HOPE—Easter has come and gone but in many homes, small beeswax candles in the shape of bunnies and Easter Eggs, made by Susie Smith, serve as the holiday’s fragrant reminder.
Smith has been handcrafting the naturally colored and honey-scented pure beeswax candles for 10 years at her home studio in Hope on property she shares with her husband, David Smith.
David is a beekeeper and the Smiths make honey, as well as maple syrup. The natural byproducts of the hive have become the basis for Susie’s candle business and it’s all under one umbrella called Sparky’s Apiaries.
Her candle making shop — or the “Wax Works,” as it’s known — is a feast for the senses.
Walking into the small space, the air is redolent of honey. Blocks of pale hued orange, yellow and green beeswax are neatly lined along the shelves and poured candles in their rubber forms line the workbench. A converted honey tank in the corner can hold up to 60 pounds of molten wax.
“All of the beeswax is locally sourced in Maine,” she said. “I made 10,000 candles last year, so some of it is ours, but to get the volume needed I also sourced from other apiaries in Maine. All of the Maine beekeepers I know have beautiful beeswax.”
Beeswax is a product of the sustainable industry of beekeeping and is a completely natural renewable resource.
“Beeswax is built up by the honeybees to build the honeycomb to store the honey in,” she said. “Then, the bees cap off the honeycomb with a thin sheet of beeswax. When the beekeepers harvest the honey from the honeycomb, they’ll cut that cap off and the byproduct is ready to be used. The beekeeper will keep most of the honeycomb to be used again for the bees.”
Beeswax is the purest and least processed candle wax, containing only natural and healthful properties from the hive.
To get these clean — dripless and smokeless — candles into their purest form, Smith pours the molten wax through clean cotton cloth to strain out any impurities.
She uses natural plant-based dyes in some of the beeswax to get a soft, muted look. Then, she heats up the wax in the converted honey tank, taking care not to overheat it.
After that, Smith pours the wax into shaped molds, whether they are traditional candles or with ornate patterns, or shapes that reflect the season, such as bunnies for Easter, pine trees for Christmas or pumpkins for Thanksgiving.
It takes approximately 24 hours for the wax to harden into the molds, which she pulls away from the finished candle like peeling an orange.
“Making candles has a busy season, but especially, around the holidays,” she said. “The reason they smell so amazing is that each candle is made to order.”
Smith sells to eight wholesale accounts including Whole Foods in Portland, as well as to local purveyors such as Hope General store, Lincolnville General Store and Fresh Off The Farm with an online shop on Etsy.
To learn more about Sparky’s Apiaries visit:sparkyshoneyandmaple.com/honey.html
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org