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Wax Works: Gary Simmons, French candle designer

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Well, since Christmas is nearly upon us I thought I’d have a few words with Gary Simmons of the School of Candle Design in Biot, France, because candles are such an integral part of Christmas celebrations.

Gary and his family have lived in France for twelve years. Like many before them, they fell under the spell of Provence and its relaxed way of life. They were looking for a safe environment to raise their children and who wouldn’t want to live within five minutes of a Mediterranean beach?

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They settled in the sixteenth century village of Biot which has been home to many famous artists throughout the years including Picasso, Matisse and Chagall.

Gary takes inspiration from his artistic predecessors and the colours and perfumes of Provence to produce the most beautiful bespoke candles. They sell in famous stores such as Harrods and grace top hotels, and are used for glamorous weddings and many other events worldwide.

Th8182258329_a215c32fb4e other great advantage for Gary of living in Provence is being at the heart of French perfume making country. He buys his scents direct from the world’s perfume capital, Grasse, where they not only use locally grown flowers to manufacture their perfumes, they also import raw materials from all over the world.

This gives Gary access to wonderful scents such as lavender, citrus, coffee, cinnamon, sandalwood and vanilla.

As well as designing and making candles Gary also teaches others how to make them. He teaches everyone from school children and holidaymakers (who just want to see how it’s done and have some fun for a couple of hours) to people who would like a new hobby, and those who like to follow in Gary’s footsteps and set up their own candle making businesses.

His students come from all over the world to learn and now they can learn from home too, because Gary offers distance learning courses.

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I love anything crafty, but like most people I don’t want to spend a fortune on all the kit, so I wondered if it’s the sort of hobby that needs lots of expensive equipment.

Gary says: “The beauty of candle making is that it can be set up at minimum cost and with very little equipment. Making candles as a hobby is like cooking, it’s all about temperatures, textures and timing. I teach through formulas. Once you have learnt a formula you then add your own personal creativity to it.”

Is it very seasonal… lots of work around Christmas and then fairly quiet for the rest of the year?

“There is good steady work all year round, although Christmas is even busier. Most people have candles in their home, it’s an instant way to get a new look and a naturally perfumed candle is better than a stinky air freshener any day. No summer party or barbecue would be complete without candles and every dinner party host likes to decorate their table with at least one candle.

Candlelight is associated with romance, so we work with wedding planners, producing bespoke candles to match couples’ chosen colours and themes.”

I wish I could smell some of those Provencal perfumes now! Thanks to Gary for an interesting insight into the romantic world of designer candles.

I wish him and all the readers of My French Life™ a happy and peaceful Christmas.

You can contact Gary via his website: candlemakingcourses.com and if you’d like to win one of Gary’s candles, there’ll be a pre-Christmas giveaway on my blog.
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Image credits:
All photos are copyright Gary Simmons.


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