How would you describe your brand, Lauren Dickinson Clarke?
If I had to choose three words, I’d say witty, whimsical & stylish (with a pinch of rebellion!). As a brand we celebrate the muses, misfits and rebels. We cater for those who reject the mundane and the status quo. We are as much about championing art, creativity and self-expression as we are about creating extraordinary objects.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you started developing the candles?
My background is actually in fashion design. I trained as a womenswear designer and worked for a few brands thereafter honing my design skills. My plan for LDC was to take the beautiful and transformative qualities of clothing and apply it to objects in the home. The candles have been a labour of love and heartache and everything in-between. The idea came when I noticed that the candles available were largely a sea of sameness. This seemed particularly strange because an awful lot of scented candles are bought as gifts so they should be brimming with personality and expression! That’s when I decided to create the Moody Muse candles, candles that celebrate self-expression and through which our customers can convey their own personalities.
How has lockdown impacted business?
What a year. Talk about rolling with the punches! It was tough going and a little tense during June-August last year. During the previous lockdown, our candle makers were unable to work of course, and so we sold out incredibly quickly with no real knowledge of when we would be able to make more. Fortunately, things are relatively back on track now, bar the odd delay here and there. The main gripe has been having to put our new-releases on hold. That said, lockdown did inspire our latest creation “The Prisoner” candle. I’m so excited to release her later this year!
Your work is so popular that you have a waiting list! What is your process in creating each design? How long does it take?
It’s an incredibly lengthy but also very fun process. Each candle is inspired by a real muse so firstly I draw with my fine nib pen and illustrate facial expressions which exude the muse’s character. I draw about 40 variations of each sometimes. Now that the range is expanding, the candles need to complement one another as a gang whilst still holding their own unique identities. Once the illustrations have been whittled down to 2 or 3 options, we have them sampled onto our fine bone china and we tweak and resample to get the details just right. Whilst we work through this process, I start designing the candle hats. The hats themselves take an incredibly long time as we source trimmings from all over the world and much like real hats, not all hats suit all of the candles!
The ideas for the fragrances come whilst I’m working on defining the candle’s character. The fragrances are created to reflect the muse behind the candle whilst also taking into account the mood that we want to set for our customers. We use fragrance oils & essential oils which are free of parabens and other nasties which I’m very proud of. The candles can take up to a year to produce but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The containers of the candles are made in Stoke-on-Trent, a hub for pottery in the UK. Is it important to you that your work is made locally?
Absolutely. I’m very passionate about supporting UK manufacturing. We work with incredibly talented craftsmen and women who have been shaping fine bone china for over 50 years. There is just no replacement for true craftsmanship in my view and it makes our candles that bit more magical knowing they have been crafted with such love and care.
What do you think it is about your candles that have inspired such a cult following?
I think it’s a combination of things. Firstly, as a brand we’re very customer-centric. We put the customer at the heart of everything we do, and I am always designing with them in mind. I think of my customers as friends. I love hearing about their homes, where they’ve put their candles and how they’ve been during lockdown. We have a private face group alled Muses & Misfits and here we all exchange ideas about new candles & fragrances. It’s fantastic because the community around LDC get to be very involved with what’s being created. Their custom feels incredibly personal because they are buying into something which I have put so much love into over the years. Hopefully they feel that personal relationship too.
Secondly, I think its definitely down to our creativity, we take risks and are no-holds barred when it comes to new ideas & creations. We’re always pushing boundaries and trying to shake things up.
Your work combines great craftsmanship with self-expression to make pieces for everyday living, similar to folk art. Have you been inspired as an artist by any particular time in history?
I am often inspired by the Dadaists and surrealists of the 1920s. Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali have always been artistic heroes of mine. I also have an appreciation for neo-classicism, which is why Greek sculptures and columns often weave their way into our photography. The original muses were the nine muses of Greek mythology, which is another reason why antiquity elements creep in from time to time.
Tell us bit about your blog, Behind the Muse, what inspired you to set it up?
Much like our Muses & Misfits Facebook group, Behind the Muse was set up as a way to bring our community closer. The blog allows us to tell the stories of the muses behind the candles and I reveal more about our influences and artistic process too. In the future we will be using it as a platform for lots of other exciting ventures as well.
Tell us something positive you learnt in 2020..
With a bit of determination, everything always works out in the end. Stay gritty.
What’s in store for 2021?
I am very excited about 2021! We will be releasing our candle refills and new Prisoner candle very soon. Due to popular demand, we will also be releasing framed art prints in extra large sizes which I have to say look very dramatic and striking. We will also be sending a special surprise to the members of our Maison Muse loyalty club but I have to keep that one a secret for now…