Books Make It Better: Creating Our Literary Candles

Literary Classics Votive Set from Bas Bleu

Books are our first loves at Bas Bleu, but you’ve probably noticed we’ve got a soft spot for cute bookish gifts too. To source them, we visit trade shows, comb the internet, talk to our merchandise vendors, even keep our eyes peeled for great finds while on vacation. And from time to time, when we don’t find exactly what we’re looking for, we say, “We’ll make it ourselves!”

Such was the case when we created our Literary Classics Votive Set. We’ve encountered (and sold) a few literary candles over the years, but our most recent searches turned up few options. Either the candles didn’t suit Bas Bleu aesthetically or the small-batch candlemakers faced supply issues. And did we mention how many candles smell way too strong? Our editors, who double as buyers, began brainstorming: Which book would we base our candle on? How do we imagine our favorite books—or, rather, the essence of their plots, themes, and characters—would smell? Also…we don’t know how to actually make candles!

Fortunately, after a few weeks of searching, we found a candle company in Minnesota that was willing to collaborate with us on our as-yet-unspecified literary candle. But the more we thought about it, the more we realized: Why choose only one book? Why not create an entire “bookshelf” of scents inspired by timeless novels? With professional artisans on board to do the heavy lifting—er, scent mixing and wax pouring—we opted for a set of five votives, a literary “sampler” that would give our customers a variety of choices…and prevent us from having to choose just one! After that, our preferred titles became clear: Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Moby-Dick, Wuthering Heights, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Next, we faced the gargantuan task of choosing exactly which scents evoke those five literary masterpieces. Our friends in Minnesota came to the rescue yet again, shipping us a box filled to the brim with dozens of scent samples, from musk to floral to citrus to spice. Our earlier brainstorming session had produced as many good ideas as questions: English roses for Pride and Prejudice and sea salt for Moby-Dick seemed obvious, but we were baffled as how to capture Heathcliff’s violent passion, the sluggish Mississippi tide, and the warmth of the March household.

In the end, we opted for a blend of the practical and the evocative: English roses and first impressions (a lovely floral bouquet to inspire Pride and Prejudice); fresh linen and family ties (notes of clean cotton to evoke Little Women); ocean air and obsession (sea salt and summer fruit to capture Moby-Dick); wild moors and brooding (fresh green eucalyptus and sage to summon Wuthering Heights); and moss, musk, and freedom (warm earth and wood to elicit Huck Finn). Our editors conducted smell test after smell test, whittling down our choices from more than fifty to twelve and, finally, to just five.

Meanwhile, our art department went to work creating labels for the candles. We’d decided on a classic look: clear glass votives filled with white 100% soy wax. The labels should be appropriately descriptive yet simple enough that the candles could be tucked discreetly into any décor. Once again we took our cues from the books themselves: flowering vines, ocean waves, even a pair of crossed paddles. And the results, we think, are pretty cute…and smell so lovely! Our editors will certainly be illuminating our own reading nooks with these literary lights, plus we’ve set some aside as stocking stuffers and gifts for our book-club friends. We hope you’ll love them just as much as we do!

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10 thoughts on “Books Make It Better: Creating Our Literary Candles

  1. My retirement home does not allow candles, but I like the idea. I think I need to revisit Jane Austen. I was not that impressed fifty years ago when I studied her work in my college English literature class. I am new to Bas Bleu but have already placed two orders. I’m certain there will be more.

    • We’re so glad to have you as a member of the Bas Bleu family, Mary Ellen! We agree that some books mature along with us…which is the argument one Bas Bleu editor’s high-school English teacher is using to convince her to revisit Robert Penn Warren!

  2. Apropos Jane Austin and age – one of the most popular undergraduate English courses at Brown this fall is “Austin, Eliot, and James”, with Pride and Prejudice being the first reading, followed by Mansfield Park, Daniel Deronda (Eliot), and Portrait of a Lady (James).

  3. I, also, love your catalog and always look forward to getting it. I’m so glad to read about these candles and intend to order the Pride and Prejudice. I would like to respond to Carla’s comment about Pride and Prejudice being for “older” readers. I am older, but I still love candles. Also, my daughter discovered Pride and Prejudice in high school and is as much a fan as I am. I’ll have to get her one of these candles. I taught a little noncredit class on Jane Austen at our local community college and had three high school girls in my class. Jane Austen is growing in popularity with the younger generations – probably due in large part to Keira Knightley. 🙂 Please keep providing gifts based on Jane Austen. I have a small collection and several of my items have come from Bas Bleu. Thank you!

    • Thank you for your insight, Gayle! You’re not alone in your affection for Miss Jane; her work is evergreen as newer generations “discover” her. Have no fear, she will continue to be a Bas Bleu favorite!

  4. Glad to see Wuthering Heights, Little Women and Huckleberry Finn listed. However, Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick don’t seem like first-love choices, in my opinion. I love classics but found Moby Dick to be one of 2 books I never finished; the other being War and Peace. I thought Pride and Prejudice was for an older reader. Mill on the Floss was my 2nd love and Oliver Twist was 3rd, I think. Your candles sound great, though, and I read your magazines like a book…a favorite friend. Thank you for your wonderful selections and would love to see out-of-print titles!!

    On Sep 14, 2016 6:09 AM, “Bas Bleu Bluestocking Salon” wrote:

    > Bas Bleu posted: ” Books are our first loves at Bas Bleu, but you’ve > probably noticed we’ve got a soft spot for cute bookish gifts too. To > source them, we visit trade shows, comb the internet, talk to our > merchandise vendors, even keep our eyes peeled for great finds wh” >

    • Thanks for sharing your reader’s experience, Carla, and thanks for your kind words about our catalog. It means so much to US to hear that our catalog means so much to YOU. We actually are working on reviving some out of print titles. They require a good bit of “homework” to determine where the copyrights lie, but we’re excited to bring some great old titles back to our readers!

      • I’m excited. too! I’ve decided to save all your catalogs from now on just to see how selections change and because I love the covers! Definitely like the gift assortment, also. Bas Bleu is an interesting title, and I wish you would have a tee shirt made with the name and a picture of books on it or something (not a reader)…and in a few different color choices. I’m sure it would be a hit with customers!! You seem to be a good group of people having fun while working together.
        One last note on Austen: in my opinion her books are being popularized mainly because of the TV series, as Gayle mentioned, and also because they’re easier reading. I would appreciate seeing some lesser-known books by classic authors, occasionally; like Dickens (Our Mutual Friend), Sir Walter Scott (Waverley) and Anne Bronte (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall)…possibly one selection per catalog. Oh, and more natural history classics like “The Outermost House”, which you’ve selected and is a great read for nature lovers.
        Thank you for listening and for your enthusiasm and dedication!!

      • We love receiving suggestions (and compliments, if we’re being honest) from our readers, Carla. We’ll take every single one into consideration. And yes, we do all enjoy working together. Our small editorial team has been working together for years, and it shows on days like today, when unexpected issues crop up on the heels of a deadline and we’re still able to laugh!

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