26 March 2024

Gerringong’s Willowvale Road shines a light on the art of candle making

| Kellie O'Brien
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The Willowvale Road barn that is home to candle making workshops in Gerringong. Photos: Supplied.

The Willowvale Road barn that is home to candle making workshops in Gerringong. Photos: Supplied.

A search for creative fulfilment led Caroline Bloomfield to candle making and workshop hosting in a purpose-built charred timber barn nestled between two working dairy farms on her one-acre Gerringong property, offering participants an escape from reality.

After studying ceramics at TAFE in Sydney and realising there was nothing like it in Gerringong after relocating to the area in 2012, Caroline initially sought a creative outlet.

“I was doing all these little courses at Kiama Community College, like drawing, furniture painting and I went back and did piano for a while, just because I was stuck at home a lot,” she said of working in medical admin from home at the time.

“One day I decided to do a candle making course and that’s where it started.”

After completing a couple of pours in her kitchen, she realised she needed a better setup and transitioned to a back room for 18 months.

“I messed up that room to the point where one day my husband said to me, ‘You’ve either got to go big or go home,’” she said.

“So he designed the barn.”

With a friend encouraging her to start workshops, her hobby blossomed into the full-fledged business Willowvale Road in 2017, selling candles wholesale and operating workshops every weekend.

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From the beautiful barn with its hand-crafted barn doors and rustic old bridge rafters, participants are treated to views over the pool, across the rolling hills to Gerringong, the ocean and vineyards as they learn how to make candles.

“People like the look of where I run the workshops and the view and what I offer which is some champagne and I support the Berry Tea Shop and Daily Grind Coffee from Gerringong and my neighbour Willow Hill Cakes, she supplies a grazing box for everybody on arrival,” she said.

“It’s not your average candle making workshop, it’s an afternoon experience.

“People aren’t necessarily here to learn to make candles and go home and make candles, people are here to have an escape from reality.”

She said the wholesale candle side grew quickly too, supplying to major Australian wholesale company Eadie Lifestyle, her own online sales and up to 30 retail stores on and off from Victoria to Sydney and the Illawarra.

“I decided that I wanted the candles in some really lovely shops, so I skipped the markets thing and basically went around selling my wares until I got them into a few shops,” she said.

“It was a lot of work, especially since I was also running workshops by that stage.

“The business grew and grew until it was all too much for me.”

candle making workshops

Caroline also hosts a charity craft morning tea.

Managing the business admin at night, soap making during weekdays and workshops on weekends, she eventually hired someone to help for two years to make the candles.

However, by the beginning of last year, she decided to scale her wholesale operation down to a small number of clients due to escalating costs and the workshops back to once every six weeks.

“I feel I’ve got the perfect balance with life and work now,” she said.

“I now have all my products online and when I do workshops, I do basically a weekend where on the Friday I do my charity workshop, and then Saturday and Sunday I might do a private one and then a public one.

“With the workshop itself, I’m very honest and open to giving everybody all the information they need if they want to go home and make candles.

“I don’t hold anything back,” she said of also helping anyone who wanted to start their own candle business.

Caroline said new workshops were always being developed due to participants often returning multiple times, with one of the latest a scented homewares workshop which involved making a deluxe candle with cloche, a diffuser, scented wax melts and a liquid hand soap.

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She’s also looking to combine candle making with ceramics, which she took up again thanks to Gerringong’s Soul Clay Studios drawing her back into ceramics after not touching clay for 10 years.

“I’m going to be doing more of that so that a lot of the things that I make instead of putting them in China-made glassware, I’ll put them in things I’ve actually made from scratch on the wheel,” she said.

Caroline also does a charity craft morning tea, with 100 per cent of the profits supporting Nowra charity Salt Care to provide benevolent relief to the homeless, poor and socially disadvantaged.

“I wanted to have a workshop where people that can’t necessarily afford to come into a candle making workshop but they’re ladies maybe that have their own craft, I wanted to cater for them,” she said.

Attracting knitters to card makers, she said participants could pay anything from $10 and received morning tea and the chance to do their craft while chatting.

Head to the Willowvale Road website to learn more about their workshops and candles.

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