Happy first of December! Time to decorate for the holidays, send out cards, plan/attend parties, buy/wrap gifts, watch movies, eat an entire roll of Tollhouse cookie dough… the list goes on.  But let’s talk about gifting… I for one, think that homemade gifts are extra special.  Some people are difficult to buy for, and I have to believe that someone one would appreciate a homemade gift far more than something that was picked up at a mall.  Try DIY candles and give them as gifts this year.  Not only the color and scent can be customized, but the packaging itself is what makes this so unique.

Shop Local!

I recently made 60+ candles for Golda Kombucha, here in Atlanta.  Golda is a local kombucha brewery, serving up some of the finest oak-aged kombucha around.  They can be found online, at local farmers markets and indie craft sales.  After picking some up at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market, I felt that the bottles were too pretty to throw out, so I cut and sanded off the tops, then filled it with a soy wax, using scented oils like fresh coffee, blackberry basil, and  peach ginger.  You can order these via their website here, or at local farmers markets throughout the month (find their market schedule here).  Pick up some delicious kombucha for yourself and add a candle as a holiday gift.


You can also try making your own.  Does your best friend have a favorite wine?  Turn the bottle into a candle.  I also look for unique glass containers (including tea cups) at antique shops.  They serve as home decor pieces, and add a nice warm aroma to your house.  Two for one! Follow the instructions below and get busy.  Happy gifting this holiday season!

What you will need:

  1. glass or metal containers
  2. glass cutter
  3. sand paper for glass
  4. 464 soy wax flakes
  5. candle wicks
  6. wick bars
  7. wik stickers
  8. pouring pitcher(s)
  9. thermometer
  10. scented oils for candles
  11. medium sized pot – for double boiler
  12. paper towels (lots of them)
  13. rubbing alcohol (not used to make candles but this cleans up wax best)
  14. metal spoon or butter knife for stirring

Items 2-3 can be bought in a kit and comes with several other helpful tools not mentioned here.  I suggest Kinkajou.  

Items 4-9 can also be purchased in a kit to get you started.  I suggest this one by Candle Science.  Once you have down the basics, you can purchase additional pitchers, oils, wax in bulk, dyes, etc on Amazon or on Candle Science’s website.


DIY candles - love, fancypants

small candles gifts

First, you will need a tool that scores the glass.  There are many on the market, but I use one by Kinkajou.  This kit is great and includes instructions for cutting, along with all the tools you will need to prep your container for the pour.

champagne labels

To remove any labels, just soak in a warm soapy bath and they will fall off.  If the label is pretty (a vintage Dom, perhaps?), I leave the label on the bottle.  Just be careful when pouring the hot/cold water (see below) or it will come unstuck  The Kinkajou kit addresses this issue.



Once you have made a score in your glass, you will alternate boiling and ice water on the score and your glass should break clean.  I only have about a 60% success rate when doing this, particularly because I am often working with glass that isn’t the same thinkness all the way around.  I suggest you follow the instructions that come with your bottle cutting kit, and always use gloves.  I do, but the above photos are of Mikey (and he is a man – “he doesn’t need gloves”).  Once your bottle has been broken, you will need to sand the top and edges of the cut.  This takes some time because you want to be 100% sure that it is smooth enough to the touch.  You don’t want to give a gift that will make someone bleed.

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Next, you measure and melt your wax.  Place a medium saucepan on your stove or hotplate, filled 1/3 the way with water.  Fill your pouring pitcher with wax – I use 100% soy wax.  Continuously stir your wax to aid the melting process.

While your wax is melting, attach wick to the bottom center of the container using a double-sided wick sticker.  Make sure to press it down firmly so that it is completely stuck to the bottom of the jar.  If hot wax gets under it, the wick will float to the top the candle and you will have to start over.  I have tried a variety of wick stickers found on Amazon, and again, Candle Science is best.  It never comes unstuck.  Just go ahead and buy the entire kit…

diy candles fancy pants 1_3

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diy candles fancy pants 1_1

Once your wax reaches 185 degrees F, remove from the heat and add scented oil if you like.  Again, my favorite brand is Candle Science.  Their scents seem most natural to me compared to some of the overly sweet lower cost brands.  I also mix scents to create my own.  For Golda, I mixed peach and ginger to mimic their peach ginger kombucha.  But my favorite scent to date is apple bourbon and praline.  It smells like Fall in a jar.  For every pound of solid wax used, use 1 ounce of oil.  I bought this digital scale to measure.

