In 2006, I was incredibly lucky to be featured alongside eighty Melbourne artists and designers in the first edition of the book Handmade in Melbourne. In this beautifully written and presented coffee table book, co-author Janet De Silva’s talent for creating images with words tells the story of the early days of my business far better than I could.
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Midway through a bus trip around rural Spain in the late 1990s, Joanne Schoof had an epiphany. Intrigued by the work of Spanish chandlers and inspired by the people, places and lifestyles she had encountered while backpacking, she realised then and there that craft, and candle-making specifically, was her calling.
Intending to become a graphic artist, Joanne trained in art and design after leaving school in 1997. But craft was in her blood. Her grandmother wove carpets and rugs on a loom that filled a bedroom, while her mother had always been able to knit or sew “just about anything”. Joanne returned to Melbourne to research candle-making, pouring her first candles at her parents’ kitchen stove. She has since moved to a makeshift workshop – previously the garden shed – in her family’s outer-suburban backyard. The workshop, dwarfed by gum trees, is strewn with colourful stalagmites of dribbled wax, a study in organised chaos. “I can always find what I want even if no one else can,” says Joanne, who increasingly has to call on friends for help to meet the demand for her products.
Rather than emulate the techniques of master chandlers, who aspire to produce flawless candles, Joanne embraces textural imperfection. She developed a cold-pour technique designed to trap air bubbles in the wax, so producing a wonderfully craggy surface that begs to be touched. Joanne makes her own latex moulds cast from natural objects such as pumpkins and river stones or designs her own. She favours simple shapes, which, grouped together, take on a new significance and strength.
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Article provided courtesy of The Slattery Media Group (www.slatterymedia.com) as published in Handmade In Melbourne, 1st edn, by Janet De Silva & Jan Phyland, October 2006.