Wax Poetic

Locally made candles and bold candelabra are the perfect match for autumn.

TEMPERATURES HAVE DIPPED, leaves are turning, and the air is crisp. When the days get shorter, we yearn for a hint of sparkle, and candles — long a part of New England life — add instant warmth to any room.
Once handmade at home during the fall and winter, candles became big business in the 19th century. Aromatic bayberry-wax candles, made from the berries of bayberry shrubs, were invented here; even Benjamin Franklin’s father, Josiah, was a candle-maker. Yankee Candle, the largest specialty candle company in the country (producing 200 million each year), was founded in South Hadley.
Is it something about the region’s autumnal light that harmonizes so well with the flickering flame? Eccentric art collector and philanthropist Isabella Stewart Gardner would have said yes. Though she had electricity in her home, she frequently hosted events in her galleries by candlelight, says Hilliard Goldfarb, author of The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Demand for the warm glow of the taper continues to this day, and you can find handmade, all-natural candles throughout Massachusetts. In Carlisle, Rick Reault owns 300 beehives that produce 1,200 pounds of wax per year, all of which he turns into candles. Reault sells his hand-dipped beeswax tapers, tealights, and votives online (carlislehoney.com) and at farmer’s markets in Belmont, Revere, and Bedford. And on the Cape, Agostino Di Bari and his wife, Lisa, make beautiful pillars, molded candles, and bayberry tapers out of beeswax (honeycandle.com).
As for what to put them in, traditional candelabra remain popular, but new shapes, sizes (bigger is better), colors (denim blue, cherry red), and materials (Lucite, acrylic) are gaining appeal. These updated incarnations offer something for every style. “Candelabra are becoming more like a piece of furniture,” says Caroline Morson, owner of the Morson Collection, which offers exquisite Baccarat crystal votives by Philippe Starck. “They are meant to grab the eye, like a painting or a sculpture. They soften an environment and make it more relaxed.”
Photographs by Joel Benjamin. Candles provided by Lekker