Published on September 16th, 2013 | by Charu Suri3
The World’s Most Beautiful Candles are Crafted Near Ubud, Indonesia
For many people, a candle is a foregone conclusion: a sometimes slim tallow pillar that’s fragrant and beautiful. But artisanal candles are luxuries in a home; in most places around the world, electricity is so prevalent that you don’t need to light the wick to read a book or play board games. For that reason, candles don’t generally cross my mind as souvenirs. I tend to typically bring back wall art, mugs, tee shirts and uniquely local items like hand-woven tablecloths and blown glass. Aruba aloe? Check. Spices from Chimayo in New Mexico? A done deal.
But in a village on the outskirts of Ubud called Kengetan, there’s something of an artisanal candle revolution wrought by the vision of one family, and a team of 150 dedicated workers. Volcanica Candles, an Indonesian company, is doing extraordinary things and producing affordable candles that are quite simply little luxuries. A company that employs 150 people, Volcanica is a family business that is over 75 years old; one of their first businesses was selling wind chimes.
To say that each candle is a work of art would be an understatement. S. Sarna, the present owner says that the mold of each candle is unique, and inspired by designs from both Indonesia and India.
“When it comes to developing a design for which we make a mold, we solicit the opinions of people we trust,” says CEO Sarna. “Our inner circle includes many of our employees who have been with us a long time, the artisans themselves, our sales team, friends, family – after all this is a family business – and of course, preferred retailers. We also test newer designs at trade show to gauge the response from buyers.”
The Botanic Pearl (#9676) is wedding-like, with flower motifs everywhere
The Profound Creme Vase candle (#9731) is my personal favorite, and reminds me of a swirl-patterned sari my mother used to wear
The Trance Pearl candle (#9641) is another design that reminds me of Indian saris
The molds are a far cry from anything plain vanilla. On first glance I thought of Benares saris and beautiful temple doors. A candle takes around 40 hours to make, and everything is hand crafted to the extreme, from etching and carving pouring liquid wax into the mold, waiting for it to dry, drilling holes for wicks, and chiseling and hand carving each candle by hand using various carving tools. Finally, the candles are adorned with pearls, tassels and spray painted to become works of art that Keats would have said is a true “thing of beauty…a joy forever.” The final step is buffing all the imperfections out of the candle.
As with many beautiful products, the color and pigments are very important. Sarna is very particular about the beauty of the finished product. “We go through a process of trial and error until we get the color just right,” he adds. The candles use a proprietary blend for the wax to ensure a clean, smoke-free burn. Sarna says they use a special blend of bee and palm wax which is eco-friendly. “It took a lot of experimentation until we got to just the right formula,” he continues, but the result is not only museum-like candles, but a responsible burn too.
It’s hard to imagine lighting these candles but that’s the idea! The plan for Volcanica Candles is to expand to the U.S., and they currently sell in the Pacific Northwest and are in the process of securing additional gift stores to carry our line in the New York area. Tastemaker sites like One Kings Lane have been very supportive of their brand.
The Dendritic Vase (#9682) is perhaps the most opulent of all
The Sterling Large Pillar is all roses and bling (#9510)
It’s hard to pick a favorite candle child from the large roster of pearlized gems, but their best sellers are the more intricately carved candles which truly represent the tradition of Balinese wood carving.In a country where designs are plentiful, Volcanica was the first to translate these beautiful designs to candles. The company’s Flora (white rose) and Dendritic (gold botanical) collections are particularly popular but it’s hard to go wrong with 221 styles in everything from tapers and pillars to spheres and squares—truly something for everyone.
With affordable price points (an average pillar will set you back around $40), it’s not impossible to do the impossible –light the wick. Watch the candle burn and curl up with a good travel book and come up with a dream plan to visit Ubud in person.