“The soy wax I use is creamy… it leaves an oily residue on your skin.” The pieces fall one by one as Audrey Mahowald gently passes fragmented wax from one hand to the other. "After it solidifies, the wax becomes this beautiful, opaque, milky-white color.” Audrey, owner of Minneapolis Chandlery, uses soy and beeswax from Midwestern farms to make all of her candles in-house. She fell in love with candle-making in college, when she worked at an independent chandlery in Chicago. For Audrey, what started as a means of paying the bills truly became a passion.
Reflecting on her time in Chicago, Audrey explains, “I was the office manager for the shop, but I quickly found that production was the fun part.” Her three-count, infectious giggle fills the studio as she checks the heat of the soy wax in front of her. While she waits for the temperature to rise, Audrey begins to mix a collection of essential oils to create fragrances for the candles she's offered to help me make. After much deliberation, I'd chosen "Sandalwood Musk" and "Campfire"—scents I'd fallen in love with as I'd nosed my way through her shop.“Some people think that fragrance is the strongest memory trigger out of all of the senses. I definitely believe that's true,” Audrey states, as she passes me a small bottle of cedarwood oil. With my nose to the bottle's opening, I close my eyes and let the soft, woody scent envelop me. In that moment, I’m reminded of hikes along Lake Superior, and the brush of dewy leaves against my legs. Audrey’s right—I’m transported.
“I’ve read a lot of books about fragrances and how they are supposed to make you feel. I don’t know if I truly believe in aromatherapy as a healing method, but I do believe that we associate fragrances with certain feelings and memories," Audrey notes.
As I breathe in the small space for a second time, I notice that Audrey's candles all share a kind of warm, distinct smell. When I mention this to her, she smiles, and admits that she loves combining unexpected fragrances-- she'll take something sweet, like afruit or a flower, and she'll pair it with a complementing spice. I love this element of surprise, and some of my favorite candles turn out to be Lemon Peppercorn and Orange Ginger.
After drawing her thermometer out of the fully heated wax, Audrey mixes in my fragrance combinations, along with a few drops of dye. She passes me pots of wax, and I begin filling 24 little candle cups. I spill all over her beautiful marble counter-top, but Audrey simply scrapes up the dribbles, and adds them to a vat of scrap wax that will later become display candles. She doesn't waste a drop.
In keeping with that spirit of conservation, Audrey's recently taken on a project with Harvest of Minnesota. Founder David Stennes and his team help seniors de-clutter their homes as they move to assisted living communities. He sends Audrey any salvageable, heat proof vessels he finds, and she fills the odd array of cups, saucers, pots, and vases with her signature waxes and scents. She sends them back to David for Harvest to sell in their furniture warehouse. Abandoned treasures become functional pieces of art, and all of the proceeds go to charity.
Audrey lights up as she talks about this clever recycling project, and mentions she's excited to take on new work outside of her own retail shop. After announcing that her store would close its doors on March 28, she's found a space for a studio in Northeast Minneapolis. Moving forward, she plans to shift her businesstowards custom and special orders.
Reflecting on her time in Powderhorn, Audrey offers, "I have been so thankful for my friends and family, and for this community over the last few years. I can't wait for what lies ahead."
I look forward to following Audrey as she moves to Northeast and expands her business. I hope you'll get a chance to stop by the store before it says goodbye to its Southwest neighborhood this Saturday.