I’ve always made things and I can’t honestly remember when I made my first candle. Harper’s Bizarre certainly makes my friends and family happy as they cheerfully take one or two home with them, or if you’re my dad ask me if I can’t quickly “knock up one of those nice sandalwoody ones”. Bless him. My dad thinks everything takes ten minutes and that includes motorway journeys which is probably how I never learnt timekeeping as a child.
I was always being told that I should start a small business selling my candles, but as much as I loved the idea, I never found the time.
I remember the exact moment in October 2011. About halfway through a rather pointless meeting that was so PC it truly did Plod, I realised with a sinking feeling that if I didn’t start doing something else with my life then all I had to look forward to was more of the same with as much bad coffee as I could drink. So I left and started work on Harper’s, which is my own business. Harper’s Emporium covers commercial arts, research and writing and through that I’m a published author long with other bits and bobs and all of my suits are long gone. Then on April 1st 2012 (I thought it was funny to launch a business on April Fool’s Day) I launched Harper’s Bizarre as my hobby business and own personal empire of happy. That’s when it all went a bit mad and within six months I realised that my hobby was bigger than my business, so these days I mostly work on Harper’s Bizarre and kept just the most gorgeous of my Harper’s Emporium clients – because I do like to do a bit of commercial arts and writing.
So this is the shiny grown up Harper’s Bizarre website. I intend to never write anything that even vaguely resembles marketing (shudder!) or ever feel the need to abbreviate the English language to the point that I need my son to translate it (I truly h8 that). I’m sure that you’re all perfectly capable of deciding whether you like something without me writing jargon or trying to be down with the kidz.
This makes Harper’s Bizarre pretty straightforward. It’s a much loved, busy little business full of more candles than you can shake a stick at simply because I like them, I have them in my own home and I wanted to make them for others to buy without an out of body experience when you see the price. Take five minutes out from the world to have a look, drop me a line, buy something, ask something… Just enjoy.
(In case you wondered, the Harper’s Bizarre Jack Russell is called Flora and she’s as naughty as a box of monkeys.)
About Harper’s Candles
I once described myself as laid back and my best friend laughed so much she nearly needed oxygen. Apparently I’m quite picky. However, I’ve found that this is a good thing in the candle business because I won’t make something to sell if it isn’t good enough for me to use and I do like the labels to be on straight. So there are a number of annoyance factors that I took into consideration when I designed the Harper’s range:
- Animal Testing, Green Policies and Charitable Donations.
Our candles use no animal products, they are not tested on animals and neither is the wax or the fragrance – and we carry The Vegan Society logo to prove it. This is non-negotiable. We also support dog sanctuaries with charity candles that have proper donations (£3 from each candle sold). Why dog sanctuaries? Because we’re not big enough to save the world but we’re not so small that we can’t at least help a small corner of it and we have rescue dogs ourselves. On a green note, the tins can be recycled and we use recycled paper wherever possible. We use high grade soya wax made from 100 percent sustainable resources and as many as possible of our local deliveries are done on foot. You might not support the same charities and beliefs that we do, but isn’t it at least nice to know that you’re buying from a business that at the very least believes in something?
- I get really irritated when a fragranced candle doesn’t smell. Of anything. Ever. Except when you sniff it in the shop.
Our candles smell. In fact whilst some are more subtle (we’ll happily tell you which because as my other half tells me “Not everyone wants a candle that hits you over the head when you walk in a room”) they all do their job and they all definitely smell. Most of them boom fragrance and if you don’t believe me, light a Washing Line or a Peony. Even with the subtle ones, the scent creeps everywhere, unless your home is the size of a small castle, and gathers in small pockets so that it can jump out and surprise you when you go to make a cup of tea. This is because we use top grade fragrance oils, high quality soya wax and we’ve tried and tested every candle that we sell. Soya wax itself is a beautiful fragrance carrier so it works harder at carrying the oils than cheaper waxes will.
- When I finally found a candle that did it’s job, I couldn’t find a smell I liked in that range, so I would either settle or not bother.
Candles are like marriages – you shouldn’t settle. Harper’s candles come in around forty standard fragrances, with seasonal candles and limited editions on top. If there’s one we’re not doing, tell us – I’m always up for something new to try.
- I’d find a fragrance I liked but the candle was lurid pink. Or loo cleaner blue. Or both – probably with an orange spotty label. None of which will go in my living room where my other half and I spent weeks with match-pots pondering the exact shade of magnolia that we finally chose (I kid you not).
Our candles are in neutrals and we don’t dye the wax funny colours – or any colours come to that. It’s just not for us. We do have some brighter ones, such as Harper’s Retro and Harper’s Kitchen, and I did jolly up the Christmas range, but they’re still designed to suit pretty much anywhere.
- Then there’s all the black soot that you need a Victorian urchin to shift.
Soya wax gives a very clean burn and its not associated with all the pollutants and nasties that are reported to come with some paraffin waxes. Our candles are not 100 percent soot free (the wicks will always create a bit of the black stuff) but soya wax, whilst not being the cheapest product, is certainly the cleanest and most health conscious way to go. Most of the cheap high street candles are made of paraffin wax, which is only why they can make them for a squid a piece and we can’t. Our fragrance oils are well regulated and as friendly as we can find them. We don’t claim that our candles are allergy free, but we do claim hand on heart that a many of our regular customers have issues with asthma and the likes, so they avoided candles until they tried ours and since then they have never looked back.
- I love Harper’s Bizarre.
This business has always been about doing something that enjoyable, keeping it totally hands on and having the freedom to take it in whatever direction seems like the most fun. I get to talk to customers, chat about which candle will give them the fragrance that they’re after and which won’t. I also like to swap cake recipes and talk about chips. I really care about what I do and what I make and I like to see where it’s going. For me, Harper’s Bizarre is about being lucky enough to earn a living doing something I enjoy – and I really enjoy all of it – and building it’s ability to support the ethics and charities that mean something to me whilst proving that do-gooding can still be rock and roll. I also quite like the fact that my lovely other half, who calls himself the stall eye candy, has designated himself the Sales and Marketing Executive (I still call him minion when he’s out of earshot) and enjoys this little business so much too. So it’s really not just mine any more – because it’s ours.