Viva La Vida: Celebrate the Season of Cozy with Vidas Wax Works
This time of year, one’s head is liable to swim over the downright dizzying array of candles on the shelves of every specialty store. With the hyggelicht (of the spirit of “hygge”—a Danish word for cozy) months well on their way and the winter solstice merely a seasonal-respiratory sneeze-shot from now, it can be a bizarrely overwhelming ordeal to find a standout candle among the sea of scented gift options—not to mention the ever-pressing need to support local artisans and shops for more than just the rationale of heaving global supply-chain woes and large-retailer price hikes.
Yankee Candle and its ilk be damned! Chanda McConnell shall be your bougie savior this season. Sitting in her newly self-renovated basement studio in her West Jordan home, McConnell regales us with the mix of luck and persistence that became one of the most charming local products of the year, Vidas Wax Works. McConnell began her candle craft in 2018 on something of a prenuptial whim. “I’ve always been a crafter, so for our wedding I decided to make candles for our favors. I bought a kit from a craft store and couldn’t smell them at all. I had no idea what I was doing. It didn’t even work out for the wedding,” she says.
Having grown up in Maine, McConnell was inclined to contact a friend who kept an apiary there to inquire on using beeswax as an alternative to the off-the-shelf paraffin nightmare she had begun with. After numerous iterations blending soy and beeswax, the early magic of her art began to formulate. One of the major factors for McConnell was the safety of the wax. In an era of burgeoning air pollution and aerosol contamination concerns, a candle can be an unsuspected culprit. “I did more research and discovered that paraffin is a petroleum derivative! My beeswax and soy blend is all natural. I feel good about that,” she says. “I actually stumbled across CandleScience, the company I get my scented oils from. They are very upfront that their products are phthalate-free.” This commitment to a wonderfully scented yet clean-burning, nontoxic product is a standout of Vidas Wax Works that makes the cheap chain-store simulaids pale in comparison.
More than just a tidy, smoke-free burn, Vidas candles and wax melts are a mélange of beautiful and heartwarming scent combinations built from sweet stories and associations. Even the company name hails from McConnell and her spouses’ former south Salt Lake street name—a touch of nostalgia for those days informed the brand’s moniker, speaking to the loving spirit of how McConnell creates the emotionally salient scents of her products. One of her early creations was Memories of Maine—an homage to her hometown—a strangely lovely blend of blueberry, pine and salty sea breezes. “That’s one thing I love about this … I pride myself that you won’t be able to find scents like this anywhere else,” she says.
“This commitment to a wonderfully scented yet clean-burning, nontoxic product is a standout of Vidas Wax Works that makes the cheap chain-store simulaids pale in comparison.”
McConnell spends painstaking efforts to craft ideal scent combinations, with the obligatory disastrous outcomes as she seeks that perfect combo. “There are so many times I mix oils to see what happens … there are a lot of flops. Sometimes it’s a good scent, but it just doesn’t trigger anything meaningful for me, so I move on,” she says. Seeking scents that create a landscape, place attachment or memory are a passion for McConnell. Her holiday seasonal array this year brings back Together Again, a simple and evocative combination of pear and gingerbread that specifically connects to McConnell’s experiences with her kinfolk during Thanksgiving. Having lost a beloved family member this April before having a chance to join them again for the holidays, this seasonal scent becomes all the more emotional. “Two years ago [my uncle] flew out to see me, and he stayed for Thanksgiving … that was the last time I got to see him. It’s a memory I hold close to my heart,” she says with misty eyes.
Vidas Wax Works offers a number of wonderful winter holiday scents this year, including a vibrant re-imagining of the typical pine scent. “I wanted a classic tree scent and blended my own vision of that. In Maine we used to cut down our own Christmas tree. [Holiday Tradition] brings me back to that.”
McConnell’s candles and wax melts evoke depth of memories beyond her own. “At the downtown market I had a customer who smelled my Morning Roast candle and began crying. She told me how it reminds her of when her grown-up children come home, and they make coffee and breakfast together. It was incredible,” she says. McConnell hopes her products will have that manner of meaning for her customers, including their ability to safely burn candles free of worries about the health hazards.
Although the future of Vidas’ growth is a curious unknown, McConnell is thrilled to see where things are headed. She says, “I’m now training my Mom because I need the help!” McConnell is intent to keep the quality craft and small-community spirit of her products intact through whatever growth is to come over the next year. “We decided 2021 was going to be our biggest year, doing all the markets and really establishing myself. It’s been amazing,” she says. Now nearing the end of that year, it seems McConnell has manifested the exact outcome she intended.
Chanda McConnell’s Vidas Wax Works products can be found at the Trolley Square and Park City locations of the Hive Market and her website vidaswaxworks.com. Delivery and pickup are both available. Several two-tin candle combo holiday gift sets will be offered very soon at the aforementioned markets and on her web store.