Welcome to the I Still Call Australia Home podcast - your fortnightly dose of inspiration and joy sparked by the wild splendour of Australia.
The podcast is hosted by Felicia Rusher - founder of I Still Call Australia Home.com - this ecommerce store right here, selling gifts that spark joy and delight using wild Australia as their theme.
Felicia will be be taking you on the road, sharing inspiring stories of amazing Australians who are creators of products & experiences; using our land, native animals and wildlife as their muse.
Learn how Arabella Lubbers, founder of Bushwalk Candles, creates unique, Australian made scents to transport anyone who smells them to the Australian bush; while also supporting local beekeepers. Amazing! 🥰.. and you won't believe which iconic Australian poet is in her family tree when you go back.... listen to find out!
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Felicia: Today on the Podcast, I’d like to welcome our special guest Arabella Lubbers from Bushwalk Candles. Welcome Arabella!
For those listeners, who don’t know you and about your lovely business, can you introduce Bushwalk Candles and tell us a little bit about yourself and your company?
Arabella: Sure! Bushwalk Candles is a small beeswax candle company – so I make beeswax candles, but they’re scented with all Australian scents – mostly Australian bush related and some bush tucker influences there – and we are based on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland.
Felicia: Beautiful, thank you. And how long have you been going Arabella?
Arabella: We started in May 2015 – I was selling a small range of Australian scented candles in a little gift shop in Hervey Bay where I lived. They were quite popular with the tourism sector in Whale Season.
And so I was really trying to find a wax though, that I could buy in Australia – I wanted everything to be Australian – and that’s not possible with any of the standard soy waxes, or anything – and then so my clever husband suggested beeswax. … and it all started from there – so it’s a whole different world of candle-making with beeswax.
Felicia: Yeah, I think that really stands out about your business compared to some of the other ranges we’ve had in stock – and for those listeners who can’t smell these candles – they’ve got these amazing scents that really – you feel like you’re transported to the Australian bush when you smell them – they’re just really beautiful.
So what made you decide to start the business?
Arabella: I’ve always had an artistic background – I studied art and furniture design and interiors and all sorts of things, and then got wolfed into the corporate world and I was looking for an outlet – and had done a bit of candle-making before – and that’s how it started – and then it just became quite popular and I thought I can keep going and maybe one day – one day – I could do it as a business! And that’s how it grew.
And the Australian thing comes from my Grandfather – he was Australian and his family tree goes all the way back to Banjo Paterson – so I grew up with a very strong Australian background even though I didn’t grow up in Australia – so I grew up with all the Australian nursery rhymes and bush poetry from quite a young age – and I think that always stuck with me – and I found a little niche that nobody else was doing out the time – so it was a really, really good start.
Felicia: Fantastic – oh wow - how wonderful – going back all that way to one of our iconic poets!
Arabella: Yes! And my mum can recite his poetry which is quite amazing!
Felicia: That is quite impressive because it’s very long isn’t it
Arabella: Very long
Felicia: Very beautiful that’s impressive she can do that. That makes a lot of sense now I understand that story with your beautiful candles – they do stand out as very uniquely Australian and all the names you’ve chosen – the scents you’ve chosen to put in them are very beautiful
Arabella: When you smell a candle it also evokes a feeling – so I was trying to get all of that in one little tin!
Felicia: It’s a shame our listeners can’t smell it but I think you’ve done it! It’s fantastic.
Felicia: Can you tell me a little bit more – obviously this sustainable beeswax that you use is unique – it does stand out against a lot of your competitors. You sort of hinted on it before that you wanted all Australian ingredients (which we love) – but can you tell me more about that whole process and once you decided how you went about sourcing it and how you do that on an ongoing basis?
Arabella: When I first decided on beeswax – yes – where do you get it. So Beeswax is readily available for sale in Australia – but Australian beeswax is pest free – it doesn’t have the baroa mite that the rest of the world has – so it’s very sought after cosmetics and things all over the world so it’s really quite expensive.
Funnily enough I played squash in Hervey Bay with a beekeeper. So that’s where my first supply started – and he very kindly sold it to me relatively cheaply and I started and went from there. I’ve always tried to support local beekeepers, but obviously everyone is a business, and everyone has to make money – so I’ve been through a few different beekeepers depending on times of year; it’s a very fluctuating market; so when we had the drought and the bushfires – beeswax became absolutely impossible to source because all the beekeepers had to keep it.
