Honeyblood, Sweat, and Wax

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Nestled outside of the mid-century modern entrance of the Mermaid Ranch are two swarming honeybee hives. These hives (along with other small-batch East Hampton honeybee colonies produced the beeswax used in Honeyblood, our latest edition to the WAX BBY collection.

As team WAX BBY darted anxiously around the busy bee houses, Jessica James, sole apiarist of the Mermaid Ranch, walked calmly by her hives as if each queen bee knew her by name.

As we stood on the porch in the warm June afternoon light, a swarm started to form above one of the hives. Jessica narrated as we watched: “The queen and her drones are about to swarm and establish a new hive, so a new queen can reign here.” The worker bees choose a single pupa to be their queen. They feed her only royal jelly, so she will grow stronger and larger than the rest of the brood. She holds sole reproductive autonomy over the brood, and only select, special drones will mate with her. The ultimate HBIC.

“A Queen bee can sting repeatedly, male bees (aptly called drones) sting once and die.” It’s just like at WAX BBY, where women rule the operations of the hive, watching over the brood that’s responsible for making the byproducts that we consume and burn. Fitting.

Jessica crossed her arms as we stood beside her. “Bee sweat and bee vomit, that’s all that beeswax and honey are,” she said. Repulsive as this may seem, the production of beeswax and honey is as natural as wax gets.

After harvesting nectar and pollen from the blooming plants and trees, honey bees take their souvenirs back to the hive where they rapidly begin production on honey and wax.

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For humans, honey is a natural sweetener, it cures allergies, and is naturally antibacterial. For bees, it’s a source energy. Wax, on the other hand has no nutritional value. It is an essential component to the structure of the hive.

Here and there, throughout the summer, Jessica will take each frame back to her house to harvest the honey. Harvesting involves “uncapping” the beeswax off of those little waffle-like hexagonal cells. Once uncapped, each frame will release about 3-4 lbs of fresh honey— aka bee vomit. At 10 frames a hive, that a good 30-40 lbs of honey harvested per hive.

By the end of our meeting with Jessica, we understood how exceptional beeswax truly is. Thousands of tiny workers operate as a team to produce honey, build their house, and pollinate their environment. They work so hard that eventually, they die of exhaustion—the drone’s wings just stop beating.

 The name is a nod to the blood, sweat, and wings that go into making our first ever beeswax candle.

The name is a nod to the blood, sweat, and wings that go into making our first ever beeswax candle.

As we melted chips of one of the blocks of beeswax that Jessica harvested for us, a deep, warming, honey smell wafted through WAX BBY studio. We might not be cooking up Honeyblood under the plant-filled rafters and floor-to-ceiling bayside windows of the Mermaid Ranch, but at least this sweet smell is an escape from the humid Brooklyn summer air.

Glossary
Queen Bee
Sole reproductive female in a honeybee hive. The queen is larger than the rest of her hive.

Pupa
After the larva hatches, the bee moves into pupa stage in a cocoon before it metamorphosizes into an adult bee.

Hive
Bee house. Can be manmade or can look like the ones in Winnie the Pooh.

Brood
All bees in a hive that operate under the queen.

Swarm
When a queen and part of her hive move to create a new hive. This happens when a new queen hatches.

Upcapping
Scraping wax off the honeycomb to release the honey.

Nectar
Sugary fluid released by flowering plants. Also the drink of the gods.


 

Our Favorite Neighborhood Stockist

It’s my 25th birthday and I’m walking to Treehouse Brooklyn down the street from the WAX BBY studio. I have a box of rose in one hand and my dying phone in another. When I walk in, I’m greeted by a giddy “Hello!” It’s Siri—the owner of Treehouse and partner of Bun Fun Thing.

If you live in the Williamsburg area, you know Siri, or know someone who knows Siri. Her shop is a neighborhood staple. She offers you a glass of bubbles when you walk in as well as help—but only if you want it. She never hovers.

On this day, however, I decide to hover. Treehouse was one of WAX BBY’s first retailers and I want to know its history.

I sit behind the counter and Siri gets us some glasses for the rose. We start to chat and I soon learn Siri found her love for boutiques by doing exactly this—walking into shops and befriending the owners.

“They would beg me not to open a shop and tell me how hard it was, but I’ve always wanted to have a store. I wanted to create my own universe.”

She got her chance in 2000, when the Lower East Side Business Partnership selected Siri for a competition. The area wasn’t nearly as developed as it is today, and the commision aimed to make Delancey a hot spot for local boutiques by providing participants with business classes.

After completing her certificate in Fashion Design at Parsons, Siri was finally ready to take the plunge. She was making her own clothes and decided to partner with a jewelry maker. They looked for a space off Bedford, but eventually landed on 430 Graham Ave where they remain today.

As Siri tells me about finding the space, her landlord Charlie walks in. She asks if he rode his motorcycle over—he didn’t. After some quick chit chat he leaves and we start to talk about the difference between now and when she first opened the shop.

“I would go outside and hang out with the neighborhood ladies on the stoop and gossip. We still do that now!”

I ask Siri why she called her shop Treehouse. She tells me it’s partly after A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which takes place in the neighborhood. But it also has something to do with growing up on the west coast surrounded by Redwoods. She always wanted her own escape.

“To me a treehouse is a utopian place where you can create your own world.”

The world Siri created is one full of local makers, as well as her own line of clothing—Big Fun Thing. Along with her associate Sarah, they make what they officially describe as “basics with an edge” and unofficially as “the thing you can wear to work, then out dancing, then sleep all night in, and wake up and go to brunch in.”

“Pretty much every day someone tells me they like what I make. And I don’t think a lot of people get that. It’s addicting really.”

We’re addicted too. If you are in the Williamsburg area pop into Treehouse! Siri or Sarah will probably be playing jazz, they might offer you some bubbles, and if you’re lucky—they’ll ask you to be a fit model!

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We Love a Clean Burn

 If you swipe your finger on a candle that is not clean burning, chances are it will look like this.

If you swipe your finger on a candle that is not clean burning, chances are it will look like this.

You probably already know, because we’ve plastered it all over our website: but here it is again, we started WAX BBY because we wanted to light affordable, clean burning candles 24/7. (Though we’ve since learned you’re not supposed to leave a candle burning all day, more on that later.) But what is a clean burning candle?

Those very expensive, very twee $45 scented candles at Anthropologie aren’t just lilac and musk and a wax base to hold it all together. Unless you’ve purchased a candle specifically marked as a soy wax, beeswax or other naturally-occurring wax, chances are its chemical composition is just as gross as Cheese Wiz. And just as unpronounceable.

Most commercially available candles are poured with paraffin wax, a refined gasoline byproduct that is made in early stages with petroleum. More often than not, these candles are laced with phthalates and benzenes well. Those are the same gnarly chemicals that float in the weird cloud of perpetual vape smoke lingering on the Bedford L train platform. Unlike the chemicals hanging out in the hazy air in your city commute, it’s pretty easy to avoid the toxins that come from burning unclean candles in your home.

At WAX BBY, we pour all of our candles with 100% American grown soy wax. Soy doesn’t release any phthalates or CO2. As a plus, it’s a natural product that’s totally biodegradable. Because we care about our lungs, we’re also using 100% cotton wicks and the highest quality essences we can source to deliver our signature scents. And because we want to chill on Earth for as long as possible, we’re also using vessels made entirely of recycled materials (that can be recycled right back)!