In The Studio: Fairholme
Events Manager turned candle artisan Tony Jack invites us into his South London studio to share the making of his unique, hand-dipped tapers.
Awash with inspirational shades and a sought-after handmade aesthetic, Fairholme’s hand-dipped taper candles are the result of founder Tony’s love affair with hosting and setting tables that blossomed from a young age. Having honed his craft and made his dreams a reality, he invites us for a closer look inside his South London studio, opening up his practice while sharing his top tablescaping tips for the season ahead.
What inspired you to start Fairholme?
During the pandemic in 2020, I was furloughed from my job as an Events & PR Manager. I gave myself four days to relax, but within a day or two, I was already searching for ‘how to make a taper candle’ and looking into different types of waxes, candle moulds, and dyes. By day four I had watched nearly every video on the subject and had a list of suppliers for the materials.
I love the hospitality industry and have been setting tables since I was a child. However, I always felt that I couldn’t find the right candle for the setup, the shades were always a bit off or I wasn’t fond of the wax or shape. So, given this time to pause during the pandemic, I decided to make my own candles. I looked into moulds and scented candles, but I kept coming back to the traditional hand-dipping method. This type of candle-making takes time and patience, but it is worth it, there’s nothing like a lit hand-dipped candle in the middle of a table. It took a while to get the perfect shape, shades, and burn time but learning something completely new, something I had never done before was extremely rewarding.
There will never be two candles exactly alike and I believe that’s the charm of hand-dipping.
How did you come up with the name?
The name Fairholme came from my childhood home and where my father still lives – it holds a very special place in my heart and when naming the brand, I kept coming back to it. When I think of special moments with friends and family, anchored by amazing food and unique tablescapes, I always think of home.
Where are you based?
I grew up in a small town in South Lincolnshire and have lived in London for 10 years. I am now based in South London where I live with my partner. When I started Fairholme I was staying with my sister and brother-in-law at their home in North London. My partner and I thought it would be best to spend the lockdown with family, and after I was furloughed from my job, I ended up staying for nearly six months, locked away in their outhouse dipping candles day and night.
Can you tell us a bit about your studio space?
Earlier this year, after such demand for the candles, I decided to move the candle-making out of my sister’s home and began to scale up the business. Now, I work from the top floor loft in our home in Streatham Hill where I am surrounded by different types of wax, wicks, and finished candles - all perfectly placed and labeled in boxes ready to be shipped out to customers. After moving my workspace, I researched for the perfect fit in an artisan supplier who would be able to work with me to deliver in the Fairholme vision of a perfectly hand-dipped candle. I design and create all the shades and then work with a candle specialist to create small batches of the candles which gives each one their unique finish.
Where do you source your materials?
All materials are sourced from across the UK.
Can you talk us through your creative process?
The candle making process starts with choosing a colour. I gather my soy wax dyes and rub them along rough paper so I can see what the dyes will look like. I then grab some other dyes and mix them on the paper until I find my perfect shade. I usually have a good idea of the colour I’m looking to achieve and who it's inspired by. I refer to photographs of friends, family, landscapes, and clothing to create each unique shade.
I then begin to melt the wax; each batch contains around 60% beeswax and 40% soy wax. For me, I find that beeswax is stronger when set providing a more robust candle. Once melted, I begin to add the dye, starting out with less than I intend to use. As the dyes start to blend, I gently mix them with a metal spoon until they are completely blended. I then take the spoon and run it over the same paper, next to the swatch of dye to ensure it is as close to the colour as I intended. I repeat this step until I am happy with the shade and create a mini birthday-sized prototype before I create the full-size candles – this provides a true colour representation. Once happy, I begin making the batch – this is normally around 12-16 candles – and if all is well, I progress to creating a batch of 100-200.
How long does it take to make a batch of candles and are there any challenges that come with the hand-dipping method?
I would say a couple of hours, but it changes all the time. Candle wax can be temperamental; changes in the temperature can affect the candle making process and can either slow it down or speed it up. Each candle is checked by me before going out to any customer, I look for bumps and air bubbles. Any candle that does not live up to the standard is melted back down and reused.
What inspires your unique colourways?
Each candle is named after and inspired by inspirational women in my life, from ‘The Rachel’ (my sister) a leafy green to ‘The Annabel’ (a close friend), a pale pink and ‘The Carmen’ (my other sister) a pale blue. The turquoise candle, named, ‘Sis’ is inspired by the colour my two sisters begged my father to paint their room when they were little – he did, and I still remember the colour to vividly. I think I tested over 175 different shades until I found my 20+ shade line that live across all the sets that are exclusive to Liberty. There are so many factors that can adapt the shades of the candle from the heat you are melting the wax at to the quantity and quality of the dye. I love creating shades that are not already on the market, and particularly enjoy hearing customers who tell me they’ve ‘found the perfect shade’ when they receive their candles.
Each candle is named after and inspired by inspirational women in my life.
Why did you choose to stock at Liberty?
Being stocked at Liberty is something I only dreamed of when starting off just over a year ago. I have always been obsessed with the store and my late grandmother loved Liberty. After I moved to London, I would always bring her back Liberty branded chocolate whenever I was heading home. She loved it but never ate it, she just kept it safe to show off to visitors and friends. This collection with Liberty feels even more special remembering these moments as my grandmother was such a huge part of my childhood and my upbringing in Fairholme. The exclusive sets have been made and developed especially for Liberty. Hand-picked and then hand-dipped, each set is the starting point for your table settings – a tablescape in a box if you will!
What’s next for Fairholme?
I am currently exploring more shades to expand the line and I’m also working with moulds to create different shapes, but hand-dipped candles will always be at the heart of the brand. You can’t beat a hand-dipped candle, the way they’re made, look, feel and burn, they’re truly a thing of beauty. I would love to expand into a full tablescape offering one day - but for now with candles I want to work with seasonal shades, especially for winter and the festive season.
Tony's Tablescaping Tips…
Firstly, you must dine alfresco. Get outside and take in the summer’s evening. I know it’s hard with all the rain but get outside as much as you can.
Pull together pieces that you love, pieces that have sentimental value and some special pieces here and there. You don’t have to follow too many trends, be adventurous. I always say, it’s your table, you’ve got to sit at it for couple of hours so make it comfortable and easy on the eye.
Use candles to elevate your tablescape and to add height. Fairholme candles are the perfect height for tablescaping, something that was considered when I created them, I wanted candles that didn’t obstruct your view from across the table whilst ensuring they still stand out with their striking or subtle pastel shades.