slow - simple - soulful - sustainable
behind the brand
Hazel & Blue Candles | Becky Avery
Becky is the owner of Hazel & Blue which makes beautiful sustainable products, inspired by nature, self-care and wellbeing. The range includes scented soy candles, DIY candle-making kits, and reed diffusers. Becky also runs candle-making workshops in Bath, Somerset and Wiltshire.
We talk to Becky about how she started her business, what she loves most about candle making, how she balances work and life and what her plans for the future of her business.
words by Fiona Barrows and Becky Avery / images by Becky Avery
So when, and how did you start making candles?
‘It was one summer holidays. I have always been creative, and we were looking for something outside the box that we could make together, instead of just baking, and came up with candles or soap. We settled on candles, I bought a kit, and we just loved everything about it! We loved the process, we loved the way everything came together, we loved how beautiful they looked, and we loved how they smelt.
I bought more and more kits, and ended up with a house full of candles! Then that Christmas I gave everyone home-made candles as gifts, which I was quite proud of. I got some labels done and everything! All of my friends and family said “these are so good, you should sell them!” So I approached a local market, worked with a friend on the logo, and started researching around for the best ingredients. At that point I don’t think soya was was as popular, but the more I researched it the more I thought this is what I want to make my candles from. Then I started testing it, and I noticed that with soya wax, really nice fragrances, and even cotton wicks, you end up with a candle that is just a better product, that lasts longer, and that customers really love.’
When did you go full time with your business, because you started it alongside your day job didn’t you?
‘I was making candles, doing the odd market, setting up a website, and then slowly getting into retail over a year and a half or so. I then went full time eight months ago, at the end of January, when I left my job in health care. It was very exciting!’
Why do you love candles so much? What is it about them?
‘Every time you light a candle it can evoke lots of different things in you, so if you have a particular fragrance or scent that you love, it can feel like a real treat. When you light a candle it’s you taking time for yourself to relax, and for me that is a real act of self-care. In addition, for me, I also find the process of candle-making very relaxing and cathartic, so it is both the process and the outcome that I love. So it’s a win-win!’
What inspires your scents?
‘Right from the beginning I knew I wanted to have natural, or nature-inspired scents. They had to come from nature, because that is what inspires me in general and makes me feel good. So it’s lots of florals and woody scents. Also the seasonal aspect is really important to me, especially as I’m now moving into essential oils which are the purest oils you can use.’
Is using essential oils part of a wider change of direction for you?
‘Yes, I am looking at shifting the business to a border range of nature-inspired, well-being products, including kits for things you can make with your loved ones, that create moments of connection.
It was triggered by my workshops actually, because at the end quite a few attendees would say they would love a candle-making kit so we could continue the experience at home. I hadn’t thought of this before but it made sense, so I’ve produced one and it’s done really, really well. Lots of customers have said it’s a great thing to do with their kids during the holidays, or older children coming back from university. So I’m now making five different kits, each with a specific theme such as relax and unwind (bergamot and amber), or calm and cosy (cedarwood and geranium), or for a specific person such as garden-lovers (lavender and geranium), or tea-lovers (Darjeeling and jasmine, which is just the loveliest scent).’
Such great ideas! And ideal presents as well.
‘I’m so proud of them! They are curated from really beautiful, natural ingredients that I’ve sourced from within the UK, and everything from top to bottom is 100% eco-friendly and recyclable, including the boxes, and even the mailing bag is biodegradable! But also I love that they are things that you can make that make you feel good, just like making candles makes me feel food, and I think that means a lot to me. We get lost in this online world sometimes, and don’t actually do anything. I want my products to help people make things that they will then use, and will give them pleasure and joy.’
How do you balance your business with your life?
‘For me, one of the big contributors to wanting to work for myself was to have that balance. I’ve come from quite a busy, stressful, clinical role and I found that I was missing out on the children, and also my friends and my relationship. So the business has given me a means to not only do something I love, but to also live the life I want to. I’m able to be outside a lot more, I walk the dog twice a day, and if I’ve worked for five hours and I need some time out then I will. I think working from home has also made me more conscious of my environment, and of the seasons as well. And that in turn inspires my work.’
Is there a part of the business that you struggle with?
‘I do find I get sidelined quite a lot! I’m not very good with routine. If something needs to be done then I’ll do it, but I do need a deadline. And if I don’t have one, well I’d rather go meet a friend for coffee or do some gardening! Also a challenge for me is that I’m on my own a lot and I do miss the camaraderie of having a team of people around me. But I have turned that into a positive and I’m now a lot more social, and have found people, colleagues in a way, who are also running their own businesses.’
And what does slow living mean to you?
‘To me, slow living means being able to live the life you want in the way that is best for you. A life that suits you and gives you the opportunity to do the things that you want to do with the people you want to do them with.’
THE TOOL BOX
What materials do you use: ‘Soya wax, natural cotton and linen wicks, essential oils or vegan fragrance oils, recyclable glass containers.’
Maker who inspires you the most: ‘I think that makers who inspire me are ones who are doing their own thing. They’re almost like rebels in a way and I love that! Annie Brougham for example. She’s a modern naturalist and makes the most beautiful botanical paper goods which I absolutely love. She’s based in Pembrokeshire.’
How do you get in the mood to work: ‘I clean the house, walk the dog while beginning to think about what it is I want to do that day, then I come back, make a cup of tea, put on Radio 4 and then just get on with it!’
What’s in your mug beside you: ‘Tea, definitely. Bog standard breakfast tea.’
What’s your favourite way to relax or unwind after work: ‘Walking the dog! And no headphones this time. I also find meeting people, catching up with people one-on-one, really helps me unwind.’
BECKY’S TRADE SECRET
How to easily clear your candle container for recycling
‘When you have finished burning your soy candle, and you want to get rid of the leftover wax at the bottom of the container, here is quick candlemakers tip:
Boil your kettle and pour boiling water into the container, leave overnight and the wax will rise to the top of the container. You can scoop out the excess wax and either reuse or warm up and moisturise it onto your skin. Then you can recycle your container!’
PIN FOR LATER
Boundaries are about the things we say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to in our business. They determine when and where we work, and how we spend our time and energy. But setting them and sticking to them can be really hard. In this post business mentor Astrid Bracke shares some of the boundaries that helps her run a slow and intentional business, and offers strategies to help you do the same.
It’s most likely you started your business because you love your craft, like to create beautiful wares, enjoy interacting with your customers and get to live the lifestyle you dream about. If only the business would market itself, right?
Vanessa Simpson is a photographer living in rural Somerset. Slowly building her photography business and looking back at the path that lead to where she finds herself today, she realises how the thread of her life’s encounters and events remind her of the game of connecting the dots.