Mid-Market last Friday, I walked up the block to see how our Artisans at Mugler Plaza were doing. And to procure an interview with one of them!
Entering the Plaza, I spied a young woman with a red-headed tot on her chest and her other older daughter eagerly smelling the various candles displayed at Plain Jane Products. I strolled up to catch the conversation. The young lady sampling the candles’ aromatic delights was waffling over which ones she liked the best while her mother was asking Jane for more detailed information. I knew who I would be interviewing that morning! Emily Jane Carson of Plain Jane Products.
When the satisfied customers had moved on, I asked Jane for some of her time. “I’m fascinated with what you do...” I opened, after securing her permission for the interview. “Please tell me how you got started.”
“About five years ago while I was still in high school, I began working with wax. I’ve always been artistic, and was searching for ‘my medium’. I found it in candle making. My studio began in a shack out back of our house, and there I devoted much of my time to my newly-discovered creative outlet.
“After graduating from Teton Valley High School in 2017, I joined HELP International. I was sent to Lesbos, a small island off Greece, to teach English there during the refugee crisis in Yemen. The next summer, also as part of HELP, I went to work in Uganda where I taught people how to render the beeswax from their hives to make candles they could sell. The money they made from selling the candles went to their local schools and other community organizations such as groceries and water services. Income in that part of Uganda wasn’t made for the individual but for the community. I spent about three months there, and when I check back with them, they’re still making candles — two years later!”
“Please, tell me more,” I encouraged.
“At the end of my summer in Uganda, I came home to Victor. My partner and I had a son not long thereafter. After he was born, I decided to start my own business making candles.
“I’m a dedicated waste-reduction person, so there’s very little plastic in my workshop. I often find interesting containers for my candles in items people just throw away. Matter of fact, if a customer brings me a container, I will make a candle specially for it. And, if they purchase one of my candles, I’ll refill it for $5 after it’s burned out.
“See these candles here?” Jane points to some ceramic pots lined up in her display. “My friend, Chelsea Phelps of Chelsea Phelps Pottery makes them for me. The top parts are glazed (food-safe glaze), and the bottoms are rough so you can strike your match on them. These candles will burn for about forty hours, and when they’re done, I like to use the containers as little tea mugs.”
“Please tell me more about the process,” I hardly needed to encourage her as Jane was so eager to share her fascinating story.
“Well, I’ve used some local beeswax, but I need far more than I can find here in the Valley. So I buy beeswax from Rocky Mountain Honey in Idaho Falls. My pure beeswax candles are unscented and very pure burning, putting very little particulate matter into the ambient air. My scented candles are made from either soy wax or coconut wax,” she continued.
“How does one get ‘wax’ from coconut and soy oils?” I interrupted.
“I purchase those waxes from a candle company in California where through some process they take the oils and turn them into wax. I get my wooden wicks there, too, as well as essential oils and manufactured fragrances. They’re all very gentle, and considered plant-based.
“These candles over here are my favorites,” she said pointing to a collection of candles in black containers. “They’re my ‘Energy Collection’. There’s ‘Be Calm’, a lavender-scented candle with amethysts set in the wax. Amethyst is a calming stone, and lavender is a calming scent. ‘Enlighten’ has a lemon scent and peridot it its wax. Peridot is an energizing stone, and lemon scent is a pick-me-up. The last is ‘Self-Love’, with rose-scented wax and rose quartz. Its vibe is love for Self and one’s inner positive energy.
“I self-sourced the crystals to a mine in Montana where they are ethically mined. The containers are plain as not to detract from the special candle inside.”
“Tell me about those candles in the lidded jars over there, “ I pointed to the end of her display.
“That’s are my ‘non-profit’ collection,” she replied smiling broadly. “I feel so blessed and privileged to live and work here in Teton Valley, I need to give back. I charge $15/candle, and keep $3 to cover my costs. The other $12 I send to three non-profits: NAACP; IRC (International Rescue Committee); and, HELP. So far, we — my customers and I — have been able to raise quite a bit of money.”
Welcome, and Thank You, Jane! You can find Plain Jane’s Products here in Mugler Plaza every Friday through September 5th. (Just a reminder: the Artisans Market runs ‘til 3 p.m., so when you’re finished shopping at the Farmer’s Market on City Plaza, please visit the Farmer’s Market Artisans on Mugler Plaza!)