Dec 18th. 2013

Curing the winter woes

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It’s cold, a little miserable, the dark creeps in about 4pm, we’re all limping towards the Christmas finish line which seems to get further away the closer we get to it. Such is December. And on this particular day last week for our Wax Works event, the fog only added to the rather bleak mood.

So it was particular gladness that we left our office desks at 5.30pm, gathered around the fire at the Skip Garden eating sugared nuts, honey and rosemary fudge and mulled cider, that we began our final Honey Club workshop for 2013 to learn the art of candle making. And I’m pretty sure that the candle was invented as much for practicality as it was to fulfil some of the most basic of human needs – warmth, hearth, hope, and home. So a perfect antidote to the Christmas-cannot-come-soon-enough blues.

We began with a short talk from Alison at Urban Bees who spoke about how bees came to make this incredible by-product. As bees work away they secrete this substance that solidifies to form the honeycomb structure in the hives. These shapes form the fundamental infrastructure of the hive and are used to ‘house’ the most precious of the colony’s commodities – the honey and eggs of the Queen. When we harvest the honey we lift out these honeycomb grids. Once it’s been whipped in the centrifugal the honey separates from the honeycomb and we have the beginnings of our wax. To purify it, it needs to be melted down a couple of times to separate out the impurities, so you are left with the pure bees wax – a nice milky, gold colour. It takes 500,000 bees to make just 1 lb of wax. Like with honey, it is a by-product that requires a colossal amount of effort on behalf of the bees as they diligently work to care for their young, defend the hive, and sustain their community.

The rest of the workshop was led by two Central St. Martin (CSM) students, Shanee and Charlie, who had designed a two step process to take us through: candle making and gift wrapping. We started by melting the wax over boiling water and covering baking trays with tin foil. When the wax was completely melted we poured them into the baking trays to form a thin layer of wax which we carefully levelled out so it was of consistent thickness. We left these to cool but not completely so that it was still malleable. Once it had hardened (but still warm) we peeled away the tin foil, laid the wick along one edge and began to tightly roll the sheet of wax around it. The result was a perfect, cylindrical candle but still with enough thumb dents and finger prints to show it’s been lovingly homemade.

We then created a wooden base for the candle to sit on and packaged up our candles with reams of tissue paper and ribbon. The perfect Christmas gift.

Feeling sleepy from the homely smells of melted beeswax, we quaffed down some hearty Skip Garden supper – hot soup, oven-fresh bread, empanades, mulled wine, and more sugared nuts. I went home and slept like a log.

Thank you to Global Generation, Shanee and Charlie from CSM, and Alison from Urban Bees for a wonderful evening.

Yelena Ford, Strategist at Wolff Olins