Lake St. Johns Ward turns wax into sweet smell of success

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

Lake St. John, La. &8212; It&8217;s all Theresa Ward can do to keep up with the demand these days.

Ward started her candle-making business, Otter Hill Candles, in March. And things have gone very well since, she said.

&8220;As fast as I can make them, I can sell them,&8221; Ward said.

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The company produces candles in 16 scents and three sizes. The eight-ounce candles, which last between 50 and 70 hours, are $12.95, sixteen-ounce candles, which can last 120 hours, are $22. The newest size, which comes in six-ounce tins, hasn&8217;t yet gone on sale.

&8220;I got the tins in last night so I got started this morning making them,&8221; Ward said.

For now, the candles can be bought at nine local stores or by contacting Ward at her home. In the next week or so her Web site,, will be up and running, Ward said.

For many years, Ward ran a gift shop called Tortoise Shell and sold, among other things, candles. She first started thinking about making them back them.

Ward makes the candles in her home, starting with 50-pound blocks of wax specifically designed for making candles.

&8220;This is a softer wax, sort of creamy or buttery,&8221; Ward said. &8220;It holds more scent than a harder wax.&8221;

When the wax is melted in large pots, Ward adds scents &8212; she has dozens of bottles of different scents on a table &8212; to make the final candle scents. She shaves small amounts of color sticks, small sticks of wax with dye in them, into the wax to give the proper color and then pours the wax into glasses or tins.

Ward experimented with dozens of recipes in search of scents she liked. She started with 13 scents and is continually adding more.

&8220;I try to put as much scent as I can into these candles,&8221; Ward said. &8220;Wax is like a sponge, it can only absorb so much scent. That&8217;s why you see some that look liquidy when they&8217;re a little overscented. That&8217;s not a bad thing, it just means there&8217;s lots of scent in it.&8221;

Her best seller, by far, is cr?me brulee, Ward said, but her favorites are ginger rose and sexy apples, which has apple and lavender in it.

She says her candles sell fastest at the Natchez Regional Medical Center gift store.

&8220;I have to go there and deliver more every month or three weeks,&8221; Ward said. &8220;I&8217;m not sure why, but they are easily my best customer.&8221;

Ward also makes painted slate tiles and decorative painted bottles she sells at local retailers.

But this stretch of lakefront has more than one craft artist. Two doors down from Ward, her friend Sandra Rodriguez makes mosaic-covered tables, something she learned from Ward.

She uses bits of broken tile and cut glass to create pictures on tables and statues. One table can take as much as 20 hours of work and sells for as much as $175.

&8220;I started doing it because it&8217;s really something different for your yard or porch,&8221; Rodriguez said. &8220;I haven&8217;t found anyone around here who does it.&8221;

Part of the appeal is making the raw materials. Rodriguez buys colorful dishes, plates and tiles and then smashes them into smaller pieces.

&8220;When I retired to stay home with (my husband) I started smaking dishes,&8221; Rodriguez joked.