.  Relatively inexpensive (compared to, say, a crystal dish), candles will last for years; and when you tire of them, you can burn them the next time there’s load shedding -- which of course you can’t do with crystal!

Now for the existing fans of candles and candlelight, and those newly converted to this path, we focus our attention on candles in Kathmandu.  Gone are the days when the only type of candle you could buy was the generic plain white candlestick.  Nowadays, not only can you buy those candlesticks in a variety of colours, but you can choose from a vast array of imported candles as well as some truly artistic and original locally produced wax creations.  Furthermore, the scope of candle selling is widening, as is the market for them.  Once exiled to a dusty bottom shelf in grocery stores, candles now take center stage in handicraft stores, home décor shops, bookstores and gift shops.  Among the candle makers in town are:

Clay Candles
You will see Clay Candles almost every place where candles are sold.  Blending traditional ideas with modern needs, many of the Clay Candles take the form of a traditionally crafted clay vessel filled with wax.  Subita Vaidya, who markets the products, explains that the traditional ‘diyo’ (clay dish containing oil and a wick) is messy and cumbersome compared to its wax-filled counterpart, which also lasts longer.  Subita is one of four sisters – Sunita, Anita and Aliza are the others – who three years ago developed the idea of Clay Candles with Tihar, the festival of lights, in mind.  Their enterprise combines the sisters’ designs with Bhaktapur potters’ skills and the candle making efforts of between 15-60 workers.  To suit the needs of all customers, the candles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and include freestanding candles without clay bases.  Sunita and Subita support an NGO called WEDF (Woman’s Entrepreneurship Development Foundation), whose goal is to empower women and help them to develop various skills.  WEDF markets handicrafts and other products made by women.

Harmony Candles
What happens when you combine the talents of an interior designer, web designer and graphic designer?  Something creative, for sure.  Urmila Bajracharya, Kabita Sharma and Jasmine Thapa are friends from college who have pooled their creative genii to produce Harmony Candles.  Centrally located in Yeti Bazar, Thamel, their five-month-old store brims with colour.  Twisted tapers, beeswax rolls, gel candles, block candles — Harmony Candles are dripless and come  in many forms and fragrances.  The three make all the candles themselves, though sometimes their sisters and friends will come to the factory and happily volunteer as helpers.  In addition to the colourful candle display, the store features some very original candleholders made from wrought iron or clay, all styled by the three designers.  Believe it or not, the idea of starting a candle business came to Jasmine last October in a dream!  She shared this dream with her friends, and a candle business was born.

Shash Candles
Keep an eye out for these inventive candles the next time you visit Bluebird, the Bhatbhateni flower shop or Ground Zero (on Durbar Marg).

Richmond Fellowship
Candles with a cause, the group producing them comprises recovering drug and alcohol addicts.  Initially internationally funded when started in 1999, the Richmond Fellowship developed candle making as an income generator, to gear their organization toward self-sufficiency.  Candle making provides over fifty patients at the center with “vocational therapy” as well as “skill development.”  According to Bishnu Sharma, Program Coordinator, the center has trained over 100 patients.  Three recovered members supervise the work as paid staff.  Very reasonably priced, candles made at the Richmond Fellowship can be found at 75 percent of Kathmandu’s supermarkets, as well as at their shop, located in Pulchowk, opposite St. Mary’s.

Candles by Selena (that’s me!)
“They look so good that you want to eat them,” attest many customers, especially those  who’ve had to drag their fascinated children away from what would seem like a tasty snack.  Though yet to come up with an edible range, these candles are sure to excite some of your other senses though.  Candle making here is an art, and serves me  as a source of inspiration and an outlet for expression.  I’ve been producing and selling handcrafted candles for the past twelve years, during which I have experimented with many forms and designs.  Whether floating, sedentary or perfumed, designs and colours suit every mood and occasion. Candles by Selena are available at holiday bazaars and at Ground Zero on Durbar Marg. They are also make to order.

Kathmandu now offers a wide and exciting selection of locally made candles, so go ahead, bring home some of these creative candles - and see things in a different light!