It’s a typical weekday afternoon at in Ferndale. Owners Anne Simonetti and Siouxsan Miller, both of Ferndale, are pouring melted soy wax (made from soybean oil) into tins and glass jars. They just finished creating a batch of citronella candles — the outdoor entertaining season is here, and these are excellent at keeping insects at bay — and are now on to lighter scents.
“Today, we’re making lavender candles,” said Simonetti, “for some relaxing aromatherapy.” Right after she pours the smooth liquid into a row of forms, Miller drops some essential oils into each container before sprinkling dried herbs (“which add color and texture,” Simonetti said) into the warm concoction. They place wicks in each and then cover the candles with long boards that position the wicks just right.
“My engineering-minded husband made the boards just for this purpose,” said Miller, whose voice mingles with some background music as she scurries about the light-filled studio.
She and Simonetti have been in the candle business for some three years, starting in Miller’s basement and then moving to another spot before landing last September at their Livernois location in Ferndale.
The chandlers (a term for candlemakers), who live across the street from each other, not only have a studio here for soap and candlemaking, they also dedicate part of their space to retail, showcasing a variety of Michigan artists’ works, from T-shirts to writing pads, along with vintage dishware and more. Each category has a tag that depicts an illustrative oven mitt (shaped like Michigan) with reference to where the artist is from. “We’re very big on 'made in Michigan,' ” the entrepreneurs said.
The handmade candles are Green Daffodil’s biggest seller, supporting U.S. retail candle sales reports, which are estimated at approximately $2 billion annually, according to the National Candle Association (NCA). Candles are used in seven out of 10 U.S. households, the NCA said.
Green Daffodil candles come in a variety of sizes and scents, from votives to small tins to large jars, smelling of everything from northern Michigan cherry to spruce and adorned with a cheerful, floral paper wrap designed by Miller (“I’m the artist, and Anne has the business background,” Miller explained, “so we work well together.”). Soy-based, eco-friendly and phthalate-free, these products are drawing quite a following.
Natural waxes such as soy waxes are gaining in popularity but are not new, considering that beeswax and tallow were used in colonial times to produce candles. What’s new is the prevalence of soy waxes today.
With manufacturer surveys showing that 90 percent of all candles are purchased by women, it’s no surprise that many area female homeowners are extremely passionate about which wicks they light and what types of scents they fill their homes with.
Today, candles are made from paraffin, beeswax, soy, other plant waxes and tallow (a byproduct of rendering beef fat). Gel candles are made from a mixture of paraffin and plastic. An informal survey around town reveals that hands-down, scented soy candles are a big favorite among women.
“Soy candles are not overpowering,” said Green Daffodil customer Sally Hoey of Ferndale. “They smell amazing and make my entire home smell sweet and inviting. I like them because they are made from natural ingredients and are long-lasting.”
Hoey is also a proponent of shopping locally. “Being a Ferndale resident myself, I want to support local businesses, especially when they have wonderful and unique products to offer.”
Regina Bruttomesso of Ferndale also prefers the soy candles from Green Daffodil.
“The owners are always looking for scents that are the most natural, and their scents are never fake or overly strong,” said Bruttomesso, whose current favorite scent is grapefruit mangosteen.
Debbie Sobolewski, also of Ferndale, appreciates not only the natural ingredients but also is all about recycling. She supports Green Daffodil’s mission to offer recyclable tins and glass containers.
“And I like buying made-in-Michigan products,” she said. As a part-time school lunch monitor and personal caregiver, Sobolewski looks forward to relaxation when she gets home, preferring to burn winter scents during cold-weather months (dragon blood is a favorite then) and summer scents — especially cucumber melon — as the weather turns warm.
“The fact that they are soy is really important to me,” Sobolewski said, “because they are healthy for my family of kids and pets.”
In Bloomfield Township, Norma Keller often can be found making soy candles for nonprofit causes. A few years back, Keller received all the makings for candles from her nephew, who runs Livonia-based Wellington Fragrance Co., an outfit that provides products for use in making candles, soap and other products. He donated the ingredients for his aunt to use for nonprofit groups, including her sorority and her church, St. Hugo of the Hills in Bloomfield Hills.
