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Vocation Makes Lot of Cents

by Janet Nesler

The Daily Independent, Ashland, Kentucky

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 Nothing brings the holidays to life like the smell of pine wreaths and fresh-cut Christmas trees.  Scents Joan Hall locks into Mason jars for year-round enjoyment with her homemade candles.

     Among the numerous candle fragrances she’s created and now offers the public as Briarcliff Candles, are holly berry, misty mountain and old-fashioned Kentucky Christmas.

     Hall is the only private fragrance formulator of poured scented candles in eastern Kentucky and recently opened The Country Home, a craft store at Olive Hill.

     “When I first opened (the store), I gathered wild flowers and dried them for wreaths and bouquets.  I was impressed with the fragrances of all the wild plants I was gathering and thought it would be great to capture these scents,” she said.

     A native of Olive Hill, Hall has an appreciation for the rugged beauty of the region’s hills and hollows, a love for Eastern Kentucky that shows in the candles she’s developed.  The fragrance Berry Hollow was named for the hollow that lay between her childhood home and her neighbors’ house, where she and her brother spent many happy afternoons picking blueberries.

     Hall spent six months of research learning about what goes into making a candle and how to capture the different fragrances before she created her first one.  She also wondered, as she developed and prepared to market her new product, if people would like her ideas.  She says now because she was so sincere in her feelings for the candles and because they represent this area of Kentucky, folks have welcomed and supported her efforts.

     Hall named the candles “Briarcliff” to reflect the wild, rugged terrain of Eastern Kentucky.  She sees them as personal creations jarred and stored so future generations can experience the Kentucky heritage and enjoy all the scents of an old-fashioned Christmas.

     “ I love driving down a country road with the car windows down when the farmers are mowing hay so I developed a candle called New Mown Hay.  It really is the essence of fresh cut grasses,” she said.

    “I wanted to capture the wonderful memories of growing up in a Kentucky home.  My mother and grandmother had large families—I’m one of 11 children—so they were always baking.  As a child I was always hungry when I came home from school and it would be a couple of hours till suppertime.  There would always be a fried pie or a piece of spicy cake inside Grandma’s cupboard, so that became a fragrance.  Old family recipes have inspired many of my candles like the popular Jam Cake, which seems to be everyone’s favorite.”

     The response from people who live in pother states has surprised Hall.  She has received phone calls and compliments from as far away as Oregon and Texas.  One man, whose daughter has moved to Italy, dropped in to get a few different fragrances to send to her.  He said his daughter lighted the candles when she got homesick for Kentucky.

     “As a child, I remember at Christmas spending time around a fresh-cut evergreen tree decorated with holly sprigs.  We didn’t have much money to spend on fancy trimmings so we decorated with boughs of pine, dried bittersweet berries and mistletoe growing right here in Eastern Kentucky,” Hall said.

    “Another Christmas memory was my mothers homemade fruit salad and Christmas cookies.  Maybe in the future they will end up in candles.”

    Hall has been making candles for about two years and says the whole secret is in the mixing—combining oil, some of which comes from as far away as Washington, to wax.  It two days to make a batch, about 100 candles.  She says part of the appeal of her candles is that they are poured by hand, and so are fresher than those commercially poured.

    Hall says she plans to expand her candle line by adding candle sculptures.  She’d also like to make molds of Kentucky folk art to be replicated as candles and marketed as such.  She would especially like a sculptured candle to offer for the Christmas season, perhaps a backwoods Santa.

     In addition to being available in Hall’s shop, the candles can be purchased locally at Country Threads at Summit, Hamlin’s Hideaway at Ashland and Creative Design at Grayson.  They are also sold through outlets in Indiana, Ohio and Florida.



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