( above picture was not our creation but was taken from Bob Sherman’s candle making book)The life as a candle-maker living in ‘old Montreal’ did not last long as my young brother who was settled now in Toronto, came to visit and was impressed by the candle-making. After a week-end or so, he went back to Toronto and I got a note from him saying he was now renting a loft and had started making candles. As an artist, it was difficult gaining a livelihood on just selling paintings, especially when one’s paintings were abstract, sometimes just lines.
I remember once going to an art show with him one Saturday morning in Toronto and it was fairly early and the place was barely open when we walked in. I looked at the exhibition and thought to myself, “Its all about lines, lines of different shapes and colors but they were ‘just lines’ but I dare not say anything. A man came in with his young son, a kid of about eight years old and the kid was talking really loud and his voice echoed in the empty gallery.
Suddenly all was silent and I could hear the voice of this kid echoing loudly, ‘Daddy, I have seen enough. Lets go, Daddy, lets go, its only lines, lines, that’s all Daddy, boring, lines!” I thought to myself, ‘the kid is so right!’ but I dared not say anything, just looked at my brother and smiled.
Now when on two occasions I happened to go to a show that my brother did, I only commented on how I felt. I would say, “Huh, that made me think” or “I was amused” or “It took me back home somehow”. He’s a great artist and well loved too by his students! (but wow! he’s original!)
When I was still living in Montreal, one day I got a phone-call from him and he’s asking some technical details about candle-making and I discover he has started it in Toronto but he had a small fire in his loft because of it. I had horrors of his burning down a place and so on the first week-end I was free, I got on a bus and travelled to his place.
The ‘candle factory’ setup was a disastrous thing to behold! I got on like a ‘big brother’. “Are you crazy? You are going to burn the place down. Melting parrafin wax with no thermometer and no knowledge of the material you are working with!” I made a list and asked him to please go shopping for a few items, thermometer etc and bring them back while I helped set up things. He was away long enough for me to spin around creating a ‘miracle’ in his eyes and when he came back, I had made moulds, poured several candles and they were cooling and voila! we had a small factory.
I spent some weeks helping out and things were well on their way and he had made contacts with boutiques and flea-market sales on week-ends and some cash was coming in. We bought the wax from a factory in bulk and they delivered it to our loft. My God, if only the fire-department knew! Soon it was obvious that a little business was on its way and it was time for me to pull out.
I definitely did not want to spend 2 years making candles, even though it was fascinating and creative! My brother called them “jewels in sand”. He even tried selling to a jeweler, some tiny ones he wanted the guy to put in his show window and when the guy said, “But this is a jewel shop” my brother said “so what? these are jewels in sand”! The guy looked at him and said “Okay, I’ll take that one and that one” and he bought a few.
The loft we lived in was very original. He was able to build most of his furniture from wood in Chinatown. Its amazing what people throw away. One sector was the living area with a low center table and a music-player and radio. He had quite a collection of jazz and other all vinyl discs. Then there was the bedroom area with wooden bunker beds, then there was the kitchen and then the studio which became the factory and then the bathrooms.
His girl-friend joined in and also a friend came and helped. His girlfriend had a small van which was very practical as they were able to go scouting around to see different boutiques that were interested in taking some candles in their shop for trail. They were selling as they were pretty and the prices reasonable. That year we bought about 1 ton of wax and melted it all into candles and they sold!
I will never forget that first Christmas-eve I spent there. I went out for mid-night mass and when I was in the streets near the church, I saw some of our candles in a shop-window. It was a nice feeling as I had worked indoors and did not want to do the sales part, going out to the stores etc.
You know when you make something with your own hands and put love and care in it and then you see it on display, it’s quite a feeling.
I came back to the loft after the church, to find my brother sitting in a rocking chair and there were candles lit all over the windows and on the center pieces etc. It was beautiful! He was smiling, a big smile and he said “Its a celebration, for can you imagine, tonight we have candles burning in different parts of the world!”
“How come” I asked. “Well,”, he said, “remember the guy who came and bought some to take to Halifax and this other guy took some to England, then there was a friend from Trinidad who bought some to take home. Some we sent to friends in Montreal and Ottawa. Our candles are burning all over the world.” I sat for a while and enjoyed the idea. It was nice.
The little business was off to a good start and I was accepted by the Ontario Dietetic Association as a student for a course in Hospital Food supervising. The course was funded in part by the Government and which allowed me to receive a diploma and I got some odd jobs in kitchens and hospitals and even for a while at the Ontario Museum of fine arts and all this contributed to my later journey to India. Some time before I began studying, my brother moved to a house with a huge basement where he continued the candle thing and I moved to renting a room in a small family from where I was introduced to Buddhism.