How My China Cabinet Inspired a Collection of Antique Candles

As a mom of five, Mother’s Day can be a tricky holiday to navigate. Do I want a big celebration and fanfare in my honor? Do I want them to cook for me and take over my household duties for the day? Or do I want the simple gift of some rare and quiet *me-time*?

That’s why, a few years ago, when the fam asked me what I’d like for Mother’s Day, before I could catch the words from spilling out of my mouth, I heard myself blurting, “I’d like to be left alone!” Oooops. “I mean, there’s a project I have been wanting to tackle and I need some time and a little space to do so.” (whoah, that’s better.) 

The project I was referring to was my china cabinet and the beginnings of my antique glassware collection. The cabinet was a jumbled mess and in need of shelves.

Sometime before this, I had begun collecting little pieces here and there of old and colorful glassware that struck my fancy. I had also inherited a small collection of Depression Glass from my grandmother and been gifted a few pieces from the collection of another beloved family member. And there they sat day after day, week after week, year after year… woefully un-displayed.

As I dusted off each piece of glassware, arranging them in an ombre of rainbow hues, they began telling me their stories. I was remembering my grandmother’s vanity table where she kept her little Hobnail trinket dishes, and the way the whole set up always smelled like baby powder. I reminisced about the banana splits that my dad used to make us in the oval-shaped candy dishes. And I remembered the antique store we had visited in Hawaii where I bought an old cake plate and lugged it all the way back to North Carolina! (That’s commitment… or crazy.)  

And that’s what I love about collections. Any collection, really. It tells a story. When I look at our jars of seashells or sea glass, I can remember the moment – and the excitement – when we found many of those special pieces! For this reason, they’re displayed prominently in our kitchen where we see them everyday. Because those are stories that I want to remember.

So, why do we collect things? I think it has a lot to do with the story that our collections tell, and the ways they draw us back to our history and connect the dots of this story that we call “life.” One of my daughters has collected necklace charms since she was very young. She has long outgrown the types of roller-skate and lollipop charms that once adorned her jewelry, and yet the collection is still precious to her. And we continue to add to it. Her charm collection tells the story of things that she has loved throughout her childhood. It speaks of the places we’ve traveled and the time we’ve spent together choosing that next special charm.

I think our fascination with collecting things also has to do with our God-given craving for beauty

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” -Psalm 19:1

The beauty of God’s creation is telling us a story every day. 

We were created in the image of a God who makes beautiful things for our enjoyment. Beautiful things that tell a story. Understanding this makes sense of our deep (maybe even misplaced or misunderstood) love for beauty and story. And therein lies the draw of collecting. 

Now back to my china cabinet… As I meandered down memory lane, something else happened as I displayed goblets and dessert dishes that Mother’s Day. I couldn’t help but think about what gorgeous candles so many of these pieces would make!

And I remembered something… many years earlier, before The Outer Banks Candle Company was a twinkle in my eye, I made my first candles in a batch of antique tea cups. It was a simple DIY project inspired by a Martha Stewart tutorial and I gave them as Christmas gifts to friends and family.

Here’s a LINK to that tutorial that was originally published in her magazine around the year 2000.

Maybe that project planted a seed all those years ago. But this day with my china cabinet, another seed was planted. And it wasn’t long before I was on a mission in search of the perfect antique glassware to transform into candles! Pictured here are some of the candles from those first batches. Antique Depression Glass, Milk Glass, Carnival Glass, Hobnail Glass… in vessels like tea cups, candy dishes, sugars & creamers, chalices, & lots more.

And since then, making antique candles has become one of my very parts of candle making. I love searching for the perfect vintage treasures. I love learning the history of all the types of glassware and their origins. I love imagining the stories that these old pieces could tell. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to give them new life so that they can become heirlooms in someone’s collection… with new stories waiting to be told.

And something funny is happening as I search for the perfect pieces of glassware at antique stores and estate sales… my own collection is (mysteriously) growing as well. And now I’m wondering if it might be time for some more shelves… and another Mother’s Day project!

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