Studio Visit: Brooklyn Candle Studio

We love ourselves a good candle. They make your space smell good and make great gifts. When you find a scent you love combined with beautiful packaging, it’s hard to say no to a good candle that doesn’t give you a headache. And that’s where Brooklyn Candle Studio comes in.

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BCS offers extraordinarily scented candles that are made exclusively from soy wax and cotton wicks. They’re eco-friendly, high-quality and are complete with very charming packaging. Plus, they’re made right here in New York! The larger candles [$19 each] come in lovely mason jars while the smaller ones [$12 each] come in copper tins with a label inspired by vintage botanical prints. The collection is best described as bohemian vintage with a modern edge — something that can fit into any home. They can be purchased on Etsy or on the BCS site. Our favorites include Black Currant, Montana Forest, Cedarwood Vanilla, Grapefruit and Spiked Apple Cider!

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Tamara grew up and attended university in Virginia, where she studied economics and fine arts. “The allure of NYC as a creative mecca immediately drew me to the big city after graduation,” she says of her big decision to move north. After working at a tech startup for a couple of years, she went to Fashion Institute of Technology for graphic design. Tamara quickly changed careers from a techie to a freelance designer and art director before she finally took the plunge into running Brooklyn Candle Studio full-time. We had the fantastic opportunity to watch Tamara work in her studio in Red Hook, smell all of her crazy-awesome candles and chat about inspirations, sustainability and of course: favorite restaurants! Read on to see for yourself.

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Tamara started Brooklyn Candle Studio when she purchased a candle-making kit from Michaels in December 2012. “I wanted to make some gifts for my huge family in California, and figured candles would be something everyone would love,” she says. “I got really into it and kept experimenting with candle making over the course of the next several months.” In September of 2013, Brooklyn Candle Studio was born as an Etsy shop. BCS started in Tamara’s apartment, where she almost got evicted from all of the fumes and craziness that come along with “scientific” experiments. But hey, you’ve got to start somewhere!

How are the candles made?

I keep my production small and simple — I pour my candles in batches of 9 or 10 in my Red Hook, Brooklyn studio with occasional help from local production assistants. On a typical day, I’ll start melting wax around 9am. While the wax is melting (it typically takes a few hours), I’ll wick a ton of candles. Once the wax is ready for pouring, I’ll mix the fragrance in and pour a batch, secure the wicks, repeat. The candles need to cure overnight, so I’ll spend the rest of the day doing other things like logistics, invoicing, product photography, experimenting with new scents. The next day, I’ll cut the wicks, clean the jars, screw on the tops and label. It’s a ton of work — but I’m told it really shows in the quality!

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What is your favorite candle scent in the line?

Depends on the day! Right now, I’m really into my Rose Botanica and Sweet Fig. In the mornings at the studio, I burn the Grapefruit which has energizing properties and keeps me from getting too scatter-brained.

Any candle scents you’ve tried that have turned into a total disaster? 

I tried this combo with vanilla, sandalwood, magnolia and pomegranate and it was just too much.

What about happy accidents?

I have a few happy accidents, but I’ve been pretty deliberate about everything I have up in the shop right now. I normally try a ton of different combinations and then intuitively rank them.

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How do you get inspired for scents and fragrance combinations?

A great scent combination is very much like a great relationship. The top, middle and base notes need to be similar and different in just the right ways. I’m mostly inspired by the amazing scents in nature and the aromatherapeutic properties of essential oils. I love juxtaposing different families — woodsy with sweet, citrus with floral, masculine with feminine. I try to think not only if something will smell great, but also the emotional associations of the oils I use, like whether an essence is calming or energizing. It’s important to me that, at its core, a scent makes people feel good.

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We love the packaging. What inspired the design?

I had a whole inspiration board of beautiful vintage apothecary labels that inspired the labels I use today. I wanted to put a modern/minimalist spin on ours, so I pared them down to the essentials, but they still have that vintage charm which I love. The interplay of something so humble as your classic mason jar with the luxury of a candle is what I wanted to play off of with the packaging. For the tins, I’ve always been so drawn to the gorgeous botanical prints that adorned hardcover encyclopedias back in the day, so I really wanted to incorporate the vintage engravings into the labels while still going with the apothecary vibe. The gold tins are just so perfect for a travel candle, what my boss at my last job described as “the ultimate luxury.”

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At the bottom of your Etsy listings, we noticed that you give ideas on how to reuse the mason jar after the candle burns out. Is sustainability something that’s really important to you?

Oh, absolutely. I am a health nut and a big advocate for sustainability, so my candles are made from 100% soy grown in the USA and premium grade fragrances infused with essential oils. I use cotton wicks primed with vegetable wax and my customers usually reuse their mason jars when the candle has finished burning. I don’t keep a large inventory, so if you order a candle from me it’s usually freshly poured. I use soy because it’s non-toxic and burns cleaner than paraffin, with no petrol-carbon soot which can blacken walls and furniture as well as add toxic carcinogens into the air you breathe. Soy candles will also burn for about 30-50% longer than paraffin and is completely renewable.

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Is there a brand or someone you would love to collaborate with?

I was thinking about approaching Baked, this amazing dessert spot across the street from my studio, about collaborating on a scent or two. They come up with amazing new recipes everyday and I’d love to work with them on doing a scent reminiscent of one of their desserts. Maybe something like their Peanut Butter and Jelly bars or Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. But, obviously, you couldn’t eat the candle :)

What do you like to do on your day off?

I love to explore Brooklyn on bike. Discovering new cafes, shops and restaurants is one of my favorite things in the world. I love going to all the vintage and indie shops in Williamsburg and I always spend way too much money.

What is your favorite restaurant in New York?

Right now, my husband and I are really into this nondescript Filipino/Pan-Asian tapas spot on the 2nd floor of this random building on Ludlow in the Lower East Side called Kuma Inn. The rice crepes are to die for.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Banana Pudding from Sugar Sweet Sunshine in the LES. SO GOOD.

What do you order at a coffee bar? At an actual bar?

At a coffee bar: iced cold brew with soy milk. At an actual bar: Michelada, Mojito or Bloody Mary.

Photos by Jake Benrubi