“Everyone loves these candles,” said Keller. “In fact, my husband doesn’t usually like scents, but he doesn’t mind these at all.”
The Birmingham home of Peggy Kerr also smells good, thanks to soy candles. “Green Daffodil makes soy candles affordable,” said Kerr, who works for in Birmingham. “I also like to pick them up for gifts.”
Another one of Kerr’s favorite makers is Voluspa, which hand-pours its candles in the United States and sells them at Saks Fifth Avenue in Troy and in downtown Birmingham and Troy. Kerr likes the packaging as much as what’s inside. “The tins have interesting patterns and colors on them,” she said.
Soy candles are also available at the shops in Rochester and Berkley.
“We like soy candles because they burn cleaner, and the scents hold their smell throughout the use of the candle,” said shop owner April McCrumb, who carries Milkhouse Creamery and Curly Girl by Santa Barbara candles. Curly Girl features such scents as “sunshine,” which is reminiscent of fresh-cut flowers. The Milkhouse Creamery varieties are packaged in nostalgic half-pint milk bottles feature scents such as cranberry amaretto and cappuccino brulee. Both smell so good, you’ll want to taste them — but don’t.
In Royal Oak, candle lovers should check out , which features the popular Archipelago Botanical soy candles.
“My favorite Archipelago scent is arugula, and I love lemongrass,” said interior designer Amanda Wolfe of Huntington Woods. “The scents are amazing and so crisp and clean. I would only burn soy in my house — it’s cleaner (than, say, paraffin) for breathing, making for a healthy home.”
Cool scents warm up moods
Christine Schefman of West Bloomfield burns soy candles because she likes the idea that they come from a farmed product in the United States.
“This past winter, I bought a lot of candles at Pottery Barn, from boxes of small votives to large pillars,” said Schefman, director of contemporary art at the in Birmingham. “I kept up the practice to get through the particularly long cold winter we had this year.”
The folks at Woodsprite Organic Body in Washington know all about long, cold winters, and that’s why they are constantly turning out handmade candles with scents such as lavender, grapefruit, north shore and lemon verbena, all evoking warm, sunny days.
“We order a lot of our candles from Woodsprite,” said Annie VanGelderen, director of enterprises for the (BBAC) and its gallery shop. VanGelderen said she was expecting a new shipment from Woodsprite any day now.
Cindy Schiano of Franklin is an avid fan of Woodsprite candles and said they’re right up there with her favorites. Because Woodsprite uses only botanical and certified organic ingredients and utilizes recycled materials for simple packaging, it has become popular not only here but in many states.
“Burning soy candles is a great way to incorporate green living in your home,” said Susan Keels of Troy. “They burn slower, and if you spill the wax, it’s much easier to clean up; I use just hot soapy water.”
Keels, who is director of sales and marketing for the in Rochester, prefers natural scents such as cotton and bamboo in the summer and cinnamon and nutmeg during the fall and winter. She purchases many of her soy candles at in Rochester.
The second interior designer Sally Matak strikes a match to light a candle at her Bloomfield Township home, she knows she and her husband are in for a treat. The couple likes the made-in-U.S.A. soy candles from Anthropologie, including the capri blue aloha orchid variety. “It’s in a cool blue tin and burns great,” said Matak. “The scent is not overpowering — even Bill (her husband) likes it.”
Barbara Deyo of Deyo for Face and Body in Birmingham said soy candles are worth the investment.
“They are long-lasting and generally smell good,” she said. She likes to visit the nearby boutique for its great selections, including soy candles made by Aquiesse.
Like most soy candles that are made properly, Aquiesse’s products burn clean and don’t emit soot, she said.
The two who know that best in this area are the women behind the wicks at Green Daffodil in Ferndale.
“Everything we do is about being green,” co-owner Miller said. “We are very committed to creating natural products that are good for you.”