Showing posts with label crafts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crafts. Show all posts

Monday, August 17, 2009

Candles: Go for the glamour of beeswax

There are candle people, and there’s the rest of the world. For years, I wanted to be a candle person, one of those women who has half-burned candles scattered artfully throughout her home and always seems to be saying, “Last night, I lit a candle and …”

I craved that mysterious romanticism that seems to be the birthright of the candle clique. But OK, it’s not me. I am perfectly happy lighting a candle every two to three months instead of two to three times a week.

When I do light a candle, however, I want to set a mood — peaceful, spiritual, joyful, sensual, or elegant — that cannot be achieved with electricity or a run-of-the-mill, mass-produced candle.

Handmade pure beeswax candles stand alone, head and shoulders above their paltry competitors, such as paraffin, gel, or even soy. Some rival candles are environmental nightmares, while others are OK on the ecological front. But none measures up to the power of the bee.

First, beeswax is all-natural, and unless our civilization manages to destroy the honeybee, it will remain a renewable resource. Beeswax also produces a radiant golden flame and a long-burning candle (not cheap but definitely economical).

Second, the extremely subtle honey scent of a beeswax candle won’t asphyxiate you, your significant other, your children or anyone else you’ve invited to be in the same room as a burning candle. Other candles often are perfumed to the point of an allergy attack, if not outright rankness.

Third, you don’t have to consider your home’s color palette. The dull gold color of a beeswax candle, which comes in pale to dark shades depending on what our bee friends have eaten, is nature’s neutral: It goes with every color in the rainbow, livening up traditional decor and grounding modern decor. Consequently, a beeswax candle can be moved from holder to holder and from room to room without regard to potential color or style clashes.

I currently have two, both purchased at the Saturday Asheville City Market:
  • A plain 3x3-inch round pillar beeswax candle ($12) from Soulshine Beeswax Candles in Black Mountain. This is the ultimate in candle versatility. Standing alone, it’s a glowing beacon, but it also can blend into any tablescape. (Is tablescape a real word, or have I watched Sandra Lee on the Food Network once too often?)
  • A 3-inch pressed flower pillar beeswax candle ($16-$18) from Spotted Dog Farm in Asheville. If you’re thinking, “Huh, country, how nice …,” stop! Sure, some of the flowers are a little frilly. However, I got a bachelor button candle, which is simple enough to work with retro or modern d├ęcor once you ditch the raffia ribbon (or just untie the bow), as would the fern candles. And even one of the pansy candles — surely the epitome of country — reminded me more of a French Impressionist painting than a prop from “Little House on the Prairie.”

When I again live in a perfect (money-making) world, I also have my eye on a beeswax lantern ($53/large) with pressed Queen Anne’s lace from Bee Global in Robbinsville. Architectural, yet delicate, it would make a statement year-round.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Be unique: Wear hand-made jewelry

Just because you can’t afford high-end jewelry from a name designer doesn’t mean that you are doomed to wear the same nice but boringly mass-produced jewelry that all your friends and co-workers are sporting. Local artists are busy creating affordable, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces that can provide a distinctive pop to any outfit.

Hint: A distinctive pop is your style if shiny gold, lab-created gems, and crustings of tiny diamond chips make you shudder and cringe. Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, if cheap plastic-y knockoffs of ethnic jewelry send you into a hyperventilating spasm.

Of course, the prices of even small designers can zoom into what amounts to the financial stratosphere with heavy gold and bejeweled pieces. But typically, you will be able to find hand-made, high-quality earrings, pendants, and bracelets if you are willing to spend $15 to $200.

What can you get? Paper, recycled plastic, and glass beads; earthy copper wire and wood; fused dichroic glass with its otherworldly metallic iridescence; “garden-variety” fused glass in rich brights like peacock blue and sunflower gold; a rainbow of semiprecious stones such as topaz, chalcedony, citrine, quartz, carnelian, jade, onyx, moonstone, sodalite, amethyst, tiger eye, turquoise, coral, and agate, to name a few; and PMC (precious metal clay) silver jewelry, a metallic clay that is worked and fired to leave behind almost pure silver masterpieces of wearable art.

More and more, these artists are banding together in cities and mid-sized towns nationwide to hold regular craft fairs and artist markets so that average people can stroll the stalls, meet the artists, and find a treasure or two. Howard Street Homemade and the Lexington Avenue Bizarre Bazaar are two such markets in Asheville.

Another option is a full-fledged art gallery. These days, even many small towns boast an art gallery with a strong jewelry presence, like tiny Tallulah Falls, GA, and its Georgia Heritage Center for the Arts (day trip from Atlanta). However, if local avenues fail you, go to the Internet and search out purveyors of all things hand-made, such as the now-classic Etsy, which recently had more than 1 million pieces of hand-made jewelry available at its on-line gallery.

So please don’t waste your time and your style points shopping for jewelry at the big-box stores!