I’m excited to start a new series on the blog! With this Meet the Maker series I want to introduce you to some of the amazing artisans and makers out there. They are using their passions and talents to create truly one-of-a-kind gift ideas.
I first heard about North Ave Candles at last year’s I Made It! Holiday Market here in Pittsburgh (mark your calendars for this year’s event: November 27-28!).
I loved Amanda’s simple packaging (I have a weakness for a mason jar), her refreshing scents and some of her super cute wax designs (her watermelon candle is always a big hit.)
Earlier this summer when Amanda launched the new Banned Book Series, I became obsessed with it and knew that I had to feature her. These candles are awe-some! I love the clever labels, the fabulous scents and the nod to literary history. And because I’ve purged all Algebra equations from my brain, I have room to remember interesting facts like this week being Banned Books Week (Sept 27 – Oct 3), so what better time to introduce you to my first maker friend 🙂
Meet the Maker
Amanda Fenner of North Ave. Candles
giftbug: How did you get started making your candles?
Amanda: Short story is that it was DIY Christmas gifts that quickly spiraled out of control.
Long story is that I had been making candles for awhile as a hobby. I was waiting tables and in nursing school and suddenly found myself (surprise!) pregnant. I always knew that if I ever had a child, I’d want to stay at home with the baby for the first few years, so nursing school was put on hold and I got to stay at home with my daughter Amelia. My extremely supportive husband suggested that I spend the winter making candles and sign up for our local farmers’ market in the spring for a little extra spending money and some socialization. And I did exactly that.
Amelia was always one of those babies who refused to be set down without crying, so I spent the late winter making candles with my daughter strapped to my back. Then in the spring and summer, I hit the markets (all the while still wearing my happy little babe!).
Once I started participating in the I Made It! Market series is when things really took off in a meteoric and unexpected way. I was able to really learn and develop the business side of candlemaking. I was able to meet other makers and network with them and learn from them. The majority of my wholesale accounts were acquired because of people I had met at or through I Made It! Market. I really feel like IMI was the platform that launched my business.
giftbug: Can you tell us a little bit about your candle making process?
Amanda: My process involves an incredible amount of trial and error. Testing, note taking, retesting, experiments, failed experiments, breakthrough, and then even more testing.
From the start, I knew I liked veggie waxes. I like the creamy look of veggie waxes and how slowly they burn. As far as scents, I try to create scents that you don’t find often. You have to have some staples like cinnamon and vanilla, but I like to get creative with scent combinations. Two of my most popular scents are Orange + Chili Pepper, and Teakwood + Tobacco Flower. I’m also pretty picky about my oils. They’re all phthalate/paraben free, high quality fragrance oils.
I started with jelly jars and mason jars, which is pretty typical for candlemakers. They’re inexpensive jars that you can find just about anywhere. Then I started experimenting with making candle creations in thrifted vintage glassware. I have a lot of fun with that.
For the Banned Books Collection, I knew I wanted to use a larger jar with a more upscale feel. The jars I use for that collection have a nice weight to them and an upscale look.
giftbug: What makes you so passionate about candles?
Amanda: In the beginning it was like a quest to solve this candle riddle. When I first started, I thought it would be a purely creative endeavor, but there is an incredible amount of precise science involved in making a functional candle. You have to use the right type wick for your wax, the right size wick for your jar, you have to add a specific amount of oil at specific temperatures. I became, like, obsessed with creating the perfect candle.
After finding a system that worked for me, what really made it my passion was that candlemaking is something that’s entirely mine. I love being a wife and a mom, but it doesn’t leave much time for me. Making candles is my time to shut out the rest of the world, have some “me time”, create something that I’m proud of, and all the while make money to contribute to my family doing something that I genuinely love.
giftbug: How did the Banned Books Collection come about?
Amanda: I knew for awhile that I wanted to create a more upscale candle line. And I knew that I wanted that line to have some sort of literary twist. I always felt like books and candles go really well together. They’re both cozy, comfort items. There’s also a large overlap between “book people” and “candle people”, so I wanted to create something to appeal to both of those audiences. After playing around with some ideas, I started thinking about different moods that books can set and what scent combinations match those moods. White Tea + Rose for Alice in Wonderland; Pine + Parchment for Fahrenheit 451; scent can really tell a story.
My goal with the Banned Books Collection is to continue to reach out to different retailers, specifically book stores, and expand the wholesale side of my business. I also intend to keep rotating candles in and out of the collection while thinking up new ideas, seasonal options, and featuring “guests” in the collection. For example, Andy Warhol is currently making a guest appearance in the Banned Books Collection. I want to keep it fun and interesting and exciting.
giftbug: Do you have a favorite candle?
Amanda: I have a few.
Gin, Juniper + Daisy, inspired by the Great Gatsby was my first candle of the Banned Books Collection, so I’m partial to that one. It’s such a fresh, unique scent.
My watermelon candles are super fun.
Also, I make a three layer candle in the fall and winter that I call “Partridge in a Pear Tree”. It’s three layers of scent starting with Fresh Pear, then Mistletoe, and finishing with Pine Cones. The colors are a beautiful green ombre. I really love that candle.
giftbug: Do you have a gifting tip or a gift wrapping hack?
Amanda: Well, obviously I’m going to recommend shopping small, local, and/or handmade as a gifting tip. Not only because I want to see all of my amazing, talented, hardworking friends succeed, but because there’s been a shift in consumerism lately where people not only appreciate, but actively seek out, local/handmade wares. People are starting to appreciate how important and impactful shopping small and local is.
giftbug: Where can we purchase your fabulous candles?
Amanda:There is always a wide selection of my latest candles in my Etsy shop.
You can find me in person at many events throughout the year. I don’t know yet which holiday events I’ll be participating in because acceptances haven’t been sent out yet, but I keep all of that information current on my social media.
A small selection of my vintage upcycled collection is available at Three Rivers Vintage in the Southside.
And the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh on Beverly Rd in Mt Lebanon carries a little bit of everything I make.
giftbug: Where can we find you on the web?
giftbug: Any last fun fact that you want to share?
Amanda: I always crank music while making candles, so any candle you buy off of me was likely made whilst dancing.
BONUS: As a gift to you, because Amanda is so truly fabulous, she is clueing you in on her sale for Banned Books Week. Visit North Ave Candle’s Etsy shop and use the coupon code READBANNEDBOOKS to get 20% off your purchase. Sale ends Monday, October 5th, 2015.
And if you are in love with Amanda’s handmade candles as much as I am, don’t forget to update your giftbug registry. You can link to her Etsy shop or use any of the retail partners that she listed above. Message me if you need any help!