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Quiet Light Candles: Hand-poured with care and prayer

Dec 3rd, 2014 | Category: Crafts

by Jessamyn Tuttle

After a pleasant drive through the countryside outside Stanwood and down a gravel driveway, it’s an amazing experience to walk through a door into a warm space permeated with the scent of beeswax, glowing with candlelight and full of rich patterns from pottery, glass and polished stone. This magical space is the gift shop for Quiet Light Candles, run by the sisters of the Convent of the Meeting of the Lord, who live on the property. Next to the gift shop is the sisters’ workroom, full of beeswax melting vats and work tables.Quiet Light Candles by Jessamyn Tuttle WEB 3

Mother Mary demonstrates pouring tealights (above). Mother Thecla shows finished candles (below). PHOTOS BY JESSAMYN TUTTLE

Mother Mary demonstrates pouring tealights (above). Mother Thecla shows finished candles (below). PHOTOS BY JESSAMYN TUTTLE

Mother Mary and Mother Thecla, the two current residents of the convent, are originally from Holy Nativity Convent in Boston, arriving in Stanwood in 1999 when their bishop wanted to establish a monastic presence on the west coast. While they’re often asked how they ended up in such an unlikely spot, both sisters have been happy here. “It was God’s providence that brought us to Stanwood,” Mother Thecla said. “The people here are exceptionally kind.”

When they first arrived they wanted to establish a cottage industry to support themselves, and candlemaking is a traditional monastic occupation. “Monastics were among the very first candlemakers,” Mother Thecla said.  Their convent in Boston specialized in beeswax tapers, so it was a skill they were familiar with (the two of them calculate that they share 72 years of combined candlemaking experience), but they wanted to find something a little different to compliment their sister convent’s work. They had been told that votives or tealights could not be made out of beeswax, but they decided to try anyway and spent six months testing different beeswax and wick combinations.

After months of experimentation they found the proper type of wick to use with their beeswax to make candles that burned slowly and cleanly. As she showed me how to pour hot beeswax into a tealight mold and position the wick, Mother Mary described how, when they sent their first candles to friends to try out, the response was enthusiastic. The candles, besides having a beautiful golden color, smell sweet and burn well.

In addition, they like that beeswax is a much cleaner product than the more common paraffin, and offers health benefits, especially for people with asthma. “A paraffin candle is toxic, soot producing,” Mother Thecla said, noting  beeswax] does not pollute the air.Mother Thecla at Quiet Light Candles by Jessamyn Tuttle WEB

They buy pure beeswax by the ton, looking for quality and sustainability, Mother Thecla noted. Hours are spent each day working in the candle shop, testing, pouring and shrinkwrapping. Mother Thecla said their approach to candlemaking is “Every Quiet Light candle is hand-poured with care and prayer.”

Several years ago they were approached by local beekeeper Andy Swanson of Cat’s Paw Bees about keeping some of his hives on their property as part of his project to build a healthy honeybee population. Swanson and his wife, who sell their honey at local farmers markets, found that the honey produced at the convent had a distinct character, so they now bottle “Convent Garden Honey” for sale in the Quiet Light Candles shop. The sisters do not use pesticides on their property and encourage others to do the same. “If you love God you love his creation. You try to be a good steward,” Mother Thecla said.

The shop, which offers many different types of candles as well as honey, candleholders, pottery and other local and imported crafts, is open every Saturday year round, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can take a tour of the candlemaking workshop and pour their own tealight to take home (this started as a project for children, but the sisters found that adults wanted to try pouring as well). Customers also learn how to burn candles so they last longer. “We want them to get the most out of their candles,” Mother Thecla said. Each year they hold a Christmas festival, opening Thursdays through Sundays from Thanksgiving until Christmas. As always, they assured me, there will be home-baked cookies for everyone.

Although the shop has restricted hours, the sisters are open to special arrangements. Sometimes it may simply be a visitor who wants to see the shop, but they also provide candles for hospice patients or memorials. “Candlemaking is an extension of our prayer life,” said Mother Thecla, and she values their candles as a consolation for people who are grieving.

Andy Swanson of Cat’s Paw Bees checks his hives on the property. Convent Garden Honey is sold in the shop. PHOTO BY JESSAMYN TUTTLE

Andy Swanson of Cat’s Paw Bees checks his hives on the property. Convent Garden Honey is sold in the shop. PHOTO BY JESSAMYN TUTTLE

Despite its other benefits, the true purpose of the candle shop is to support the sisters in their life of prayer. “The primary purpose of our life is prayer,” Mother Thecla said. “It’s not just for ourselves, we pray for everyone.”

Quiet Light Candles is located at 29206 64th Ave NW in Stanwood and can be reached at (360) 629-0285 or sisters@quietlightcandles.net. Christmas Festival hours through Dec. 20 are Thursdays and Fridays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Year-round hours are Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit online at www.quietlightcandles.com.

Published in the December 2014 issue of Grow Northwest

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