Design Story: Totem Candles
Chelsea Minola, co-founder of design studio Grain, shares the origin story of their iconic candles.
Grain's studio, 2016. Photo: Ben Blood
One night, James (co-founder of Grain) was working from our home-based shop, saw a box of beeswax candle samples (we’d bought a bunch...as research for a future project) and was inspired to throw one on the lathe to see what would happen. He had a lot of experience turning, but wasn’t really sure how the wax would respond.
James working on woodworking projects in Grain's studio, 2016. Photo: Ben Blood
James cutting some of the first Totem Candles on a lathe. Photo: Ben Blood
They ended up cutting beautifully—what he would later describe as “like butter.” Though very controlled, the early process was also fast and satisfying for someone used to working with wood. Soon they were up on social media getting nice feedback from friends and then, in our 2013 holiday pop-up shop, where they quickly sold out.
An early production of Totem Candles, made with beeswax. Photo: Ben Blood
When Areaware first approached us, we were excited about the partnership. We have been long-time fans of the work that Areaware produces; they represent a lot of independent designers like us, as well as a few of our design heroes. We wanted to see our candles take on a new life by reaching a larger audience than we have the capability to serve through our in-house production.
The Totem Candle is cast in unscented paraffin wax from forms originally created by turning beeswax on a lathe. Each candle is like a small sculpture, elevating it from an everyday pillar candle into a special object.