words by Edana Isobel Jamora
photography by Michael Greene
styling & creative direction by Mia Danica Jamora
'How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.'
- William Shakespeare
We sat down with Kristy Payne, a Sydney based artisan candle maker, cat and politics enthusiast and creator of Maison Blanche. We picked her brain a little and she showed us how all three things tie neatly together. From beer + bacon scented candles to Mr. President the cat, Maison Blanche is truly inspired and well beyond just candle.
1/ What is Maison Blanche?
A/ I create hand-poured Soy Wax candles in which I am incredibly proud of and passionate about. I believe that the burning experience is everything; a candle that looks and smells nice isn't worth anything if it doesn't burn correctly. That’s why every candle is meticulously handmade in small batches from the highest quality 100% pure Soy Wax, with no nasty additives to change the colour or hardness of the wax. We use lead and toxin free cotton wicks to ensure a safe burn, and have selected the best fragrance oils to complete every Maison Blanche candle.
2/ What is the story behind the name Maison Blanche?
A/ I was having tea with my best friend and my mum and we were brainstorming ideas for a business name. We were just yelling out things to do with candles and random words. I said that I thought ‘all the good names are taken in English’, so out came Google translator and we started typing in things. I settled on a perfectly good name, but said, ‘I like it a lot, but it doesn’t really feel like me…’, to which my mum explained, ‘nothing is going to feel like you unless its about cats or politics!’
Anyone that has ever come in contact with me knows that these 2 topics rule my life. I have been obsessed with US politics since I was in high school, I even tried to host an election party in 2008 and 2012 but no one wanted to come. And well, cats. Cats are just the best. I have one cat fittingly called, Mr. President. And that was how the name Maison Blanche was born.
Mr. President is a white cat. The real President lives in the White House. White House in French is Maison Blanche. Cats and Politics.
3/ How do you think scent, fragrance and smell plays an integral part in peoples lives?
A/ Because the part of your brain that transmits smells from your nose is part of the brain's limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it's sometimes called the "emotional brain", the brain automatically links scent and emotions and therefore smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously. The power of smell can bring on a flood of memories, influence people's moods and even affect their work performance.
I love that I get to create scent for peoples homes that can do all those things, and because I don’t know the stories of my customers, it’s one of the best compliments to hear that one of my candle scents reminds someone of a wonderful time or person in their past.
4/ Candles are often perceived as a female oriented item, how could candles be integrated into an average male’s lifestyle? Are there particular appealing scents?
A/I think that the idea that candles are a ‘lady product’ is starting to become less and less true. The men in my life buy and use candles just as much as the women. I get photos all the time of them with a candle burning whilst watching the footy, when they go camping and even once when one of them took a bubble bath! Men go crazy about good smells; it’s just about finding the right ones. I find that floral isn’t a big hit with men (unless its Gardena or Jasmine- I think it’s a mum’s garden thing). The earthy and fresh scents are the most popular, like Lime + Sandalwood or Fig and Cranberry.
5/ If you were to make a candle for the White House, and the President himself – what blend would you create that closely resonates to the President, and the ambience of the place.
A/If I were to make a candle for the White House and the President, it would have to include an earthy base of musk and mahogany to keep the scent grounded and strong, a dash of whisky and a subtle top note of sweet rose, Americas national flower, as an ode to the first ladies of the White House.
6/ Do you find your individual fragrances identifying with certain personalities?
A/ There is a constant pull between what scent people identify with the most vs. what scent they want to burn in their home, so it’s quite difficult to find trends. I think there are a lot of go-to scents that people are comfortable committing to for an entire 80 hour candle- Coconut or Vanilla for example. But once going outside their comfort zone, I think it all changes. I know that before I was making my own candles, if was in a monogamous relationship with vanilla candles. But once I had the freedom to have any candle scent I wanted, and I didn’t have the pressure to make the right decision, I found out that I really enjoy citrus fragrance rather than sweet. But in saying this, that changes depending on my mood, or the room…
7/ Being so involved with Maison Blanche, do you ever catch yourself thinking in ‘candle’? Relating different types of people to different ingredients and trying to guess and pick their scents?
