Friday, 5 December 2014

C is for Candle

Christmas preparations are in full swing in our house as we throw ourselves into the festive season. Following on from looking at angels and baubles we moved onto candles.

In addition to talking about the significance of the advent wreath, M had a go at making her own candle wreath from a paper plate.
A candle wreath.
This was made with cutting help from Daddy, but the sticking and colouring was all M.

In the meantime I'd had this idea that it would be fun to somehow imprint M's artwork onto a candle. My thinking was that it would make a good Christmas gift for the grandparent types in our respective families.

I took to Pinterest to look for an appropriate method for getting M's artwork transferred onto the surface of a candle and eventually settled on this 'tutorial'.

From the pictures it looked so easy.

Ahem, lets just say pictures can be deceiving as this one was harder than it looked!

The idea is to get your small person to draw onto a piece of tissue paper, which is wrapped around the candle. The tissue is covered with greaseproof paper and heat is applied via a hair dryer. Remove the paper and voila! The image should be imprinted on the candle.

What the tutorial doesn't make clear is that the image is not transferred from the tissue paper onto the candle. What actually happens is the melted wax seeps through the tissue paper, so that when the wax hardens the tissue is held against the candle under a thin layer of wax.

Believe me, both Dave and I did quite a bit of head scratching trying to figure that out before I had the 'Aha!' moment.

To be absolutely clear for my own benefit should I decide to do this again, what you need:-

  • Tissue paper
  • Felt tip pens
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Church candles
  • Tape
  • A piece of normal paper
  • A hair dryer
  • A mug that you don't mind getting wax on
  • A cork mat to protect your work surface
  • A teaspoon (optional)
  • A combination of persistence and patience
To allow your child to create their masterpiece, firstly cut a piece of flat, uncrumpled tissue paper to size based on the candle. Make the tissue slightly shorter than the candle and try to minimise overlap.

Tape the tissue to a normal piece of paper, then ask your small person to draw a suitable Christmas scene using felt tips. The paper is to protect your table as the ink from the pens will leak through as your child draws.

M excelled herself here and drew the following:-

  • Some Christmas trees
  • Father Christmas and his elves
  • Baby Jesus with his Mummy and Daddy
  • Dancing snowmen, wearing leotards
  • An angel visiting the shepherds who are so scared their clothes fall off
Needless to say, M she was chortling away by the time she had finished, as she is greatly amused by the plight of the angels who have messages to deliver, but have to stop folks running away before they can do so. Every. Single. Time. The angels find this very frustrating. Or at least they do in our version of the Nativity story.

I asked M to draw one more picture, explaining this was the one we'd use for our first try with the candle. M drew a cat and declared it her favourite, so was delighted when the first candle was a success.

Once you have an image to transfer, wrap it tightly around the candle then lay the it onto a piece of greaseproof paper, with the overlap in the tissue on the underside to hold it in place. Align the base of the candle with the edge of the greaseproof paper. Wrap the greaseproof layer as tightly as you can, covering the tissue and secure with tape.

The grease proof paper should be slightly bigger than the candle, it needs to wrap around the candle with an overlap of about 3cm. It should also be taller than the candle once the candle is standing up.

Put an upended cup onto a heat resistant mat (I used a cork backed place mat) and stand the covered candle on top of it. Use a hair dryer on its highest heat setting to  melt the wax under the paper. Keep the dryer moving and it should take a few seconds for the design to start showing clearly through the paper, which is a sign the wax is softening.

Rotate the cup (with the candle on top), applying heat to the entire candle. Once the greaseproof paper starts to look shiny all over, the task should be done and you can stop.

In reality I found that the transfer was patchy. Some of the tissue paper had sunk into the candle wax, but in other places the tissue would be unaffected. Since M's designs didn't cover all of the tissue paper, it was hard to see where I'd missed through the greaseproof outer layer.

At this point I applied the heat directly to the candle and pushed the bits of tissue I'd missed earlier into the wax as it melted. Initially I used the back of a spoon to do this, but switched to using my fingers as I found it easier. The heat from my hair dryer wasn't sufficient to do more than make the wax uncomfortably hot, but I'd advise caution here.
Applying heat to any patches of tissue that hadn't been absorbed into the wax.
The wax cooled quickly, allowing the candles to be moved aside. I used a kitchen knife to trim any dribbled wax, neatening up the base and finishing the candle.
The finished candles.
M was surprised at how her pictures had changed, taking on the circular nature of the candle, with figures that had been on opposite sides of the paper now standing next to each other. She decided she like the effect, but confirmed the cat candle was still her favourite.
M with her favourite candle, which now has a cat on it.
I was pleased with the effect too, but found it difficult getting an even finish on how much wax was absorbed into the tissue. It was also very fiddly trying to get the tissue tightly wrapped around the candle. Nonetheless, for a first attempt I think it worked well and it is a technique I might try again.