Bumblebees flutter about gardens and occupy the outdoors during the warm summers in Broad Brook. As Erica Giroux sat in her garden, holding her young son Jace in her arms, the two watched the insects sway about the flowers. This is where the idea for Bee Happy Candle Company was born. Although Giroux had been a maker since 2011 and owner of The Playful Peacock, Bee Happy Candle Company is her newest adventure.
Starting with a hobby of beading, Giroux developed her craft into what it has become today. “It all started when I was in college. It had to be 2011. I took a beading class at a shop that used to be in East Longmeadow. I started making jewelry out of things like random bottle caps. I was in college and didn’t have the money to buy a lot of beading stuff,” Giroux shared.
Giroux continued, “I tried doing a couple of events but it didn’t totally take off and I just wasn’t at that point yet.”
Giroux’s husband joined the army shortly after, prompting a move to Texas. “It was hard for me down there. It’s just different to find a job. So I was like, ‘you know what? I think I could do this,” Giroux said.
Giroux assembled a small crafting room and got to work. “I started really looking into YouTube videos and how to make jewelry and taught myself to make a lot of stuff. I found a little farmer’s market down there and set up an embarrassing little booth. It was not great, but it grew and was a super fluid process of learning what I liked to make and what tools I liked using,” she shared.
Contrary to her first experience in jewelry making, Giroux found that beading wasn’t her passion. “I’m not a beader. I don’t do the small beading. I like to use metal and that turned into hammering metal and then it turned into soldering. I do a lot of different stuff. I can’t do it with the kids around because you have to wear masks and all of that,” Giroux said.
After the birth of Giroux’s daughter, she suffered from postpartum depression. “I wasn’t creating as much and I wasn’t feeling great about myself,” Giroux said.
After some soul searching, Giroux discovered what she felt would help ease some of the anxiety she was experiencing. “One day, I was sitting there and I was thinking about what makes me happy because I was really in a bad place. I thought about this summer when Jace and me sat outside and watched bees in the garden and gardening with him and how happy that makes me. I wondered, ‘how do you capture a moment and turn it into something physical?’” Giroux shared.
Giroux continued, “I was trying to think, ‘how do you capture a feeling and bottle it? How do you turn something that makes you really happy into something that you can give to others?’”
Using beeswax as the base, Giroux developed a variety of candles. A portion of the sales of each Bee Happy Candle Company product is donated to bee conservation efforts.
“It’s like one of those moments where you’re in the shower and you just think of a really good idea. I thought, ‘what if we made beeswax candles and we could donate part of the money to bees and help them.’ Without them, the moment that I had with Jace sitting out there wouldn’t be possible and they’re in danger,” Giroux shared.
Giroux continued, “I just love candles. I feel like candles are something you can use when you come home from work and you’re stressed. You light a candle and you read a book. I think for a lot of people, they’re a feel-good type thing.”
With bees being a vital part of nature, Giroux decided to keep the candles eco-friendly overall. “I thought we could add a cause to the candles and also use natural scents and natural ingredients. We could make them eco-friendly and have really witty little names,” Giroux said.
Among Giroux’s “witty” names are “Just Bee,” an unscented candle and “Bee Stress Free,” a therapeutic blend including mint, citrus and eucalyptus.
“They’re all different. It really lent itself to some fun names and different drawings. I drew up a little bee with the crown for our logo,” Giroux said.
While some of the metal work Giroux does with jewelry is not an activity suitable for children, Giroux said making candles has created an opportunity for her to bond with her children. “I thought it would be a way to involve the kids. They can’t do jewelry, so I wanted something that we could do together,” Giroux said.
Customers shouldn’t be shocked if they purchase a candle with a crooked label, it’s just Jace’s way of helping with the project. “Jace does not pour the wax. He puts the stickers on, so that’s why a lot of them look lopsided. But people seem to like it. We make them together and it’s like a family affair. I think it’s really fun and making memories with them,” Giroux said.
Giroux said she hopes to expand her business further and to continue to support bees. “People have taken to the cause behind it. That’s been really inspiring for me to keep that going. I’m thinking of growing and maybe coming out with some t-shirts or different things that we can donate all of the proceeds from,” Giroux shared.
She is also happy to see the direction in which her business has traveled. “It started with The Playful Peacock and I wanted to add more and more to it because I love jewelry. But a lot of markets tend to be saturated with jewelry. I have to always be honing in on different skills and making my stuff a little different to have a variety of things,” Giroux said.
Giroux said it was important for her to show that the maker market is alive and well. “Everything I do, for the most part, is handmade. I solder, I go to gem shows and get beads and I make my own displays because I like doing it. I wanted this to be a business where I could show people that the handmade movement is still here. There’s such a cool group of handmade artisans in this area and we’re all friends,” Giroux shared.
The maker community has a good relationship, according to Giroux. “Even though we all make the same type of stuff or use some of the same materials, we’re all super friendly with each other and I found that to be almost surprising that it’s not competing. We all go to events together. We hang out and share ideas,” Giroux said.
Giroux refers to her business as “perfectly imperfect.”
“It’s imperfect because I make things and I’m not a machine and I can’t make things perfectly, but I think that people have been really fond of the idea of ‘this is one-of-a-kind and she made this.’ I make things with my own two hands and it makes it special because even if I make two of the same thing, they’re never going to be the same. Instead of seeing that as a negative, I’ve tried to push that as a positive, that handmade is from the heart and this is something that I made for you and put my heart and soul and time into. It’s really special for me to be able to do that,” Giroux said.
Giroux shares her love for making with the community by hosting classes in locations such as Book Club Bookstore in South Windsor. “I like to keep it unstructured. I don’t necessarily like to do the classes that are like ‘do this and then it needs to look like this and then do this.’ I give people an idea and examples and they can make it their own. Otherwise, I find people get anxious about it if it doesn’t turn out looking exactly the same.” Giroux said. She has also worked alongside East Windsor Parks and Recreation and the local Girl Scouts.
“It’s really fun to sit there and see their faces at the end when they create something they love,” Giroux said.
For those interested in jumpstarting a career in making, Giroux suggests finding what works best and not using the Internet for too much inspiration. “I think it’s important to give yourself time to find what you like doing. There’s all different ways and materials that you can find and it’s about not giving up if a certain thing doesn’t work for you. If you get inspiration online, you have to just use things like YouTube as a resource and not try to copy or do what someone else is doing,” Giroux said.
Keeping the focus on nature is also close to Giroux’s heart. “I’m a super-duper nature person. Nature in general has always been really important to me and I think that plays into The Playful Peacock as well. I’m supporting nature and finding inspiration in it. I’d love to see this just continue to grow and inspire people. I want to keep getting our message out about how important nature, bees and shopping small are. I think they all play into each other. Adding a cause, like helping bees, opens the conversation. I think people are ready. They’re tired,” Giroux said.
Giroux continued, “I think people see it. People drive down the street and they’re seeing the garbage. They’re seeing, you know, the articles that bees are on the endangered species list now. It’s real. It’s time now to do something about it, so I love having the business kind of tie into that too. It’s really important. It’s important stuff to me. It’s part of who I am. So to be able to use that to really be a voice for nature and different things because I think it’s just good vibes. The business is all about good vibes.”
For more information on Bee Happy Candle Company and The Playful Peacock, visit www.theplayfulpeacockct.com
Posted on 9/4/2019
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