The small country village of Quandialla in west-central New South Wales is famous for its candles. They are the most searched item in the village on Google, before school, pub and hospital.
The success of Quandialla Candle Company can be attributed to Sarah Ryan. But even though she was born near the village, she was not born into candle making.
The former high school visual arts teacher started making candles as a hobby while pregnant with her and her husband Trevor’s third child, Clementine, in 2011.
Tired of seeing candles in generic jars, Sarah set out to create a candle with a touch of yesteryear. Inspiration came from a 1943 tin of yeast collecting dust in a little old cottage on the Ryan family farm in Quandialla.
“It was this beautiful round box with a navy blue and cream paper label,” Sarah explains. “There was this beautiful ‘scrolly’ font and a pretty wordy description.
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“I thought it would be wonderful with a candle in it, so I took a picture and sent it to my designer friend. He knew exactly what I was looking for and quickly sent me the label that is on the box now. I chose the name Quandialla Candle Company because it comes out of the tongue.
Sarah makes the candles from her home workshop and is proud to see her hometown name displayed in stores everywhere.
“Quandialla is such a cool name,” she says. “It’s probably not ideal for people who google it because it’s hard to spell, but I thought it was a way to put the city on the map. Now if you tell people you’re coming of Quandialla, they say: “Oh, the candles!”
The candles are made from soy wax, which lasts longer and is better for the environment than traditional wax.
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Each candle is handmade by Sarah and each label is handwritten on one of Sarah’s five typewriters, which are in different working order.
“I have an electric one, but sometimes the letters don’t stick to the label very well,” she says. “I love using the old ones because the letters come out a bit crooked, even though they are hard on the fingers.”
The candles elicit heartwarming images of a hot bubble bath on a rainy day or a simmered dinner with wine and friends. Sarah loves to hear and have the memories people create with candles at home, especially lately with mouse plague.
“Lighting a candle is such a pleasant ritual, especially in winter around the fire or at night,” explains Sarah. “Everyone loves a scented candle.”
However, she never imagined that her candles would provide her with a full-time job soon after selling them for the first time at the local preschool market. Now, Quandialla Candle Company can be found in stores across NSW.
While this is mostly a one-woman show, Sarah surrounds herself with her friends during peak periods. One of them is when she makes the annual Christmas candle, which has become something of a collector’s item.
“I sometimes call a girlfriend and just ask her to unwrap the tin cans or put wicks in the containers – I tried to get my kids to help out and even offered to pay my two teenage sons. but that doesn’t seem to work, ”Sarah laughs.
When it comes to finding scents, like the Weddin Mountains Bush Walk candle, Sarah works backwards.
“I buy a lot of perfume samples: base notes, middle notes and top notes,” she says. “I can decide I want something that smells like grass / leaf / grass or has a woody smell. I’m not a perfumer so it can be difficult, but you can get the scents already made.
“There was a scent I tried that was described as ‘native to leafy Australia’ and it reminded me to walk in the bush. Those smells of fresh pine, or eucalyptus and acacia flowers that we meet in the Weddin Mountains where we walk in the bush.
Sarah is not the type to have airs and graces and has developed a strong following on social media for her authentic posts that give us a window into life on the farm, including when family is a priority and orders are late.
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“I’m not very good at pretending,” she says.
It’s that connection and beautiful images of candles stacked on old books or perched in a cozy corner that make you want to buy Sarah’s candles.
You can follow @quandicandles on Instagram or visit the Quandialla Candle Company online store.