I actually ran out 2 years ago at Christmas – I had to close my website – I completely ran out. It was a complete nightmare. That really showed me that I really am a small producer – I’m a one person business – I’m never going to be in Kmart – it’s not possible. So I’m happy with my little boundaries.
But I have some lovely beekeepers – I have some amazing people up in Gympie – and they’re interesting because they have 1,000s of hives. They particularly work on pollination – so they will travel with their hives on big trucks to the almond farms and various areas throughout the year to pollinate crops. They also breed queen bees – that’s quite a specialist thing to breed queen bees to keep hives going. So beeswax to him is a bi-product – so he kindly sells it to me at a really competitive rate and I’m really lucky to have found them.
Felicia: Yes – fantastic … and Just to think these different scents and different pollinations that enhance your candles even more – that’s amazing.
Arabella: It’s really interesting.
Felicia: Yes – it is! So from a user-perspective then, what are the benefits of using beeswax?
Arabella: We obviously scent our candles – that’s what we do – but natural beeswax is the cleanest burning wax that you can find. The positive ions in beeswax actually take dust and things out of the air – so if you have any form of breathing difficulties or asthma or anything like that, plain beeswax candles are a really good thing to have in your home.
And beeswax just smells beautiful – natural beeswax – when it burns it’ll smell like honey.
When we buy our beeswax we get it in big 8kg blocks – but it’s only been filtered once – so you’ve still got the honey through the beeswax – so that’ll also still come out in the candles – it hasn’t been filtered or bleached or any yukky things that happen overseas.
So it’s just quite a beautiful thing to work with.
Beeswax also has to be melted carefully – so you can’t just stick it into the microwave like you can with other waxes – there’ll be a nasty accident.
You can’t do direct heat – it has a very high melting point and a flash point at which it may catch on fire
Felicia: From a user perspective it’s probably safer?
Arabella: From a user perspective it’s fabulous – but for me – melting large quantities of it… I have an Australian made, big, wax melting urn that I use – that has a tap on it so I can turn it on and off and pour into jugs.
So it’s a world of beeswax equipment out there – it’s very interesting.
But that [the urn] was actually a game-changer for me – before that I was there with my little pot and double-boiler. So I guess as you grow you find better ways of doing things.
But beeswax is harder to work with than normal wax. It requires some tricks and things so that it doesn’t crack. So I have a few little tricks up my sleeve that means I get a perfect pour every time.
Felicia: Fantastic – that’s experience isn’t it?! How long have you had that new melting pot for?
Arabella: I’ve had this urn for about 3 years now and it’s really good.
Felicia: Changed your life?
Arabella: Yes. Definitely!
Felicia: Fantastic. Is there anything our listeners can do – it’s really fascinating about the bees and the local beekeepers that you support and support you – is there anything our listeners can do to support bees and local beekeepers?
Arabella: It think the most important thing is to just try to buy your honey locally. There are beekeepers everywhere now – in the last few years – small beekeepers have been encouraged.
In the new house I’ve just moved to in Montville, Queensland, the people across the road from me have a little thing outside and they have bees and they sell their honey – and I was like ‘yay’!
Buy there are little bee people everywhere – you can find them by the roadside with honesty boxes… local honey, and you can always – sometimes they do other little products as well – we have someone who does honey and eggs.
There is a website called www.beethecure.com.au and they have a honey map on there – so you can go into their honey map so you can find local honey in your area.
Felicia: That sounds great – thank you for sharing that.
So can we talk a little bit in detail about the beautiful flavours of your candles?
Now we understand your story a bit better, and your history going back to Banjo Paterson, and your art experience and studies – I can see where your creative flair comes to the fore in the way you’ve mix and present your candles – I think one of our most popular flavours.. is it right tocall it a flavour?
Arabella: I think so – yeah!
Felicia: I don’t know if it’s one of your original – is the ‘Bushwalk Candle’ itself
Arabella: Yes – “Bushwalk Candle” is one of the original ones that I had when I was still doing the small batch ones in soy. “Bushwalk” to me just smells like Australia – it really smells like a walk in the bush – like you’re crunching along with the leaves and the earth – and it’s a really good scent for people that don’t like sweet things or floral candles. It’s just a really nice, earthy smell.
