From hobby to creative business: candles are her passion


Jessica Brighton is a local candlemaker specializing in gently scented soy candles. She will be at the Signatures Handmade Market at Lansdowne October 19 to 22.

By Emily Vaz

Browsing through a craft fair or artisan showcase is a unique shopping experience, very different from walking through a store. Instead of countless identical products on shelves piled high, hand-made items are carefully displayed on tables with their makers nervously sitting behind, proud to sell not only their products but their passions. Each table showcases one-of-a-kind pieces by a crafter or artist with their own vision and their own unique story, wanting to share their labour of love with whomever stops by.

One of these artists is Jessica Brighton, 43, of Old Ottawa East, formerly a teacher, now turned full-time candlemaker. She runs her own business, Harbour Candles, selling pure soy-wax candles scented with essential oil. Her catalogue contains scented candles, sculptural candles and home décor pieces.

Originally a hobbyist, Brighton started creating candles because she found most commercial candles had a strong scent that overpowered the room. “I loved having candles burning but I would so easily become overwhelmed by them” she says, “or they would give me a headache so I would end up blowing them out, and I was like ‘ok this is really frustrating’.”

Some of Brighton’s candle creations
Photos: Emily Vaz

She began researching what candles were made of and what could be causing the overwhelming scents. Learning the ingredients, she began her journey of creating her ideal candle. “I started playing around for myself and made soy wax candles with only essential oils in them. I found that that was able to give me the nice, scented candles but with a more soft and subtle scent, without it overpowering the room.” She wondered if others would also prefer this type of candle.

Like most people, Brighton found herself with more spare time during the pandemic. She decided to further explore what she had been working on as a hobby. Having seen other creatives selling their products online, she decided to try it herself and started her own business in April 2022. Starting with an Instagram page, she progressed to setting up her own website so people could buy her candles.

Brighton now runs a one-woman operation from her home. She sources her materials, pours and cuts her candles, takes product photos, runs her website. Compared to her previous teaching job, Brighton describes running a small business as “a whole new world.”

“You get creative when you’re teaching, you really do, but adding this whole element of photography, networking, the social media, all these sorts of skills and new ideas that I’ve had to learn and am continuing to learn as I go, it’s been great. It sort of activates this whole part of my brain,” said Brighton.

This experience has changed her outlook as a consumer. “I’m so much more aware of the time and the effort and the passion and the labours of love that people are working on. You see the dedication, the talent, you know how much is going into every piece that is being made – love, attention, care, detail.”

She says the community that she has become involved in has been a lovely bonus.

“Getting into this whole new community of fellow makers through virtual connections on social media and then transferring those connections to real life where you get to be part of the maker community was really nice for me,” said Brighton.

Her first market was last September, and she finds it rewarding to meet other artisans in person and make connections.

“I think the most rewarding thing is going from me on my own making these products and using them in my own home on a daily basis, to meeting people and connecting with people who are interested in buying or even coming by my booth to say hello and have a chat about what I do. That’s really made it extremely rewarding for me.”

Brighton will be at the Signatures Handmade Market at Lansdowne’s Aberdeen Pavilion October 19 to 22, along with many other creatives displaying their wares. “It will be an exciting opportunity to be with a large community of fellow makers and artisans,” she said. “I think there’s going to be over 150 makers there. It’ll be my first show which I’m really excited to do.”

Emily Vaz is a student in her final year of the Carleton journalism program.

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