The Deep End: Sara Rose VandenOever

Sara Rose VandenOever is an artist in many mediums. She is a musician and visual arts education major, but more recently, she has started to make beeswax candles. VandenOever has always loved crafting, and recalls making pillows and designing scarves shaped like animals as a young girl, but creating scented candles and selling them to interested customers in New Paltz has been her hustle of the moment. As we drink tea and talk over a block of wax (soon to be crafted into a candle), she tells me how she learned to create candles from YouTube, how she learned to mix the proper ratios of beeswax to coconut oil, and how to create salves with tea tree oil. 

At the kitchen table where VandenOever cuts the wax, aromatic essential oils and candle wicks are scattered about. The process of candle-making seems fairly straightforward but definitely labor intensive, taking up to thirty minutes for each product. The process involves cleaving through tough beeswax or shaving off enough to fill a jar, mixing that in with a generous portion of coconut oil, mixing in the right blend of essential oils and safely lowering the filled glass jar into boiling water. 

While she has learned a lot about the candle-making process from YouTube, learning to create pleasing and relaxing scents has been learned from trial and error. She mixes different essential oils to her liking until the smell seems balanced, then notes the properties that each essential oil has, noting what calming effects they can have on people. “If someone believes that something’s gonna help them, then it will,” she said. “So, if their thing of choice is essential oils or certain herbs or types of movement or forms of expression, then it’s probably going to be good for them.” 

VandenOever started her candle business “The Wax Buds” on Instagram with her friend and frequent collaborator, Emily Cerrone, with whom she shares an “Idea Wall” in their house. The wall consists of a photo frame plastered with overlapping, scribbled post-it notes that pay no attention to the bounds of the frame: “so we remember to think outside the box,” says VandenOever. 

While she started making candles just for fun, Cerrone suggested that they start selling the candles to people in New Paltz; they then began to sell at lemonade-stand style sales, or through Instagram. Through these candle stands they met a local woman named Gerry, who now provides them with most of the empty jars that they use. When I asked VandenOever for any tricks for starting a business, she says “you just have to do the things that you find fun, and then your housemate might come downstairs and ask if you’re selling!” 

You can check out The Wax Buds on Instagram (@thewaxbuds) if you are interested in purchasing homemade tea lights, salves and candles.