And the scent carries well throughout your house – it’s not overpowering but it’ll sift its way through – it’s really really lovely.
Felicia: And for our listeners who don’t know what’s in it? Shall we give them a list of the scents?
Arabella: Absolutely – we’ve got Ironbark, and wattle, and myrtle, and gum and eucalyptus.
Felicia: And they’re ingredients I don’t often see in candles – do you have a special way of getting those scents in there?
Arabella: I have some special blending techniques that go on – yes! Australia has a wide variety of essential oils that you can buy – sometimes from very small producers – but there is a large market here… particularly for oils that come from the leaves rather than the flowers. When we think of essential oils a lot of the time we think it’s coming from flowers – but actually you can do just as much when it comes from leaves… and I think I’m more of an earthy kind of person than a floral one – so it’s a world to look into.
Felicia: And your Fruit Damper I like too - think it’s worth talking about – with the Citrus, Outback whiskey and honey.
Arabella: Yes! I like that one too. Funnily enough I had a customer last year who was in at Christmas time – and she tried it and she said ‘raisins’ – and I said ‘yes! It smells like Raisins’ . So it’s that whole, fruity, warm, wintry, citrus-y feel. And I think it’s probably more of a winter scent than a summer scent – but I sort of thought Fruit Damper with some raisins and some whiskey in it felt right.
Felicia: It’s a lovely blend….and the Billy Tea – which is a bit more citrussy – not as sweet I guess as the other ones – would be a way to describe it?
Arabella: Yes – its’ one of my favourites – it’s a tea – you know - bush tea scent – but it’s still got some eucalyptus in it to just give it a little bit of a zing. I really like Billy Tea – its’ a favourite with lots of people – it sells quite well.
Felicia: That’s good - obviously we can’t smell it – but it’s absolutely beautiful and it really does evoke the feeling of being around the bush – camping around the bushfire and putting a tea in the billy and enjoying and relaxing with all those sounds and smells of the bush.
The other one I wanted to talk – because it’s actually a popular native ingredient at the moment – trending – is your Kakadu Plum blend? I notice you’ve got musk, Kakadu plum and bush cucumber in it. Can you tell me a bit more about those ingredients?
Arabella: So those ingredients all fall under our ‘bush tucker’ banner – which I love. They’re just all really interesting ingredients that just blend really well together. I wanted a more – how can I – it is a sweet & a sour thing – but it’s just got this lovely, musky overtone that I really love. Also, Kakadu Plum is really quite a popular thing now – the actual fruit itself – with cosmetics. It has one of the highest per volume of Vitamin C than anything in the world. And we actually use it in our salt bath salts which we may chat about. But really, really high Vitamin C content so Kakadu Plum is a thing for the future.
Felicia: While we’re still on candles – you’ve got a beautiful Mozzie Bites Melts tin – and I’ll read it out here – it’s a bug busting blend of eucalyptus, lemon myrtle, rosemary and citronella”... for the un-initiated - and sorry if people out there already know – but I’ve had a few customers ask – these are ‘melts’ as opposed to a candle in a jar that we sell and that you produce.
How do they work?
Arabella: So wax melts are a wick-less candle if you like. So instead of lighting them with a wick – you can buy a melt burner or a lot of people use them as essential oil burners – so it’s got a little bowl on the top, and a hole at the bottom where you put a candle underneath – so you light the candle underneath, and you put melt at the top. And the melt will slowly burn / melt. It’s melting and releasing the scent. The theory with melts, is because you don’t have a direct flame like a candle, you’re going to get 100% of that scent that’s in the wax filtering out. Whereas when you have a candle it’s going to burn some of that off as it evaporates. So a lot of people use melts because it’s a slower, quieter feel of getting the scent throughout your house.
And also a lot of people in timber houses, for instance, use melt burners – electric ones because fire is not always a good thing to have in a timber house. So you can get electric burners for your house and pop your melt on there.
Felicia: Is there anything else about your candle scents that you particulary like or want to highlight to our listeners?
