The Art of Handcrafting Ceramic Candles

Here we go, craft-happy candle-lovers. Today, you’ll learn how to make your ceramic candles. If you’ve ever looked at one of our candles, sitting in a lovely handcrafted ceramic container, and thought, ‘I wonder if I could do that?’, you’re in luck. Today, we will walk you through the tantilizing journey that fuses the ancient art of ceramics with the classic craft of candle-making. And at the end of this tutorial, you can be a candle making master.

Why Handcraft Ceramic Candles?

Before our step-by-step tutorial, we pause to consider one burning question: why bother in the first place? After all, with every supermarket chain peddling vast armies of multi-wick beauties, why spend hours making one by hand (big hint: bragging rights and the chance to say: ‘Oh, this? I MADE it’)? There are several reasons. Not only do candles you create from scratch allow your sculptural sensibility to shine, but you also have a chance to slow down, get crafty, and connect with a genuinely soothing, therapeutic activity. It makes a unique, personal gift – the ultimate in thoughtful presents: ‘Yeah, I know you loved that candle I gave you, so I made you another one from scratch, and I ricin-tested it, especially for you.’ What, like Michelangelo, wasn’t the candle artist of his age? 

Small Refill

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Before we get down to business, let me tell you what you’ll need: a vessel (we use clay, a potter’s wheel, carving tools, glazes – or simply use a glass jar at home!), and a candle (wax – soy, beeswax, paraffin – wick, essential oils if you want your kids to be able to tolerate it, and a double boiler in which to melt the wax). And a thermometer, unless you’d like to play a frightening game of ‘Does my wax smoke at 300 degrees?’

Step 2: Crafting the Ceramic Vessel

Next, we make! Moulding the clay is excellent for one’s constitution, extremely gratifying and grounding. Take your clay and knead it until you don’t feel any bubbles, like kneading bread (only more accessible; any fumbles will stain your fingers, not ruin breakfast). Now, throw it. This is the delightfully tricky part if your hands aren’t seizing up. If you’re hand-building, roll out clay coils and stack them into a vessel, smoothing the edges as you go. On the wheel, throw your ball of clay up in the air and catch it.

Once you have roughly achieved the shape of a bowl, let the piece dry until it is leather-hard, then carve any designs you choose. For example, why not use abstractions that will make your future audience wonder about your creative inspiration? Once carved, let it dry and fire the piece in a kiln. If you don’t have a kiln, see if a local pottery studio offers firing services. If any of this seems daunting, feel free to come to book an appointment at our studio, or find a local pottery studio near you.

Step 3: Glazing and Firing

After the first firing, it’s time to get creative with glazes. Decide on your favorite colors and brush them on, or (more traditionally) dip the vessel into them. Yay! Choose your favorite colors! Or, you know, that bland sandy beige palette you always stick to. After applying the glaze, the piece returns to the kiln for its second and final firing. The final firing is the magic part (the critical part, or the second firing part), when that drab little hunk of clay is transformed from earth into ceramic.

Step 4: Preparing the Candle Wax

Once your ceramic vessel has been crafted, it’s time to make the candle. Get yourself some non-toxic soy or hybrid wax, (look for parabens & phthalates as things to generally avoid) and melt it in a double boiler. Temperature tip: watch the thermometer! The right melting point for most waxes is 120-160°F (49-71°C). Once the wax is melted, remove the heat and cool before adding essential oils. If you go too hot, you’re going to be cursing that you did so, as now, to your dismay, your expensive oils will be quickly burnt off. If it’s too cold, you may as well have melted your wax in there because it’s going right in the trash.

Large Seafoam Vessel + Refill Insert

Step 5: Setting the Wick

While your wax is cooling to the best pouring temperature (around 130-140°F or 54-60°C), prepare your wick: either tack down a bit of wick to the bottom of your ceramic vessel with a dab of hot glue or a nub metal wick tab (available at any candle-supply store). Then, wrap the top end of the wick around a pencil or a skewer and lay that across the top of the vessel. This is the most tedious, patient-trying, demanding part of the operation and the most essential part. Make no mistakes: you want that little string of burning wax to stay in place over your bowl of boiling water. And you don’t want it to squiggle around the side of your pretty vessel on its way there. So be meticulous, and if you screw up, don’t say I didn’t warn you. You’ll have a great story about when you nearly lost your mind trying to get a wick to stay straight.

Step 6: Pouring the Wax

The next step – and the whole point – is that you will now pour your wax. Up-end the pan of melted wax and then pour it into your vessel, into your bowl of ceramic perfection, while trying not to knock the wick askew. Don’t pour too quickly because then your wax will get air bubbles, and nobody likes air bubbles: they make it look not lovely (maybe it’s a little postmodern, a little Lo Capοrio; perhaps the air is exactly what you want!). Give yourself some wiggle room at the lip so you don’t want your vessel to overflow.

