Literary Classics Votive Set from Bas Bleu

Books are our first loves at Bas Bleu, but you’ve probably noticed we’ve got a soft spot for cute bookish gifts too. To source them, we visit trade shows, comb the internet, talk to our merchandise vendors, even keep our eyes peeled for great finds while on vacation. And from time to time, when we don’t find exactly what we’re looking for, we say, “We’ll make it ourselves!”

Such was the case when we created our Literary Classics Votive Set. We’ve encountered (and sold) a few literary candles over the years, but our most recent searches turned up few options. Either the candles didn’t suit Bas Bleu aesthetically or the small-batch candlemakers faced supply issues. And did we mention how many candles smell way too strong? Our editors, who double as buyers, began brainstorming: Which book would we base our candle on? How do we imagine our favorite books—or, rather, the essence of their plots, themes, and characters—would smell? Also…we don’t know how to actually make candles!

Fortunately, after a few weeks of searching, we found a candle company in Minnesota that was willing to collaborate with us on our as-yet-unspecified literary candle. But the more we thought about it, the more we realized: Why choose only one book? Why not create an entire “bookshelf” of scents inspired by timeless novels? With professional artisans on board to do the heavy lifting—er, scent mixing and wax pouring—we opted for a set of five votives, a literary “sampler” that would give our customers a variety of choices…and prevent us from having to choose just one! After that, our preferred titles became clear: Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Moby-Dick, Wuthering Heights, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Next, we faced the gargantuan task of choosing exactly which scents evoke those five literary masterpieces. Our friends in Minnesota came to the rescue yet again, shipping us a box filled to the brim with dozens of scent samples, from musk to floral to citrus to spice. Our earlier brainstorming session had produced as many good ideas as questions: English roses for Pride and Prejudice and sea salt for Moby-Dick seemed obvious, but we were baffled as how to capture Heathcliff’s violent passion, the sluggish Mississippi tide, and the warmth of the March household.

In the end, we opted for a blend of the practical and the evocative: English roses and first impressions (a lovely floral bouquet to inspire Pride and Prejudice); fresh linen and family ties (notes of clean cotton to evoke Little Women); ocean air and obsession (sea salt and summer fruit to capture Moby-Dick); wild moors and brooding (fresh green eucalyptus and sage to summon Wuthering Heights); and moss, musk, and freedom (warm earth and wood to elicit Huck Finn). Our editors conducted smell test after smell test, whittling down our choices from more than fifty to twelve and, finally, to just five.

Meanwhile, our art department went to work creating labels for the candles. We’d decided on a classic look: clear glass votives filled with white 100% soy wax. The labels should be appropriately descriptive yet simple enough that the candles could be tucked discreetly into any décor. Once again we took our cues from the books themselves: flowering vines, ocean waves, even a pair of crossed paddles. And the results, we think, are pretty cute…and smell so lovely! Our editors will certainly be illuminating our own reading nooks with these literary lights, plus we’ve set some aside as stocking stuffers and gifts for our book-club friends. We hope you’ll love them just as much as we do!

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