The Wizard Returns: Candle Wizardry is Once Again Part of the Allegany Artisans Studio Tour
A conversation between Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf:
“I beg your pardon, but I had no idea you were still in business.” “Where else should I be?” said the wizard.
J. R. R. Tolkien, THE HOBBIT
Like Gandalf from Tolkien’s immortal Middle Earth stories, our local candle wizard, Ken Reichman, is back. After taking several years off from his Whitesville based Candle Wizardry business, Ken has re-opened his studio and is once more creating his beloved, hand-sculpted candles. Inspired by Tolkien’s books, Ken makes wizard, dragon, and fantasy creatures as well as a host of seasonal and animal themed candles, hand-dipped tapers, sand, pillar, and “glow candles” which burn down illuminating the exterior pattern.
Along with Walker Metalsmiths in Andover, Candle Wizardry is a charter member of the Allegany Artisans. Ken, Steve Walker, and several other local artists, helped form the group in 1988. Ken started making candles in 1972 but got his start making character candles in 1975 when he realized that by gently heating sheets of specially formulated wax, he could mold it with his hands like clay. He created and developed the method of hand sculpting fantasy figure candles. At the time, Tolkien’s books were very popular. The candles were a hit and for the next 31 years, Ken took them to the Philadelphia Folk Festival and craft shows all over the northeast.
Visitors to the Candle Wizardry shop at 562 Main Street in Whitesville can watch and learn about the process. Ken first makes sheets of wax which is specially blended for just the right balance of malleability and rigidity. Concentrated dye is sprinkled into the hot wax for multi and solid colors. These sheets are later re-warmed in water and the magic begins as Ken deftly folds and twists the wax into his original and constantly evolving designs. Most of his figures have wicks, but occasionally he creates a more elaborate sculpture not intended to function as a candle.
Children especially love to watch the characters come to life—Oh my gosh, a unicorn! For many area kids and adults, the whimsical creations lining the shelves of the Candle Wizardry studio, have been a long-standing birthday and holiday institution. The LORD OF THE RINGS film series has helped to nurture a new generation of Middle Earth fantasy fans. Ken now works at the David A. Howe Library as an IT technician, but he’s managing to find time to get back into the shop. “I’ve always liked the characters. I don’t want to give up making them,” says Ken. He’s back in business--where else should our wizard of wax be?
For more information on the upcoming 27th Annual Allegany Artisans Studio Tour, log on to www.alleganyartisans.com or pick up a brochure at a local business.