Michelle, founder of Slow North, hand pours each candle with love in Austin, Texas. Inspired by the birth of her baby boy, Michelle began to squirm at the thought of all the chemicals and synthetic materials burning through her house. She determined to create an all-natural candle that smells freakishly delicious, but is totally absent of freaky stuff. We sat down with Michelle to chat business, learn more about her scent inspiration, and her biggest compliment yet. Hint? "This candle smells like a fresh bath in a rainforest." Yum.
Where are you from? You’re in Austin now. How do you like the city?
I'm a Texas girl. I was born in San Antonio, which is an hour and a half south of where I live now. I absolutely love living in Austin; it's one of those cities that pulls you in and you never want to leave. We are fortunate to have an incredibly supportive community of makers here! I've felt so welcomed and inspired by the artists in the city. The talent bar is set high!
Why do you make what you make? How did you get started in candlemaking?
I make plant-based candles because I want to offer people a natural alternative to traditionally unhealthy products. I had actually stopped burning candles in our home years ago after being turned off by the artificial fragrances and petroleum byproducts found in most candles. As I gradually became more aware of all the synthetic chemicals we are bombarded with daily, I began transitioning to cleaner alternatives in all areas of my life. Candles are just one of many products I reevaluated. I wanted to feel good about what I was burning in our home, especially after I found out I was expecting our son.
I recognized a need for healthier, all-natural candles delivered in modern, stylish packaging. I initially worked with a few different candle makers to test a few ideas about what we wanted to offer, but then I decided we needed to start from the ground up ourselves. So I dove in and became a full-time candle maker, teaching myself along the way. We've moved from hot plates and kitchen counters to professional 50-lb. wax melters and have taken over the entire garage workshop! I'm proud of how Slow North is developing and excited we are creating something our customers want!
What is your design process like? How did you settle on a “less is more” aesthetic?
Our design is a collaboration between me and my partner, Jon. He's the design talent of the family, but I'm more of the creative director in terms of what I want the overall product to evoke and actually sourcing the supplies. We've been in business less than a year, and already our product has evolved so much. I feel like we've found our groove, in terms of a style which easily fits in the homes of our customer. I noticed there was a need for our natural, essential-oil candles delivered in a modern, minimal aesthetic. "Less is more" is also perfectly aligned with our simple ingredients, reminding people you don't need to buy products with synthetic, mystery chemicals to have a nice smelling home!
Do you have a favorite candle?
My favorite scent right now is the Grapefruit + Spearmint because it's uplifting and so unique from the others. It's one of my happiest scents! Since I created them all, I'm pretty biased. Our Lavender + Cedar is our most popular choice at markets.
How do you decide on your scents? Are they inspired by memories, places, people?
Well, for starters, I now have an essential oils collection like no other. You name it, I've got a sample vial of it! I've done a lot of research to learn about the various "notes" scents can carry (base, middle and top), much like a wine. I then begin by pairing them together using Q-Tips in glass jars to determine the ratios and combinations that might work well together. We revisit the test jars many times and often tweak the recipe at least once before deciding on adding a new scent to the collection. I really enjoy creating unisex scents you haven't seen paired together before, so I'm drawn to combinations which are unique and perhaps a little unexpected.
What is the significance of furnishing someone’s home? How does it feel to know people eat, sleep and live in their personal sanctuaries with your candles?
It brings me so much joy to hear from a customer how much they love one of our candles. Our goal is to create products that truly bring people joy. The minimalist aesthetic of our products lends itself well to complement the well-curated homes of our customers, with intentional and mindful decor. The art of creating a sensorial product people can light to set the tone and ambiance in their homes is a true privilege. As you mention, your home IS your personal sanctuary, so I take a lot of pride in creating premium, soy candles with only the best ingredients.
Do you have any anecdotes about a certain scent your most proud of?
I've been told our Lavender + Cedar smells exactly like taking a bath in a forest (or so they imagine), which sounds incredible. I've also been told several of our scents smell so good they want to eat them (which I definitely don't endorse). It's so fun to hear comments from customers about our candles. I should be keeping a journal!
What inspires you in general?
I'm inspired by my son. He just turned one, and everyday I forge a new path as an example to him that you can do what you love for a living. It's quite the motivator knowing you're being watched by your sponge-like child and your actions and attitudes will influence his future perspectives!