Buddha, Monk and Mab sit on my mantle at home and fill my house with beautiful scents. No, really, these are three lovely, handmade candles upcycled from wine bottles. It looks just like something you might find on Pinterest and think you can do yourself. But can you really make it just as good? In this age of sites like Pinterest and do-it-yourselfism, anyone can try a new hobby, but can everyone become a real artist? Shan Parker, half of the partnership of Green Illuminations, the Indianapolis company that made my trio of candles, gave me some fresh perspective on the state of the arts and craftsmanship in Indianapolis.
- Shan Parker
Green Illuminations (GI) sprouted from an idea, literally in Shan's backyard. He wanted to create outdoor lighting after finding inspiration online: a picture of a simple wine bottle luminary. This personal project birthed into something more for Parker and his business partner and friend, Jarod Wilson. After developing a plan, they realized that they would need another item to create in addition to the wine bottle lanterns for their budding little business. Almost an afterthought, they decided to use the bottoms of discarded wine bottles as holders for candles they would craft themselves. They felt that the candle market was flooded with sticky-sweet fragrances, so Wilson and Parker decided to dip their wicks into 100% soy, utilizing only 100% essential oils with bases like amber, cedar wood and sage. "Our candles don't smell like Apple Pie," quips Parker.
Often they overhear craft show attendees saying to themselves that they could do that better and for less money. Parker just brushes the words off. He knows the time and commitment it has taken to be considered an Indianapolis artisan. Parker estimates that GI has cut over 10,000 bottles to create their lanterns and candles. Most of the wine and beer bottles come as donations from the partners' friends and family. They have also formed a relationship with local establishments The Elbow Room, Oliver Winery and Mallow Run Winery, who have donated their recyclables to GI's cause.
The duo knew that they could very easily buy boxes upon boxes of candle holders to pour the wax and essential oil mixture into, but wanted to add a bit of artistic flair by "upcycling". Wilson worked tirelessly to master the art of glass-cutting, with Parker helping out with quality control. "It took about a hundred tries before we were at a point where I felt comfortable selling our products," explains Parker. "It's an art. It's a technique." Three years into their business venture, they estimate creating nearly 1,000 pounds of candles annually. While Parker admits freely that the idea for the business came from copy-catting something they had originally seen online, what has transpired since then has come from hard work and dedication.
- Shan Parker
Eight stores in Indiana sell their products, along with stores in both Tulsa, OK and Louisville, KY. They also participate in about 25 craft shows per year, as well as having an online store through their website and Etsy. Most recently, they've begun to experiment in the bath and body arts, releasing solid colognes and bar soaps. Parker and Wilson are actively seeking partnership with artisan shops across the country.
Unfortunately, though, Green Illuminations will not be found on the Indiana Artisan group list. Candle-making is not sanctioned by this governmental group as being a true artisan skill. When Parker and Wilson applied, they did not count on governmental regulations within the realm of the arts. Parker doesn't allow this to dictate their passion for creation and will continue to make their candles, luminaries and other homemade products, with no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
As you may have noticed from my trio, each candle comes with a unique name. Parker explains that the inspiration for the names come from "enlightened people from history, like the Buddha and Constantine. Also, we look into the origins of the base essential oils we use, like cinnamon. We found that a person named Montecorvino was the first to write about cinnamon, so we named a candle after him." GI always has two consistent scents out for purchase throughout the year, with two seasonal and one ever-changing scent, as the duo is always experimenting.
With the imperfect bubbles of glass, a precise cut, balanced scents, and these names, Green Illuminations candles and luminaries are works of art and conversation pieces that will also brighten up your home. Sure, you could get a wine bottle and try to make these yourself, but I think it's safe to say that until you spend a few hundred hours practicing, making it at home can't match the artistry of these artisans' work.