Candle Entrepreneur Interview

You can make beautiful candles at home.

Making candles at home is a fun hobby that can lead to great personalized gifts, rewarding home décor, and even a profitable business. LoveToKnow Candles spoke with Connie Arcaro of Cameo Candles & Creations in Glendale, Arizona about her tips and tricks for making scented candles at home and starting your own candle business.

Getting Started

Love To Know (LTK): When did you first get started making candles at home?

Connie Arcaro (CA): I poured my first candle when I was a Den mother probably 26 years ago. I filled an empty cardboard milk carton with ice chips and hot wax. When the result provided a suitable pillar candle with the appearance of lace, I was hooked.

LTK: How did you learn to make jar candles?

CA: I first learned to make jar candles while observing the owner of a small candle shop. She was pouring melted wax into jelly jars in a way that took me by surprise. The candle making equipment appeared to be so basic and simplistic and included kitchen items such as cookie sheets and a pitcher. I was fascinated and requested a turn at which time she handed over the pitcher of hot wax and she became the observer. Other than a few drips down the outside of the jars, I was impressed with my success....at least until I eventually tried it on my own.

Homemade candles are great gifts.

LTK: How did your first attempts at making homemade candles turn out?

CA: If you can visualize wax being poured from a pitcher then suddenly becoming frozen in place resembling the snapshot of an avalanche and the inside of the candle jar filled with mashed potatoes then you have an accurate impression of my first candle and the experience making it; it was a disaster.It would have been extremely helpful if someone had told me to have all preparations done ahead of time so that all I had to do was pour the hot wax into one jar at a time without stopping in between to arrange wicks, etc. Little delays let the temperature of the wax cool. It's important to keep the wax hot so that you can pour easily and consistently. It helps to have an electric hot plate handy so that you can keep the wax hot should your attention become diverted. A simple detail like that can make a tremendous difference!

Developing Expertise

LTK: What types of candles do you make today?

CA: I make a variety of candles, however, I have limited my production to jar candles. I have eliminated pillar candles due the fact they require a large amount of paraffin wax. Many consumers have concerns with toxins, soot, and allergies and prefer soy blended waxes for these reasons. I prefer utilizing a custom blend of vegetable oils that provides a low temperature melt, an excellent scent throw, and little, if any, soot.I make scented candles using an extensive variety of fragrances, designer candles such as Tommy Girl type, etc, aromatherapy candles utilizing essential oils, unscented candles for those with allergies, wickless candles for those utilizing electric burners and finally our own line of uniquely hand-blended Secret Scents such as Serenity. Layered jar candles can be quite interesting and attractive. You must wait for each layer to somewhat harden before adding additional layers therefore they are the most time consuming.

LTK: What is the biggest challenge with making candles at home?

CA: There are some challenges I recognize working at home including the space available and eventually the type of equipment necessary to produce larger quantities. Initially, you should start out melting wax in a double boiler and become very comfortable with the process before venturing into larger productions. If you remember one specific thing when making home candles...don't ever pour the wax down your drain when you are going through the clean up process. Cleaning up can be tricky if you attempt to use soap and water to clean your pitcher and utensils. It's better to scrape the hardened wax from the container and discard it. The remaining residue can be heated and while still melted, you can clean the container quickly with paper towels. Then when the wax has been eliminated, use soap and water to finish the cleanup process.

Pour carefully for beautiful results.

LTK: What is the biggest mistake that inexperienced crafters can make with jar candles?

CA: Not preparing the jars ahead of time. If you line up everything you need prior to pouring, you'll be most happy with the results. That means you should have your hot plate ready, your pitcher warmed, your dye chopped and ready to add to the melted wax, your fragrance measured, wicks arranged in the jars, paper towels within reach and finally the jars placed on a cookie sheet and ready to go. Wear old clothing and an apron and if possible, preheat the jars before pouring the wax into them. An electric pancake skillet works well at its lowest setting.

Tips and Tricks

LTK: What tips would you offer to beginners starting an at-home candle business?

CA: Start small and practice a lot! You will notice a variety of imperfections and each one will be caused by something specific. Starting out small will eliminate unnecessary costs and frustration and help you understand why certain situations cause certain results. For instance, cooling the jars too rapidly could cause pockets, preventing the wax from adhering evenly to the jar. This doesn't affect the performance of the candle but does affect the appearance. If you are intending to sell candles, you will want to find solutions to unattractive results. I highly recommend you order sample home candle making kits of waxes and wicks. You will be able to determine which combination of supplies produces the best results under your unique set of circumstances.

LTK: How can your business compete with the discount jar candles available at chain stores?

CA: It's imperative you provide quality to the consumer. Frequently, chain store brands are successfully marketed however the quality is basic and on occasion below standard. Throughout the learning process you will be able to determine what type of wax to use and make selections of superior quality wicks, fragrances, and dyes.

I have made the commitment to learn, experiment, and finally produce a candle I feel can compete with the most expensive candle on the market. By hand pouring each candle, I feel I can surpass the quality of machine manufactured candles. I can produce a long burning, non toxic, fragrant-throughout, eye-catching candle for the most discriminating buyer and it is their satisfaction that is vital to me.

About Connie Arcaro

Connie Arcaro and her partner, Pete Adams, own Cameo Candles & Creations. Connie has been pouring candles for more than 20 years, and finds the process to be creative and peaceful, yet challenging enough to be rewarding and engaging. Cameo Candles & Creations offers a variety of scented jar candle gifts for all occasions, including scents for both men and women. All of their candles are hand poured with rich fragrances to the very bottom of every jar.

Thank you, Connie Arcaro!

Love To Know Candles would like to thank Connie Arcaro for sharing her tips and tricks for making homemade candles. For more information about Cameo Candles & Creations, visit the website, call (623) 931-1706, or visit the store at 5750 W. Glendale Avenue in Glendale, Arizona.

Candle Entrepreneur Interview