Arabella: I’ve tried to cover every scent type – so citrus, and sweet and sour – I do have a range – some things on our website – I do an ‘Explorer Pack’ – a little pack of 3 so you can try different things. Unfortunately, tea lights are out of stock because of huge supply issues – but when they come back – I do little mixed boxes. So you can buy a box of 6 and try one of each scent. So that’s a really great way to try things and which is your favourite scent of Australia.
Felicia: Fantastic. That’s really great, thank you.
I wanted to talk about your other products you’ve introduced – your bush spa and timber products. Can you let us know a little bit about those?
Arabella: Sure. I used to quite regularly get asked to make gift boxes for people. And I realised that obviously candles are great for gift boxes but I thought ‘what else can I put that will fit in with my range’? And I thought oo some ‘Bath salts’ – so I did a range of bath salts and foot scrubs. They are completely made with Australian products – my sea salt comes from Western Australia – all my essential oils come are Australian and my oil is organic – I tried to pick things that I would like on my feet – like eucalyptus – and there’s a fabulous Australian essential oil that’s called Bush bar mint. I also use Anise Myrtle – which is a bit like Marmite & Vegemite – people love it or hate it. It’s mixed with charcoal so you get this amazing black foot scrub that smells like Sambucca and is really good for your feet!
Felicia: Sounds awesome. And your timber products?
Arabella: In the last couple of years we bought a Wood Gallery in Montville – so we own a wood gallery up here – we have a lot of very clever wood workers and I do some carving myself. So I try to encompass that. So again it’s with our tea lights (which will come back) – so beautiful carved tea-light holders, and incense holders and things – so we incorporate those into our gift boxes as well, just for those little extra things to add to our candles.
Felicia: What a great project.
Arabella: Yeah – it’s a fabulous shop. So many talented people – its’ quite amazing.
Felicia: Thank you for covering all that information about your products. I’ve got a bit of a different question now – and you hinted on it before with the fires and supply problems – what sort of impact has COVID had on your business a year in? Positive or otherwise?
Arabella: COVID – from the obvious – which is – all my stockists really slowed down and some had to close – so that was a challenge going from really high volume just that Christmas before, to almost nothing.
The other issue I had was some huge supply issues – most of the oils and fragrances I used went out of stock; I can’t get any tealight cups (holders) – and I won’t use plastic – I’d rather just not do them.
So – I think a lot of my busines was online and also stockists – like your ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ was fabulous and you managed to find your niche which is our little niche which is tourism and run with it which was fantastic over Christmas.
But I’ve tried to (as far as you can in the world of foreign products), is to try and find things that are made here. So it’s an ongoing thing. I managed – all of my jars – my amber jars with metal lids – come from a supplier on the Sunshine Coast now – and they’re made in England! We’re all trying to do our little bit – we can’t do everything. Little bits here and there. I think that’s the hardest bit is to try and get everything Australian made.
Felicia: Absolutely – and I think – you know - for people who’ve never gone on that journey to try to find jars, and containers, and all sorts of things – to be very pure about Australian made – it’s extraordinarily difficult isn’t it?
Arabella: Yes. Yes. But as long as we make the effort and we get what we can – that’s good.
Felicia: Absolutely. And I think what you’ve done is incredible with your sourcing natural wax locally; with your all-Australian scents – the way you’ve presented your candles in the jar I think you’ve done a fantastic job.
Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about and let our listeners know about Bushwalk Candles?
Arabella: I think just that everyone can always know that the candle that you buy – I have made! Nobody does anything with me.
I’ve made it, I’ve labelled it, I’ve polished it, I’ve – you know, done the little write up.
When I send out orders, everyone gets a hand-written card.
From start to finish, everything is done by me – and I think that’s unusual in the current market. That’s why I’m always going to be small – but that’s what you get when someone’s small.
Felicia: Absolutely. High quality and the personal touch, which is what we love.
Fantastic! Thank you so much for coming on to our podcast today. I’m so priviledged to have time with you and to talk with you.
Where can our listeners find out more about you and Bushwalk Candles?
Arabella: We have a website bushwalkcandles.com.au – facebook and Instagram – and stockists all over Australia if people want to look at things – and online stockists like yourself. [see links below]
Felicia: Thank you again – show notes will be online. Thanks, Arabella I appreciate your time and really enjoyed talking to you today.
Arabella: Thank you for having me!
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