Candlemaking on a Tipperary farm
If Kirsten Ivors’ @tinnockfarmtipperary Instagram feed is anything to go by, her rural life with her husband and two daughters is pastoral perfection. Squares of weak sunshine flitting through the windows of their stone farmhouse; low-lying fog drifting among the evergreens; an afternoon’s batch of handmade Tinnock Farm candles await their brown paper labels; her two little girls, Lillian (6) and Mae (3) making daisy crowns to adorn the head of their ever patient pup, Woody. Kirsten laughs at my wistful venerations, but admits her life in this corner of south Tipperary “really is kind of a dream”.
Originally from North Brisbane, Australia, Kirsten arrived in Ireland for a gap year from university, but soon met her husband and together they bought a five-acre parcel of land and stone cottages just outside Ballingarry. “Everyone has a different story on how old our house is, but we have an 1840 map that shows our little building so it is definitely pre-Famine.”
It’s in this higgledy-piggledy little cottage (“there are no right angles anywhere”) that Kirsten handmakes her candles. “I think I’m half mad really, I make everything from the candles to the branding and the labelling and my website. Everything is me staying up late after the girls have gone to bed – my poor husband Trevor has been neglected over the last year.”
Kirsten might have only launched Tinnock Candles in early 2017, but she had been making her own soy candles for friends and family for some time. Before emigrating to Ireland, she loved wandering through the Brisbane farmers’ markets buying candles, and started making her own as a hobby when she arrived here. However, it was a visit home that convinced her she could turn it into a business that could work around her young family. “When we went back, I saw how far Australia had come in terms of making your own things and using natural products to do it.”
When it comes to making each five-candle batch, Kirsten likes to keep her process uncomplicated. “I try to keep it as simple and sustainable as possible, using as much local ingredients as I can.” This morning, when the school run is done and Mae is engrossed in some building blocks nearby, the kitchen counter is splayed with cotton wicks, glass jars, essential oils and fragrance oils as Kirsten melts down the butter-soft flakes of her sustainably sourced, organic soy.
She stirs and mixes, and as she pours the candles into their jars, a rich lavender aroma wafts up. Kirsten explains how, much like the process itself, the selection of scents are simple and clean. “I wanted them to be reminiscent of times gone by, as well as reflective of life on the farm, such as sweet pea, plum, rhubarb, and lavender.”
That evening, once the girls are in bed, the candles will be labelled and stored for two weeks to set and mature, and then will either travel to one of Tinnock Farm’s stockists, or with Kirsten to the Thurles farmers’ market where she sells candles, handmade cold-pressed soap and a selection of cakes from her kitchen.
As the jars are left to cool, she begins this next job: baking for the market. “Last Saturday I had a request for my apple and cinnamon cake, so I’ll probably bake one of those and I bought some lemons so maybe a lemon drizzle as well.” She also remarks that there’s plenty to be done in the house and gardens too - shrubs planted, chickens fed, and the bathroom needs to be completely redone. But there’s no sense of urgency at Tinnock Farm. “We’ll be here forever, so there’s no rush.” Everything here is done with thoughtful consideration and care, as her candles can quietly attest.
PHOTOGRAPHY Kirsten Ivors WORDS Lauren Heskin