Elissa Carr never set out to be a candle maker. She loved burning them, sure, but it wasn’t like she’d grown up with the solitary dream of peddling soy candles across the South Shore.
But, dreams change.
It’s been nearly nine years since Carr launched Willow Ridge Candles, a line of 100 percent soy candles she makes in her Carver home. What started as a hobby after her son was born has turned into a full-on business that combines her love of candles with her passion for animal welfare.
“When my son was born, I quickly learned I couldn’t just be barefoot in the kitchen all day,” Carr, who used to work in an animal hospital, said. “I needed to do something. It gave me a purpose, and it’s relaxing. I can make 100 candles in two days. For me, its meditative.”
Carr started making candles at home as she searched for an all-natural alternative to those that were already on the market, which smelled great but would leave her with headaches if she burned them for too long. She experimented at home for a few months, making a dozen or so a month for family and friends, before she jumped into the world of fundraising and created a special scent for Scarlet Rose Farm Equine Rescue in Connecticut.
A few months later, she landed her first deal with a store in Mattapoisett and has since grown to selling in up to six stores at a time, online and at farmers markets across the region.
“It just snowballed,” she said.
These days, Carr makes four to eight dozen candles per week, all of them from her kitchen or basement. She’s got the process down to a science, but says it started with a lot of trial and error.
“Oh, if it could be messed up, I messed it up,” she said. “I’ve scorched the wax; burned off the scent; waited too long to pour the wax; tried reheating it, which wastes the essential oil fragrance . . . But now, I’ve got it down.”
And even though she’s coming up on a decade in the candle making business, Carr said it’s still as fun to her as it ever was.
“It’s just as relaxing to make them as it is to burn them,” she said.
Carr uses traditional scents for her candles, but she also tries to have fun by mixing different oils, giving them creative names and coming up with unique ingredients to include on the labels.
Writer’s Block, for example, includes honeysuckle, amber and musk, but also a dash of frustration and anxiety. Work in Progress includes watermelon, grapefruit and self-doubt, and Cup O’ Muse is made of ground coffee beans, nectar of the gods and sprig of heaven.
“Single ladies will say to me ‘Well I’m spending the night with my book boyfriend,‘” Carr said of another one of her candles. “I love that it can create a mood for people and hopefully it transforms them.” ’
She offers dozens of scents on her online store, and sells four candles in an “equine collection.” Sales of candles in the collection give money back to Mills River Equine Rescue in Marstons Mills.
Candles from Willow Ridge are 8 ounces each and sell for $14, with the exception of the charity scents, which are $20 each. The candles are available at Echo in Wareham, For Good Vibes in Somerville and The Nook in Fairhaven. Carr also sells them at farmers markets in Scituate, Hingham, Kingston and more.
“I’ve gained so many faces and friends that I can’t wait to see when they visit me at the market,” she said. “It’s opened up a whole knew world for me.”
Photos in this post were taken by Alyssa Stone. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.