A Holiday Home Aglow: Greentree Home Candles
Jen Green crafted her first beeswax candle in 1992. It was the year her husband Don, a sculptor and furniture maker, fashioned a pair of wooden candle holders that needed a companion. Jen, who was then in charge of sales for the couple’s furniture business, Green Tree Home, soon found a local candle maker, sourced some beeswax, and molded a pair of tapers. At the strike of that first match, Greentree Home Candles was born.
Today, Greentree Home Candles is a vibrant, robust operation based out of a 1200 foot studio in Treadwell, NY, a small country hamlet in the Western Catskills. Upon entering the studio, the sweet aroma of honey wafts through the air, encircling spools of cotton wicks and bubbling pots of wax, all elements of the candle production process. Each candle is dyed, molded, packaged, and shipped by either Jen or one of her skilled production team members. With over 30 different styles and 17 colors to choose from, there is a style for everyone. From the ever popular square taper with its sculptural, classic edges, to the patriot head — a mold born from an antique store find — these eclectic shapes and colorful hues invite those eager to bask in the candles’ golden glow.
Jen has a fine arts background in painting from the Philadelphia Museum of Arts and brings her creative spirit to the thrills and challenges that accompany an entrepreneurial lifestyle. “I’m in control of my success or failure. The harder I work, I can see the rewards. It’s nice to be my own boss. I put in more work than a regular 9 – 5 job, but I love what I do.”
Lacy Johnson, pictured here, is pouring dyed beeswax into a pot to be heated and then molded. The production team typically makes six to seven pound batches at a time, starting with the largest most complex designs first. (Lacy now works at Table on Ten, Bloomville’s beloved restaurant and inn).
Aside from Greentree’s distinctly vivid color palette, made from special combinations of Aniline dyes, the uniquely crafted candle molds are what sets them apart. “We make our molds in house. They aren’t off the shelf. Some are pretty standard shapes, but the patriot head, bottles, pillars and hens… ninety percent of the molds are made in studio.”
With three full time employees, the Treadwell studio produces a couple hundred candles a day. “I’m very lucky to have an amazing team. My production team is great and they all care about what they do,” says Jen. “It really makes a difference in the success of the product. It’s not just a job for them.”
Jen pours the hot wax into a taper mold to cure. “Wax, when it starts to cure, shrinks. So, we have to top it off,” she says. Cure time can be anywhere from forty five minutes for a taper to five hours for a larger design.
“I love the bamboo tapers because they mean a lot to me. My sister lives on the big island of Hawaii and she is my best friend. I don’t get to see her very often, so for me, that’s a sentimental candle. It looks just like bamboo and it’s beautiful. Everytime I make it, I think of her.”
“I’m really interested in vintage objects that are sculptural and nostalgic,” says Jen, of the personally selected shapes that often inspire her molds. “The bottles come from real antique bottles from my mother’s bottle collection. I grew up loving those shapes and how they look together.”
Beeswax, a natural product that is more expensive than soy or paraffin, was an obvious choice for Jen due to its sweet aroma and sustainable qualities — hypoallergenic, renewable, non toxic and purifying to the air.
Jen’s husband Don has been very involved in all aspects of Greentree — from setting up the studio and designing an efficient production process — to collaborating on innovative shapes. For the Josee Pillar collection, he crafted shapes in wood and plaster from Jen’s drawings, which were then made into molds.
Being a small business owner, Jen has been welcomed into an ever growing community of creative, talented upstate makers. “Even though everyone is working on their own thing, we all seem to find each other and support each other in one way or another,” she says. Last year, when she was looking to rebrand Greentree Home Candles, Julian Peploe of Stone and Sawyer (a handcrafted lighting company based in Delhi) offered to re-design Greentree’s logo, graphics and packaging.
The Greentree Home Candle collection can be found online as well as at a number of select retailers upstate and in the city: Kabinett & Kammer, Roxbury General Store, ABC Carpet and Home, Ochre, A&G Merch and the Museum of Art & Design. Even after twenty plus years in the candle business, every day still feels energizing for Jen. “I love being creative and I love what I do. If you can make it through the bad times, the good times are gravy and we’ve been through two recessions and we’re still in business. Even during tough times, people still want beautiful objects.”