Whidbey candle artist keeps spirits bright during holiday

Heat, light, combustion.

Such are the basic elements of a trendy holiday gift that shows no sign of waning any time soon.

Candles — in all their varied shapes, sizes, styles and whacked-out scents — continue to wax in popularity online and off.

Look around. Especially now.

They’re everywhere: grocery stores, gas stations, pot shops, pharmacies, hardware stores and, in some locales, doughnut cafes.

Nationally, purchases during the Christmas season account for more than one-third of annual retail sales of candle products, according to the National Candle Association.

But for one South Whidbey woman who wields beeswax into wondrous works of art, Christmas is the season, her only season.

“Everyone loves candles at Christmas,” said Priscilla Lowry, who founded WhidbeyWaxWorks in 1999 as an off-shoot to another Langley business, Lowry-James Rare Prints and Books.

While she closed that downtown shop in 2016, she continues selling historical botanical, bird and other naturalist illustrations online and at antiquarian book fairs.

Now she combines the two passions.

“I started making candles just to give to my shop clients as gifts during the holidays,” Lowry said. “Then I brought them into the shop to sell, and every year, the production just got bigger and bigger.”

Last-minute local shoppers knew they could make a beeline, so to speak, to her store for a handmade holiday gift.

“On Christmas Eve, there was a stream of folks walking out with these packages,” she said, looking over her rows of wax wonders, wrapped and labeled.

“I figured it out early in the game it was best to offer something that’s unique, that’s beautifully handmade, beautifully wrapped and ready to go under the tree or give as a gift.

“People love that.”

Her adult sons, Ethan and Jonas, grew up learning about beeswax and candle making in grade school at Waldorf School and soon joined their mom in production and presentation.

After taking a hiatus from Whidbey for three years, Lowry returned to the alchemy and art of candle making in a cozy basement home studio set in the woods off Crawford Road.

She often looks up and sees deer nibbling near her windows as she transforms one pound of beeswax from a dull square to an elegant source of light and enjoyment.

“Green is my favorite color so I tend to be a little more experimental and I’ll have six, seven shades of green,” she said while arranging molds of tiny trees on her work space.

Her other color lines are shades of cranberry (Burgundy, Bordeaux) and the natural color of beeswax which can also vary in hue depending on the flower or fruit of the moment of the passerby bees.

Priced between $12 to $36, the candles are crossover of sorts of the old and new.

They are Old World in looks with elegant designs of forests and angels and filigree patterns based on many countries and cultures.

But they are also green in terms of natural, local ingredients as opposed to standard candles made in factories from paraffin, which is a byproduct of petroleum.

“Beeswax evaporates naturally into the air,” Lowry said. “They emit negative ions which is serving to clear out all the impurities in the air.”

She also doesn’t scent her candles so people with allergies or who are averse to foo-foo smells don’t have to plug their nose when they walk into your home.

“I know it’s all the rage now with soy candles with all kinds of perfume and oils, but I never scent my candles,” Lowry said. “Candles are beautiful to burn during a nice dinner, but if you have a candle burning some sort of aroma, that’s terrible.

“Use beeswax. There’s no scent.”

n WhidbeyWaxWorks Artisan Bees-wax Candles are sold at Whidbey Wonders at Ken’s Corner, Clinton; at Ultra House and Village Wine Shoppe, both at 221 Second Street, Langley; and at www.whidbeywaxworks.com with local pick up at the candle studio in Langley. The candles will also be for sale from noon-4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21, at the WhidbeyWaxWorks studio, 4964 Crawford Road, Langley. For more information, call 360-774-3712 or email whidbeywaxworks@gmail.com

n Website: www.whidbeywaxworks.com

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