A/ I certainly do. I don’t try to pick their scents based on their personality, but once I find out which candle scent they like or don’t like, I judge their entire personality on it. It’s like a hidden window into their true self. When a friend picks out a candle scent that surprises me, it makes me question everything I thought I knew about them.
What inspires the fragrance combinations that you create?
Anything and everything. I started this collection with a classic soft, sweet and smooth Vanilla Bean. It was the reason I started creating candles. I wanted the prefect vanilla to burn in my room at night. From there I explored what it was that people thought made a good candle scent; a smell that relaxes them, a smell good enough to eat, a smell to create atmosphere or a smell that reminds them of their childhood. I started to fill in those needs in my collection, hopefully creating something for everyone.
8/ What are some of the craziest or strangest fragrance combinations you have created?
A/ The craziest (worst) was a bacon-beer candle. I told someone in a passing comment I could make a bacon scented candle and it just went from there. The beer was surprisingly fresh, but the bacon was just awful. It smelt like the old dried bacon bits at the bottom of a pre-packaged caesar salad. I refused to mix them together, so I made 2 separate candles that he could burn at the same time. He loved it.
9/ What is the philosophy behind what you do and what makes you different from the rest?
A/ Here at Maison Blanche, we are very proud to be a handmade business, and we think our customers are proud to buy handmade. We think that when you buy handmade products, you’re not only getting a beautiful and meticulously made product, but you’re buying a story. Someone has imagined, sourced and created your purchase out of nothing. It is a reflection of who they are, and you get to take a piece of them home.
It is also very important to me that something I’m putting into the world, isn’t in turn damaging it, so with that in mind, I picked recyclable labels and high quality glassware with it’s reuse just as important as it’s aesthetics. We encourage our customer’s reuse the jars and lids around their homes to cut down on waste.
10/ What are some ways that people could accent their lifestyle and home by using candles?
A/ Other than the obvious uses for candles like decoration, relaxation, atmosphere and fragrance there are a few lesser-known uses for soy wax candles. Soy wax burns at a much lower temperature than other candles waxes, and because of this, the melted wax can be used as a really effective, and beautiful smelling, moisturiser. I like to let the candle burn until there is a large wax pool and then extinguish the flame, stick my fingers in and grab some melted wax to rub into my elbows and hands before bed. You can also use the warm melted soy wax as massage oil!
11/ Have you ever tried pairing candles with particular food or drink? And are there any good combinations that compliment each other?
A/ I have paired candles with drinks and canapés before, but not food in a dinner party setting. Martha Stewart says not to mix food and scented candles because ‘dining is a sensory experience and you don't want the aromas of the delicious meal you just whipped up competing with a candle's fragrance’, and who am I to disagree with Queen Martha? Although I do think it’s all about the right time and place when mixing scented candles with any food and drink. Something light and fresh will always work better than an overly sweet or earthy scent. I do love to light a ‘Strawberries + Champagne’ candle when I’m having people over for cocktails; it just adds to the mood perfectly!
12/ What makes soy candles better than non-soy candles and what are the benefits?
A/ I think there are many reasons soy wax candles are better than its non-soy counterparts. For me as a creator, the most important difference is the way wax is produced. Paraffin candles are made from petroleum as a by-product of the oil refining process, making it a non-renewable resource. Bee’s wax is created by the worker bees, and therefore is an animal by-product and is not considered vegan. Whereas soy wax is plant-based, created from soybeans, making soy wax a renewable resource and vegan.
On top of that, the appearance of soy wax is a lot more appealing than he look of paraffin wax. It’s creamy and burns clear, with no soot or toxic chemicals. And better yet, it lasts for longer because it has a lower burning temperature! Soy wax is a win win situation.