'Candle art' brightens up rooms

PHOTO: The Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN

The light from a tiny candle can probably comfort many people. The light warmly envelops those mourning and praying, too. And of course, we again recognise candles as a daily necessity in cases when the power supply is cut off.

"I feel 'candle art' is becoming more and more popular, too," said Mai Saito, a candle art instructor.

"Candle art" refers to aesthetic flourishes such as locking dried flowers inside candles or molding candle wax into the shapes of flowers and sweets. Enjoying fantastic light from such artistic candles may be a delightful pastime for a long autumn night.

According to Saito, particularly popular these days are "botanical candles" that use dried flowers and other botanical materials.

She showed me how to make them.

First, make a candle that is a bit thinner than the planned finished one. Then, place it in the centre of a mould and place dried flowers such as lavender as well as thin slices of dried fruits in the open space. Pour melted transparent wax into the space. Top it with more plants and fruits to give it a finishing touch.

When they are lit, their flame gradually sinks while making the embedded flowers appear to stand out as they are illuminated from behind.

"It's very mysterious, isn't it?" Saito said.

Saito began learning candle art in 2011 and became a licensed instructor of the Japan Candle Association in 2013. She manufactures candles under the Auli Aala brand and also is involved in running Candle Studio Daikanyama's main school in Tokyo.

According to Saito, there are various types of wax and their melting points are different. Their varied characteristics make it possible to mould them into various shapes.

"Sweets candles" in the shape of cookies and cakes are a regular favourite of women when they make candles by themselves.

There are also "flower candles" in the shape of flowers. Eggs, clouds, and many more - the motifs for candle art are unlimited. If one uses transparent wax, the flowers locked inside look very beautiful, according to Saito.

Adding aromatic substances to wax made from natural materials can create scented candles.

I tried to make a "gradation candle" as I heard beginners can make it easily. The colors gradually change from one at the top to another at the bottom.

First, choose two colors that you feel make a good combination. Melt wax in a pan. When it becomes transparent liquid, add a colour pigment. Do this process for each colour. Then, suspend a wick in the centre of a paper cup and pour in each coloured wax.

One pointer is to heat the two colors to the same temperature. "If their temperatures are different, it can cause all the stuff to mix, or at the opposite extreme, divide the two colors too distinctly," Saito said.

Fill a paper cup with the first colour, wait 10 to 15 seconds, and then pour in the second colour slowly. When it cools and hardens, remove the cup, and a brightly coloured candle emerges.

Materials for candle art are available online and also at craft shops.

Lessons given for candle art are a chance to enjoy spending time with fellow enthusiasts.

Old, oxidized candles sometimes smell bad when burned. "After you enjoy candles for a while, light them even though you are attached to them," Saito said. "It will certainly add to an autumn night."

Candle art techniques can be used for making other works of art, too.

Saito said one popular activity at her classes is making signboards to welcome guests to wedding receptions. To make one of these boards, spread melted wax on a canvas to arrange messages and dried flowers on it for decoration.

"These handmade boards are received well by guests as they represent the newlyweds' hospitality," Saito said. "Each board can be customised by each couple.