Candle flames hold a steady glow. Light glimmers in glass, or in a wooden bowl, warm and moving gently in the air. When Jenna Gable of Lanesborough pours her own for Berkshire Candle Co., the room can fill with a scent of balsam fir or cinnamon.
She and her husband started making their own in 2020. They have always loved burning candles, she said, sharing the origins of her work over zoom. And they have learned by experience that the kind of candle makes a difference.
They have had a uniquely clear example, she said. Commercial candles are often made from paraffin, she said — and that’s a petroleum derivative.
“We lived in an apartment,” she said, “and you could see the soot marks going up the walls.”
She thought an earlier tenant must have been a smoker, she said. She would try to clean the marks, and they would wipe and smear. Her stepfather told her they came from the smoke from the candles she was lighting, and she could not believe it — not until she and her husband moved into a new house, when she was pregnant with her daughter.
The new baby had a white bassinet, she said, and when she lit candles, she saw over time that the new bassinet was turning black — and she realized her stepfather was right. Paraffin candles were putting particles into her air and discoloring her walls.
“So we decided we either needed to stop burning them, or we needed to figure out a better alternative,” she said. “And we thought, let’s try to make our own.”
She researched the cleanest burning waxes, and she found soy wax with unbleached cotton wicks.
“So we started playing around with that,” she said. “It was a lot of trial and error.”
Making candles has turned out to have unexpected depths and challenges. She has learned how to find the right size wick for a container, she said, and how to keep a freestanding wick upright, so it will not just float in the wax — and how to make sure a candle will burn slowly and melt gradually over time.
She has found a supplier of soy wax in the U.S., she said, so her candles burn cleanly, and they are all lead-free and nickel-free, and all vegan and cruelty-free.
And she has learned how to add a clear scent — and how to invent her own. She blends them, creating new combinations from candle safe oils and essential oils, like Christmas hearth, with cinnamon and clove, orange and hints of pine.
‘We decided we either needed to stop burning them, or we needed to figure out a better alternative. And we thought, let’s try to make our own.’ — Jenna Gable
“Christmas cabin has cinnamon, pine undertones, a spicy comforting scent,” she said. “If you were in the woods, hanging out by the fire, that would be what you would smell.”
She has evolved new ones for the winter holidays, Berkshire Balsam Fir, gingerbread, along with earlier perennial scents — Apple cider doughnut, Lavender and driftwood, Black current and jasmine.
Many of them come in glass jars, clear to show the creamy wax or a dark amber that will glimmer as the candle burns down. Gable also pours into wooden bowls. She sources long ovals and crescent moons from an artist in Kenya, she said.
“And all the bowls are refillable,” she said. “So once the candles burn out, I can either take them back for people and refill them, or I also make refill kits, so they can pour new candles themselves at home.”
She keeps an eye out for new shapes, she said, especially when she holds events — hearts for a Galantines Day celebration, maple leaves at Thanksgiving for a friendsgiving party at the Recovery Room in Pittsfield.
‘I think it’s cool for them to see a new business growing from the ground to wherever it ends up.’
Her family has also gotten involved all along the way.
“I have three kids, and I also have a stepdaughter,” she said, “and the older kids, my son, my stepdaughter and my younger son, they all love the markets. And my four-year-old … they all love going. They think it’s so much fun.
“I usually have my 12-year-old with me, and he considers himself the best salesman. So it’s become it’s a family affair, and (when I’m pouring) they always come out and ask, can I smell what you’re making? And they love it.”
And it’s good for them, she hopes, to see a new business seed and and grow. She has worked with Entrepreneurship for All, a program for aspiring new business owners, to find mentors and take the first steps to plan her business and get it off the ground. And her family has seen and supported her at each step. For her kids, the journey has been eye-opening.
“My dad owns a business,” she said, “and they’ve only known it since it’s been very established. And I think it’s cool for them to see a new business growing from the ground to wherever it ends up. And to see, if you work really hard, if it’s something that you’re passionate about, the sky’s the limit. It depends on how far you want it to go.”