Every so often I’m lucky enough to be part of something really exciting, a project beyond the normal scale of what I do. In 2003 I found myself saying yes to one such project, which lead to the making of the largest candles I have ever attempted. They were to mark the entrance for a big industry party hosted by one of Melbourne’s most beloved furniture and design stores, Hermon & Hermon.
Ten giant egg shaped candles in 6 weeks? Sure, I’ll give it a go.
It was a baptism of fire, but I got there, and met some fascinating artists along the way. A sculptor (part of the team that helps create the Myer Christmas Windows each year) carved a one metre tall giant egg for me out of polystyrene, which we then coated in layers of plaster. I then met another sculptor who specialised in silicon moulds for bronze sculptures, who created a giant two-piece mould for me. I have since learned a lot more about mould making, and I still don’t think I’d dare attempt that task myself.
Getting the mould ready was just the first hurdle. Learning to use it was the greatest challenge. As it was too heavy for me to carry, and didn’t stand upright due to its shape, I had to prop it up in the middle of an old 4WD tyre. Completely full of wax, it would have weighed over 100kg, which was not only too heavy to carry, but at that time I was working from Mum’s kitchen, so it was also more wax than I could melt on four hotplates.
Rather than pouring a solid candle, I decided that the best solution would be to make a hollow lantern with walls about 8cm thick, so that it was strong enough to move, and the light from a smaller candle inside would shine through the hollow form. By gently rocking the mould back and forth, almost in a kneading motion, I found that I could gradually build up even layers of wax to create nice strong walls.
My work area was the backyard, covered in a huge blue tarp, and I carried pot after pot of hot wax out from the kitchen, to gradually create the layers of this wax behemoth. It took about 18 hours just to pour each candle, and then another full day of drying before I could use the mould again. So as the deadline for delivery loomed closer, I found myself doing all-nighters – setting my alarm to wake me up every two hours to heat up another pot of wax to pour, while dozing on the couch in between as best I could.
Like all perfectionists, heedless of the looming deadline, once I learned how to master this giant encumbrance of a mould, I couldn’t resist taking the project another step. I then set about carving the H & H monogram into two of the giant egg candles that were to stand sentinel on either side of the front entrance.
With some much appreciated help from my dad and a few strong guys at H & H, we got the 10 giant candles delivered on time and in place on their plinths for the launch.
I have to admit that after staying long enough to see the candles on display, I eagerly sought my bed rather than staying to enjoy the evening.
Currently, I’m thinking about re-visiting this project, and with the idea of carving a design across the surface of the entire egg, so that the light glowing through from within will enhance the shadows and details of the pattern.