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Makers: How candlemaker Evolyn Brooks encourages women to shine

A candle shines brightest in the darkest night, a lesson Evolyn Brooks, a former television producer-turned-candlemaker and entrepreneur learned first hand during her battle with early-stage breast cancer in 2013.

“When I got diagnosed, there wasn’t anything I could control,” said Brooks, “but I could control how I responded to it.”

Forced to step back from an intense 12-hour-a-day work schedule during chemo treatments, Brooks decided to learn something new, specifically candle making.

The experimentation changed her life.

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“I started to imagine what I wanted out of life,” said Brooks, “and I wanted to be healthy, I wanted to create a business and I wanted to help other women.”

Brooks said she decided to use the same awareness of gratitude and thanksgiving she was drawing on during the healing process to create something that would also make the experience meaningful.

The result was the launch of In My Solitude LA, a Los Angeles-based line of scented pillow mists ($22), and eye pillows (starting at $26) along with the Journey candle collection ($13-$26) of richly scented soy candles with names such as Ascend, Imagine, Grateful, Abundance, Reflect and Release.

In My Solitude candles by Evolyn Brooks.
In My Solitude candles by Evolyn Brooks
(In My Solitude)

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“It’s about small luxuries,” said Brooks, “small things that make you feel pampered, so you can create a special place … wherever you decide to be in your solitude.”

Brooks began to sell her collection online and at pop-up shops and specialty markets like Unique LA and Artisanal LA, where she also added interactive candle making workshops.

Her passion was contagious, and she was awarded one of the first in-house artist residencies at the West Elm concept store in Santa Monica last June; and the once ad-hoc candle pouring sessions evolved into a variety of workshop events and The Intention Candle Making Experience, a way for Brooks to reach out and help others find their light.

“For many women, when we are moving through an obstacle,” said Brooks, “sometimes it’s a challenge to see yourself on the other side of that situation.”

Brooks views the candle making workshops as a tool, almost like a meditation, to help women visualize. “The candle making allows us to play, to go back to that childlike, beginner’s mind when we daydreamed, we doodled … it allows your mind to be free, and it allows you time to think and release what’s not working,” said Brooks.

The workshops begin with a journaling session where attendees write down, doodle and draw their intentions or action statements.

“Then you take that journal home along with the candle you make,” said Brooks, “and it becomes the beginning of your future. It’s a gentle reminder of the promise you made to yourself during the intention experience.”

There are a variety of workshop opportunities, including sessions paired with a yoga practice, others sponsored by corporate partners and some held in luxurious, aspirational retreat-like settings.

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Brooks hopes her programming will encourage women to pursue their best lives. “I think the most important thing is to not be afraid to put your energy into your own dream,” said Brooks. “Stick with yourself, hang in there through the peaks and the valleys, and have a large vision beyond what you know you can accomplish at this moment.

“I want to help women reshape the challenges in their lives to see that it’s not a bad thing when something unexpected, or something you can’t control, happens,” said Brooks, “it’s just an opportunity to add value to who you want to become.”

UPCOMING EVENTS

New Moon Intention Candle Making & Crystals

When: March 2

Where: Crystal Elixir, L.A.

Cost: $60

Mother’s Day Intention Candle Making Experience

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When: May 11-12

Where: West Elm, Pasadena

Cost: $60

Maker: Evolyn Brooks

Craft: Candles and spa gifts

Info: In My Solitude LA

Studio playlist: Luvvie Ajayi’s podcast, as well as a podcast called “How I Built This.” “In my studio, I like to hear what’s new, mixed in with a little Solange, Cuban jazz and a girl power anthem because I can’t get through the day without a spontaneous dance party in my studio.”

Why handmade things matter: “I believe that handmade items carry little bits of the maker’s soul and can literally tell the story of a culture. It’s not an accident that museums are filled with handmade items that reveal who we were thousands of years ago. When I make a candle, I feel connected to all of the chandlers throughout history who provided the service of bringing light to people’s daily lives.”

Your turn

Do you know a maker who deserves a wider audience? Tell us about them and why their work is so special via email at home@latimes.com and we may include them in our ongoing series about makers, crafters and artisans in and around Los Angeles. Include a few photos of their work and a link to their website, if possible.

home@latimes.com

Bonnie McCarthy contributes to the Los Angeles Times as a home and lifestyle design writer. She enjoys scouting for directional trends and reporting on what’s new and next. Follow her on Twitter @ThsAmericanHome

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