Gently stir the wax/oil for a couple of minutes until it has cooled to 135 degrees.  You can buy a candy thermometer or buy a candle making kit, such as the one listed above and everything you need will be included.

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Once your wax is ready to pour, place a wick bar on top to hold your wick centered in place.  Pour the wax slowly and then allow to cool overnight.  Sometimes, depending on the shape of the container, the wax will harden with a rough, rubble-like consistency on top. This can be easily corrected with a heat gun.  You can purchase one like this at Home Depot, as I did, which I also use as a tool for encaustic painting – see this post for more.

white tea candle

Once completely cooled, remove the wick bar and trim the wick to a 1/4 inch.  Wait 24 hours before burning finished candles.

Voilà!  You now have homemade custom candles.  Enjoy!



A couple of years ago I was looking to have a portrait made of our dog a.k.a. “our little pumpkin spice puppy”, Kobi.  I knew that I wanted a watercolor, and preferably something quirky.  I found Sarah on Etsy, and it was a complete coincidence that she hailed from the ATL. Sold.
Kobi Farber
Sarah captured Kobi’s sassy demeanor to a tee.  She’s painted people’s dogs, cats, and other pets.  Many people buy them as gifts, perhaps even for a loved one who has lost a pet and would like to memorialize them in the form of a watercolor painting.  You can find more information, including prices on Sarah’s Etsy page: ArtbySarahEngland
Born and raised in Georgia, Sarah graduated with a BFA from University of West Ga and unlike many, can proudly say that she makes a living as a full time artist.  Although she has several side “hustles”, such as assisting a jewelry maker, and selling clay sculptures of the moon, Sarah is a painter, specializing in watercolor.
flowers in her hair
“I am so thankful that with an inspired mind, my left hand, and just a paint brush or pencil, I can be self-sustainable.”
Besides her own mother, who is a talented watercolor artist in her own right, Sarah says that seeing work by local artists inspires her most to create more work of her own.  Sarah’s studio lies within her apartment.  Above her workspace hangs a map of the U.S., with a pin in each city where her work hangs.  What a cool reminder of what she’s accomplished and to just keep moving forward… There are a lot of pins on this map and from what I’ve learned, she needs to upgrade to a map of the world.  Maybe soon…
sarahs desk
Sarah's Palette
Much of Sarah’s recent work has had a moody tone, characterized with a darker neutral palette.  I knew that Sarah was the one who should paint our family portrait.  But we didn’t sit for her.  This is her tribute to our love of Halloween.  All I can say is that I couldn’t be happier.
The Farbers


snake girl

I can tell you from experience, watercolor painting is not an easy medium.  This girl has talent.  You can find existing work for sale, or commission her for a portrait of your pet via her Etsy page.  She also posts new work to Instagram.  Look, share, follow, SUPPORT local artists.  Sarah hosts shows in local coffee shops and even hair salons, but most of her work is sold via word of mouth.  So spread the word.
Sarah's Puppy

Actually, encaustic painting is one of the oldest forms of art in the world.  It is done by mixing pure pigment (minerals from the Earth) with beeswax and resin, and fusing them  onto wood or other prepared surfaces, using heat.  It has been used in the creation of art dating back to Ancient Egypt… but that’s not why I found myself so interested.

closeupbrush.jpgBeing a photographer, I love the idea of incorporating photographs into other mediums.  My second love was painting.  I never did anything with it beyond college, until now.  This weekend, I attended a mixed media encaustic workshop by local artist, Helen DeRamus.  She showed us the proper tools and techniques for creating encaustic works of art.  The possibilities are truly endless.Helen.jpgHelen provided me with some semi-transparent silk sheets (think pantyhose), and I printed some old images that I had found in my grandparent’s stash of photos from their travels throughout Europe in the 1950s.

heat gun.jpgI was careful not to burn the silk, so used an electric heat gun to fuse the image into a layer of wax medium.  After I built up a few layers, I took a torch to it.  Working with fire is awesome.  No better way to word it.

Paw1.jpggommypaw.jpgAnd so, it looks like I’m going shopping for materials.  My office/studio space is getting very, very crowded.

To see Helen’s work, please check out her website or visit DK Gallery, in the Marietta square.