Lowima candle factory
As I enter Lowima, the candle factory on the outskirts of central Skellefteå, Mattias Wikström is stirring the large stearin water bath.
– Stearin melts at 65 degrees but at that point atenth of a degree in either direction determines the properties it will have. Stearin is rather brittle but if you handle it correctly you can use it to create almost anything.
He nods in the direction of a 50 centimetre tall stearin shell standing on a workbench a bit further away.
– The idea is that you put a candle on the bottom. It creates a wonderfully soft and nice glow.
Mattias is a former ice hockey player. First in Skellefteå AIK and then professionally in Germany. About five years ago, he hung up his skates and soon thereafter he realised his passion for candles. Together with his wife Lollo he visited a candle factory in Norrbotten.
– We felt right away that this was something we wanted to do.
Just a few weeks later, they had completed a crash course in candle making held by a stearin company in Stockholm – and purchased a quarter metric ton of stearin.
Care and attention
Their only problem was they had neither facilities nor equipment.
– Over the years I have done quite a bit of experimentation to find out how best to create a stearin candle, says Mattias. In the beginning, I melted the stearin in a potato boiler from a retirement home and I had an experimentation studio in a storage shed in our yard.
On the second Sunday of Advent in 2013, Lowima opened their doors to the public.
– You might think that it took quite a long time but I’ve learned everything by myself and my motivation has always been to make really good stearin candles. That takes time.
My question is then, what characterises a good candle.
– We work according to five criteria. First and foremost, all our candles should be healthy for humans and good for the environment. This means pure raw materials and 100 percent stearin.
Stearin is obtained from fats and the stearin used by Lowima consists of a minimum of 95% organic and vegetable fats.
– Today, many candles are made from animal fat, that is, meat processing by-products. Most mass-produced candles are largely made of paraffin, obtained from petroleum, a fossil fuel. With a few exceptions, Lowima’s candles are white, for the simple reason that white candles burn better.
– The candles should have a functional form tohelp them burn as well as possible and this, by definition, makes them stylistically pure.
– Quite like Scandinavian design? I ask and Mattias nods in agreement.
– A really good candle burns in a particular way. They burn better, longer and with a brighter flame. All that is left is a fine web pattern. Compare that to paraffin candles where you always get the characteristic ‘cave’ of residue. Stearin gives you more light per unit of volume.
All of Lowima’s candles are handmade. Or rather hand moulded. This means that no candle is identical to another. Mattias shows a candle that has been given character by the graininess of the wooden mould and then carefully blackened.
– We work a lot using wooden moulds. They give the candles a certain structure, imbuing our northern environment in them.
Light is hot
Mattias is also a big fan of upcycling and this shows, not least in the interiors.
– A lot of the furniture here is made from upcycled wood. Those crates, for instance, are made from the old façade of the Skellefteå Stadshotell and I have used discarded slate tiles from the old theatre as candle trays.
Then he stops and returns to the stearin water bath.
– Almost 65 degrees, he says and picks up the thermometer. It’s time.