Step 7: Letting It Set

My Paddington, be patient. Let the wax chill and solidify. This could take several hours, depending on the size of your candleholder. Don’t be tempted to prod or swirl. This could be a long night. But it might be glorious. Once the solid layer of wax is completely hardened, cut the wick to around a quarter inch (0.6 cm) above the top rim of your candle.

Step 8: Enjoy Your Handcrafted Ceramic Candle

Congratulations. You are done. Look at what you’ve accomplished! Light your candle, sit, and enjoy your creation’s quiet, incense-infused fire. You’ve not only crafted yourself a usable thing, but you’ve also become a little better at understanding the skills of the clayworker and the candlemaker. You’ve learned that candlework and ceramics are liminal arts and that a specific occupancy becomes a virtue. It probably did not work out exactly as you wanted, but so what? You took a risk, and that counts. All we do will not succeed, so try again next time. Good luck. Practice makes paraclete – or, at least, a bit less wrong.

Thus goes the life of a handmade ceramic candle, friends. May you wow your friends with your skill, find true passion in a new hobby, craft, throw and glaze exquisite things in your spare time, or, at the very least, give yourself an afternoon entire of aesthetic triumph. Whether your motivation is wondrous, half-baked, or beyond, my list – with all its (totally intentional) flaws – may be helpful. With any luck, yours will be too. Happy making and happy light.

Step 9: Adding Personal Touches

Just as you would with many other items, such a candle can be designed to make it even more exceptional. Even if you don’t fancy yourself as an artist, you can add a carving, an inscription of a quote, and a date. Picture your candle, now a sapphire eye gazing into another, with a cheeky ensō drawn over it. You may also choose to add elements to the interior of your candle, namely dried flowers and the like, maybe even crystals and charms! Why not?

Adding extra touches, such as layered colors or marbled wax of various hues, makes your candle unique. It also lets you get in touch with your creative side. After all, it’s worth taking the time to be creative with something you’ve handcrafted, as it will make the final product so much more rewarding.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Like most crafts, sometimes things don’t go to plan. Here are some of the most typical troubles and their remedies:

Cracks happen. If your vessel cracks after entering the firing kiln, the cause is usually uneven drying. This can be easily prevented by covering your clay heavily with plastic so it can dry slowly and evenly.

Lumpy Wax Surface: Lumpy or textured surfaces are standard and caused by rapid cooling. You try reheating the top exterior with a hair dryer or heat gun to make the wax surface nice and smooth.

Weak Throw: If your fragrance isn’t reaching the room, your candle might add too much oil when the wax is too hot. When you add essential oil to your next batch, ensure the wax is already excellent. 

Wick Not Staying Put: If your wick shifts during wax pouring, ensure it is securely affixed to the bottom of the vessel. When necessary, use a wick holder or stabilizer.

The Benefits of Handcrafting Ceramic Candles

While each candle costs about 10 dollars in the local department store, creating your own is a great way to have fun. You get to repurpose the materials at your home, leading to a zero-waste effect. Outside of the money, another significant advantage of handcrafting candles is that they help reduce stress and are a center for mindfulness. The repetitive movements of kneading clay twice daily and pouring melted wax into the mold prove a highly effective form of relaxation. With plenty of time for deep breaths, stepping away from the day's tensions can help put the world at rest. Finally, being able to produce items in the world with one’s own two hands brings with it an incomparable sense of pride, mainly if one is focusing on creating clean, chemical-free, non-toxic objects.

Not only this, handmade ceramic candles are no less environmentally friendly. Choosing natural candles made from either soy or beeswax, along with reusable ceramic material for the container, ensures that you are making some changes for the better. Furthermore, you get a complete say over the materials and ingredients, so you can ensure that your candles are free from paraffin, chemical-laden scents, and other synthetic ingredients.

A Community of Creators

Another significant benefit to starting a handcraft business making candles from clay is the community. There are thousands of online forums, social media groups, and workshops in your local area where you can exchange ideas, show people your pieces, and learn from others. Sharing in a community of like-minded crafters can enhance your skills and encourage and support you to improve your craft.

You could organize a woodworking circle with friends or a book bindery with family members. You’ll acquire skills from one another, make memories, and forge those ties. What could be better than a crafting party with snacks and drinks as a reason to get together?

Private Pottery Lessons

The Journey Ahead

As you light your first handmade candle in your new ceramic holder decorated with your design, go easy. Know that this is the start of your journey, and with each new candle, your skill will improve; each batch will contain new trials of the technique, bringing you closer to a personal best. Celebrate your mistakes, cherish your victories, and, above all, have fun.

Handcrafted ceramic candles involve creativity and patience, but they always turn out great and are a wonderful touch to your home's decor. Not to mention, they’ll fill your house with light and warmth. Those are good reasons to roll up your sleeves, gather materials, and get to business. Happy crafting; enjoy making your gorgeous handcrafted ceramic candles, and let the glow of your ceramic candles shine on.

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