We knew we wanted to send our new Light Forest Candle out into the world in style, in a vessel that, in every way, extended the story of what we stand for: commitment to craft, expertise, and just the right amount of nerve to allow for some really beautiful things to happen.
But when you spend ten years making something, ten years of trial and error, of hypothesizing, of getting it close but not quite right, of refusing to settle for fine, you can get a little picky about who you’re willing to work with when the time finally comes to share that thing.
And then you meet Shawn Kam of Luvhaus, and you feel a whole lot better.
Shawn is the kind of artist we consider an ally, an Oakland-based, totally grounded but obsessive soul who doesn’t do anything without intention, and an eye for the longevity of his objects. When we showed up to his studio, bleary-eyed at 8:00 a.m., Shawn had already been at the wheel since 4:00 a.m. He’s encyclopedic to talk with about his trade and the kind of guy who is quick to make sure you get his preferred title right. “I’m a potter,” he says. “I was trained by a man who wore overalls to work. We’re not ceramicists.”
Over the past six months, Shawn has worked alongside us in every stage of the candle project, experimenting in his shared studio with over 200 possible shapes while we toiled away down the street trying to figure out how to get wildharvested oils to throw their scents.
When we finally agreed on a shape for the vessel, the simple, straight profile you see now, a lot of it had to do with maximizing heat and scent dispersal while minimizing burn, but it also had a lot to do with the future life of the cup itself.
“I was really excited when I first started talking to you guys,” Shawn says, “Because I knew that you had options, that you didn’t have to go down this route. You could have just used a glass container, some hipster mason jar or whatever other glass vessel, made in China, mass-produced, ground out, and saved a lot of trouble and money. But you didn’t. Instead we were like, ‘Why not use something that has a life beyond what it’s first purpose is, something that has a lifetime built into it already?’ That meant a lot to me because everyone today throws everything away and I don’t want to be a part of that. It’s not what I do. I make things that last, things become part of a person’s routine and merge with them a little bit. I don’t make anything purely decorative, nothing beautiful for beautiful’s sake, but beautiful as a result of the process. Beautiful because they go with a person through their life. That’s the elevation of beauty for me.”
So when you’re done with your candle, when the sweet forest goodness has all burned up, put it in the freezer for 60 seconds. The remaining wax will constrict and pop right out. Ways we don’t recommend? Our Research and Development Director Tom Accettola’s personal strategies, which include whacking the bottom of the cup with a rubber mallet or spot-heating it with with a torch until it explodes from thermal shock. All research strategies, but still bad ideas.
After the shape was decided, next came perfecting glaze and color options. We had Shawn come by the workshop right after we harvested for the candle to gather the wood we weren’t using for extraction. From there he used his wood kiln to fire the cups at 2300 degrees, a process that burns the wood down to ash and then intentionally lets the ash settle into the glaze as it fires. The result is a brilliant constellation of dark flares, cooked into the glaze itself and from the same forests that scent the wax inside.
While working with Shawn we realized that in a lot of ways, his process is very much like our own— it’s a dance of organic material, heat, creativity, and a willingness to experiment— and just like us, everything Luvhaus does is unique, reflecting the real, varying conditions that go into making it.
“Every part of ceramics is a testing base,” Shawn says. “There’s so many variables with everything: the glaze, the throwing, the firing, with making the clay body itself; every step has variables because there’re so many different possibilities. For the laymen, there’s a lot of commercial testing that has already been done, variables that have already been taken care of. But if you want to make something really special, you take on your own testing, your own variables, so the results will also be your own. Like this kind of flaring and color that bloom all over the body of the cup, that doesn’t happen without being able to experiment, to see something great and be able to adjust on the fly and chase it, to be one step ahead enough to capture it.”
It’s hard to imagine a description we relate to more or that better describes the years of work that went into this project. Ten years later, we’re proud to say, we finally got it right.
Check put our Light Forest Candle here.
Interested in more work by Luvhaus? Shawn also made the incense holder that comes in our Campfire Incense Pack. They’re hand-thrown, made from beautiful, deep red native clay sourced from the Death Valley area. You can also check out Shawn’s site to get in touch with him or shop his newly perfected, several-years-in-progress coffee cup, designed to catch subtly on the inside edge of your hand and fit smoothly along your palm. Just like the cup he made for us, they’re all microwave and dishwasher safe.