Saturday, August 21, 2010

Autumnal Candles

So the blog has been slacking a little. My bad. I'd like to blame the long hours at work in the horrible horrible heat, but mostly it's due to a slight writer's block and an epic laziness.

And of course so much of our time is taken up with wedding preparations. Mostly, those preparations are nothing to blog about, but this one is!

In an effort to keep costs lower, I decided to make my own centerpieces for the reception: gel candles. I'd had this idea in my head for a while, and last week Garm helped me to make that idea a reality. I'm so happy with the results that I want to do this again and again.

The overall theme of the wedding is fall, and the reception is at a restaurant that overlooks the Chestatee River. The candles I pictured in my head were basically frozen scenes from a river in fall: small river rocks on the bottom, fall colored leaves, berries, pine cones and acorns. Originally, I was thinking of just gluing those in place and filling the containers with water, then putting floating candles on top; however, when I did a bit of research on making gel candles I learned it wasn't too complicated. So I threw caution to the wind, covered the kitchen surfaces in cardboard, and bought the materials. More expensive than water and floaty-candles, but well worth it!

So, here's how it was all done!
Step one was to glue the wicks to the bottom of the bowls with a glue gun. I then added the rocks, and then glued the silk leaves and berries where I wanted them around the outside of the bowl. I didn't want them to get too close to the wick. I didn't bother gluing the rocks in place, figuring (correctly) that the gel would take care of that for me.

Step two was melting the candle gel. The first batch took a long while to melt because we were very cautious with how much heat we used. There were lots of warnings about the gel being flammable, so we started with the lowest setting and waited a while before turning it up, then up some more. We did finally figure out the optimum setting on the stove for melting the gel without exploding it. This was also the step where we got to add the scent. That's right! My candles smell like cranapple spice! The gel felt really funny on my fingers; I had to tear it out in bunches from the tub it came in, and I'm still finding little pieces of it in the kitchen.

Step three, as you might imagine, was actually pouring the gel. We learned a lot in this step. I learned that my precautionary step of heating the candle in a sink of hot water was unnecessary. I learned that an extra step of tying the wicks to a pencil resting across the top of the candle was necessary to prevent the waxy wick from melting and collapsing in the bottom of the candle. I also learned that the hot gel melts the hot glue, so I need to find a better way to affix the suspended objects away from the wick. And I learned that hotter gel makes for a more bubbly looking candle, while the cooler gel, when poured, makes for a clearer candle. Garm was wonderful in this step: holding the candles steady for me while I ladled hot gel into them and helping me get a uniform look. He's also very very good at tying the wicks onto the pencils so that they won't fall off again.

Step four, logically, was allowing the gel to cool and solidify again. I filled the sink with cool water and ice cubes to encourage this process. Above are two cooling candles, wicks still tied to pencils. Once the gel was cool, we wiped off the excess gel from where it had dripped and remelted it for the subsequent candles, cut the wicks, and stood back to admire our handiwork. They turned out exactly as I had imagined, which I think is pretty amazing. I had so much fun doing these that I want to do more! We even burned one to be sure they'll work, and they, in fact, do work as candles. Success!! Garm brought out his lightbox to get some nice shots; here are the best of those.

My Fall River Candles: