North End resident’s handmade beeswax candles ship all over US, world

May 9, 2014 03:45 PM

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Jean Merlain
Ann Moritz with some of the honeycomb beeswax candles she makes. “Rather than try to imitate a shape that already exists, I’m usually thinking about how different elements of wax will look if they’re put together,” said said.

By Jean Merlain, Globe Correspondent

By day Ann Moritz runs a consulting business. By evening she’s a honey beeswax chandler.

Ann Moritz’s first experience with candle making was at the age of nine, when she and her older brother almost burned down their mother’s kitchen. They didn’t know the first rule of candle making: never heat candle wax directly over heat because it’s likely to catch fire.

Thankfully, it was a small fire that caused no damage. Though the fire frightened the young Moritz, it didn’t stop her from wanting to learn more about candle making.

As Moritz got older, she found herself making candles — candlemakers are known as chandlers — less than when she was a teenager. But she didn’t lose interest in the hobby and always made the effort to make candles around the holidays for family and friends. When she became a mother, she involved her children in candle-making projects.

For decades, Moritz had been making candles with the traditional candle wax but it wasn’t until about six years ago, when she moved in to the North End, that she started using honey beeswax.

With her children are grown, Moritz found herself making candles on a regular basis. Before she knew it, dozens filled her home, more than knew what to do with. It was then that she discovered the website Etsy, an online marketplace that allows people around the world to sell and buy unique goods.

With a saturated candle market, Moritz said she quickly realized that she couldn’t possibly survive selling on Etsy unless she found a niche. That’s when she decided to switch to honeycomb beeswax.

“When I discovered Etsy, the predominant candles, which was ton at the time, no where near what it is now, were solid molded candles, same thing that I was making,” Moritz said.

What makes honeycomb beeswax different from traditional wax is the shapes and textures the chandler works with. Honeycomb beeswax is thin and comes in sheets similar to sheets of construction paper. It comes in a variety of colors, making it easier for the chandler to heat and roll into various candle designs.

Once the wax is heated, it takes Moritz no more than 30 seconds to roll a candle and no more than three to five minutes to make a package of six candles. From the time she pulls out a sheet of honeycomb beeswax, warms it up, rolls six candles, and then ties a knot around the box to complete a typical package, takes Moritz less than 10 minutes.

Moritz’s candles range from a simple one-color candle to more complex candle designs. One of the complex designs she is selling on Etsy is a candle called Lucky Bamboo that is shaped like bamboo tree and is green. Another candle for sale is a Twisted Tapers Beeswax candle made out of pure beeswax. It is shaped like braid.

In the six years that Moritz has been selling her candles on Etsy, she’s found people tend to buy the simpler candles.

“If I’m putting several layers together, or I’m really playing around with the wax, it could take me a little under an hour. Once I know what I’m doing, it takes me no more than 10 to 15 minutes,” said Moritz.

Design inspirations tend to come when she’s exercising. Sometimes she wakes up with an idea and goes straight to the kitchen counter, where she has her candle-making kit laid out. Sometimes she just combines different colors to see what the finished candle will look like.

“Rather than try to imitate a shape that already exists, I’m usually thinking about how different elements of wax will look if they’re put together, or I’m looking for something that might reflect some element of nature,” said Moritz.

She doesn’t like to be stuck having to fulfill an order last minute. Moritz typically has about two of each of the candles displayed on her Etsy site in stock so they can be immediately shipped at the time of order.

When she started selling on Etsy, her husband suggested that she put up a world map in her home office so that she track the locations around the world that she’s shipped her candles.

Maritz has sold candles to people in 47 states (no sales yet in Indiana, Delaware, or Montana) and she has also shipped candles to 12 countries: France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Brazil, New Zealand, Malaysia, Canada, Australia and England. The most popular countries from which she receives the most re-orders from are Canada, Australia, and England.

Aside from what she sells on Etsy, Moritz sometimes get requests from friends and families placing large orders for a sports teams, weddings, and other events.

One her favorite customer orders was for a wedding a few years ago. The groom was Canadian and the bride was an Argentinian. The groom’s mother who made the order asked for thick long pillar candles in the colors of the flags of those two countries.

Both the groom and the bride were American citizens. At the wedding ceremony, they used the candles as unity candles to light an American colored candle. The mother-in-law who placed the order sent Moritz photos of the ceremony.

“The custom part of it is so much fun. Anybody could make these. They’re not that difficult to do. The only edge I have is the way I treat people,” said Moritz.

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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