While Australians still can’t travel freely due to border restrictions and lockdowns, they can however bring certain scents they miss into the home with Clare Makes botanical candles.
Hand poured in Sydney's inner west and named after significant Australian figures, native botanical plants, herbs and flowers evoke memories of scenic country gardens, family holidays and bush walks.
Founder Clare Neilson says every scent in the core collection has at least one native scent note and often more.
“I’ve made a point to not only stock candle scents that are exactly to my taste because people have different preferences―herbal, fruity, floral, fresh―and the candles I make reflect that variety,” she explains.
“Australia also has an incredible array of native plants and flowers that are beautiful when made into a fragrance.
“There’s also an important historical aspect to my candles. I’ve dug into so much history when it comes to the naming process and discovered characters like Constance Stone, Australia’s first female doctor, and Tilly Devine, the notorious Sydney crime boss from the 30s.
“Louisa Anne Meredith, for example, photographed some of the last Tasmanian Aboriginal people and I didn’t know about her until I started reading. There’s so much history connected to each scent which adds an extra layer of dimension to the candles.
“One of my new candles is named after Ellis Stones, a landscape architect who designed around the existing environment. The way your home smells should feel like it’s an extension of and part of your natural environment. That idea has really resonated with my customers.”
Initially launched during the pandemic in 2020, Neilson worked with graphic designer Jessica Ibbett on a rebrand after feedback suggested the design looked (too) personalised.
“My own logo and labels were all initially done by me, however, I ended up reaching out to Ibbett, who lives in my neighbourhood, and we worked together on the rebrand. She hadn’t designed candle labels before, which is exactly what I was looking for―a fresh take in what is a saturated market.”
Neilson chose not to lean into this idea that the real Australia exists only in the country. The truth is that many of us live in the city, we have diverse cultural experiences and we want our home and lifestyle to reflect a modern sensibility of what it means to live in Australia, she says.
“I wanted the candles themselves to have a sense of bringing the outside in, with natural scents like kakadu plum, wattle, boronia and eucalyptus. I think we’ve achieved that.”
Launching a business during a pandemic certainly comes with its own set of challenges, but for Neilson it comes down to looking at the economic conditions and setting her expectations.
“People have less discretionary income now. I can’t take my candles into a florist or retail shop and have them smell the scents, so I have to look at different ways to reach potential clients and customers. For me it’s about working within the constraints of the pandemic and economic conditions, and pivoting my business accordingly.”
So how does she see her business progress post-Covid? “I was really looking forward to doing markets and seeing my customers face to face, so I can’t wait for that but beyond that, 2021/22 will be when I really ramp up the business.
“I have a new logo, new labels, I have some new candle sizes coming up soon and am hoping to do a range of diffusers. I really love what I do and I love seeing people fragrance their homes with Australian native scents. I want Clare Makes to be a thriving female-led business and I think I’m on my way.”