Although Clare Makes began as an idea in my head in early 2020, I had been making candles as a hobby for a few years before that. I though it might be interesting to find out a little more about the person behind the brand, so...
I sat down with my friend Christine recently to talk about my approach to scent and how I got started with candles.
So. Why candles?
In about 2015 I went to a candle making class run by Elise Pioch at The School. She talked about how she had started making candles in her kitchen, and it piqued my interest. About 18 months later, I made candles as bomboniere for my baby shower, in what I called "science vases" (i.e. glass beakers!) that I had leftover from my wedding. You can see the candles in the picture below - I thought they looked cute!
After that, I made candles occasionally for friends and co-workers but it wasn't until I was pregnant again with baby #2 and covid hit, that I thought... this might be something. So I started buying supplies, doing some extensive testing, and that's when Clare Makes was born.
Incidentally, one of the candle scents that I made for my baby shower ended up as the Banjo candle in my current range.
Your candles are designed predominantly with iconic Australian scents and named after significant and diverse Aussies. Where did the concept for that stem from?
I realised pretty early on that I didn't want to make a candle range with 50 random scents - I wanted cohesion and a theme. I've always loved Australian native flowers and even at my wedding, I incorporated them where I could.
Pre-kids I was also a voracious reader and poetry was always a big love of mine, so I started with Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson as namesakes and the range grew from there.
Within the creative process, what do you find most rewarding?
It's funny because the decision to make Australian botanical candles didn't come from a sense of patriotism. Because I spent a lot of time as a kid in Indonesia with friends from all over the world, I was able to look at Australian history and culture from the lens of an outsider. When I then came across something interesting like Australia's first female doctor, or poetry battles between Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson... I leant back in my chair and went , "Oh. Right. Well that's cool." in a way that I don't think I would have been able to if I had grown up here. None of that stuff was covered in the HSC for me, anyway!
The really rewarding part for me is pairing tidbits about Australian culture, with a smell that is reminiscent of that person or feeling. When a scent and a name comes together, it's *chef's kiss*
What’s been the biggest challenge or setback you’ve faced in creating your business?
You don't know what you don't know, right? A lot of it has been a learning curve.
In a previous life I was a beauty blogger and in fact the image below is when I was in one of Christina from Hair Romance's e-books. As my husband will tell you, I also have a love for online shopping. I thought I knew what I was doing in terms of what I wanted my website and social presence to look like.
The hardest thing has been sitting back and saying, "I need help with this" and then knowing who the right people are to reach out to for that assistance.
How do you use scent within your daily life?
My obsession with scent started with my mum. She has the most sensitive nose I've ever come across, and I've always said that with a different upbringing, she could have been a perfumer. She's really particular about what she likes and doesn't like.
When I had kids though, I didn't really wear perfume. I didn't want my newborn to forget what his mother smelled like so I just... stopped. Even today because my little girl isn't a year old yet, I don't really wear perfume unless it's a special occasion.
My preference now is to lightly scent my home instead of myself. I also need variety; I get bored very easily. I keep a candle in my downstairs bathroom and I usually have one on my work desk (which because of the pandemic is right in the middle of my living room!). When my home feels a bit chaotic, sometimes a light whiff of something pleasant is enough to make me feel more relaxed.
Aside from your own creations what’s your most revered candle in your home?
God. It's this £100 Tom Dixon candle that my husband bought as a gift. I can't bring myself to burn it all the way down to the wick, but it's in a copper container with a marble lid. I really want to use it to put a bunch of makeup brushes in, so I don't know. It's probably going to live in my house forever.
Let's get personal…
What else are you passionate about besides your work?
I have an unhealthy obsession with makeup and American politics. Bring up one or either of those at a dinner party with me and I will talk your ear off.
What is your most treasured belonging?
I have an Audrey Kawasaki limited edition print in a heavy, dark wooden ornate frame that I picked up one night when the artist was in Sydney about 9 years ago. I'd be devastated if anything happened to that piece. It cost $600 and I was broke AF at the time so I had to borrow money from my then-boyfriend-now-husband - yikes! It hangs in my bedroom now and I love it.
If you weren’t doing your job, what would you be doing?
I think I'd make a great Real Housewife, but being famous (or infamous?) is terrifying to me. I'd have fun causing drama for television and going on vacations, though.
What’s one thing in your home you can’t live without?
Sometimes I leave the house without my phone and it makes me grumpy for hours.
In 10 years, I'd like to be