Craftspeople in France - candlemaker

Holding a candle for veggie wax

27 November 2019
Examples of the beautiful wax creations of Laurine Meunier at her Salignac-Eyvigues boutique in the Dordogne
By Jane Hanks

Laurine Meunier’s dream was not snuffed out, despite the lure of all the creature comforts she could wish for.

A sales job at a finance firm gave the 40-year-old mum of four a good salary, a company car and a comfortable life.

But a flame continued to burn for a dream Mrs Meunier (pictured left) had at college. 

She said: “I was not enjoying it. I have always loved being creative and I used to dream of going to art school but it never happened.

“I have also always loved candles, so I thought, I know how to make macaroons, I can surely also learn how to make candles and sell them.”

So she quit her job to set up as a cirier (candle-maker) in Salignac-Eyvigues, Dordogne, in 2015.

Her family and friends thought she was mad, but she went ahead, confident she could bring something new to a saturated market.

“There are a lot of candles available so I had to find something different,” she said. “I came across the idea of using vegetable-based waxes instead of petrol-derived paraffin ones, which are used in most candles you can buy in shops.

“Mine are made solely with natural products. They are ecological and I find the vegetable wax holds the perfume better.

“Another big advantage is they burn slowly at a low temperature, so a medium- sized 190g candle will last for a minimum of 35 hours.”

Mrs Meunier taught herself, often through trial and error, and said: “I spent six months experimenting and started with a make-your-own-candle kit from a website. 

Laurine Meunier with wax melting bain marie

“I did have a great deal of help from my perfume and wax suppliers, who were always happy to answer my questions and give me tips.”

She learned that vegetable waxes are made from soya, rapeseed and sunflowers, and each has different properties.

Sometimes she adds coconut oil. She said: “That is my special addition. It is expensive but carries the perfume well.”

Mrs Meunier discovered that the wick is all-important for the strength of the flame – the more cotton strands are plaited into it, the stronger the light.

There is an art to lighting a candle and she always gives advice to customers. You should let a candle burn long enough to melt the whole surface, before you snuff it out rather than blow it out. This helps avoid creating a dip in the middle, which can make them burn irregularly.

As well as learning her skill, Mrs Meunier signed up for a business course at a Chambre de Métiers et de l’Artisanat, and registered there as well as with the chamber of commerce, to get the most help possible.

Artisans have to sell to survive and she started by holding home sales parties.

That helped build up her clientele, and she is now selling online at senteurs-emoi.fr as well as opening a boutique in her home.

From the workshop (above).... to the boutique (below)

Coming up with new ideas is important and Mrs Meunier tries to refresh her range every two to three months.

Her stock includes candles in different-styled glassware, tea lights and floating ones.

She can make a candle in a customer’s own favourite glass, cup or other container and makes them to order so they can choose type and perfume.

Mrs Meunier works with a jeweller and hides her silver rings or necklaces in surprise candles. For the run-up to Christmas, she has made an Advent calendar.

She has 130 perfumes and cannot resist them. “I get them from a French perfume-maker and they are expensive but very good quality,” she said.

Mrs Meunier makes less money than in her previous career but her children prefer having mum working at home.

“I asked them before I made the change and they said ‘yes, do it’.

“Sometimes I might have to work on Sundays to keep up with orders, but I am always on hand if one of them wants me to help with their homework.”

To succeed, she says you must have a good business sense and really love the product.

“I still get a thrill when I pour the melted wax.

“It looks so beautiful in liquid form and I love choosing and adding the perfumes.”

There is no official way to train to be a cirier, so you either have to be self-taught or learn from another wax-maker.

The Institut National des Métiers d’Art says anyone making artisanal candles has to compete with cheap mass-produced ones made industrially and must therefore concentrate on delivering a high quality.

Customers can be private or professional, including restaurants, hotels, florists and churches. The busiest times of the year are predictably Easter and Christmas.

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