Featured Member Story: Greentree Home Candle
A Makers’ Tale
The women who form the creative team of Greentree Home Candle believe in the importance of taking time to stop and smell the raw beeswax. For this tight-knit staff, creating handmade products that are both beautiful and functional is personally rewarding and reflects the tradition and craftsmanship of the Catskills region.
“It’s (an all female-team) not by design, it really just happened,” says Jenifer Green, owner and director of sales of Greentree Home Candle. “But I have to say there’s something special about working with these women.”
The candlemakers collaborate out of studios/production facilities in Treadwell and Delhi in Delaware County and Charlotteville in Schoharie County. Each day, slabs of raw wax are broken into pieces and melted to an exact temperature. Top secret dye recipes that become Greentree Home Candle’s signature color palette are measured and added. The wax is then poured into molds that the candlemakers have cast themselves.
Designs and shapes are inspired by the divine (Buddha heads), nostalgia (nested hens and medicine bottles) and nature (Big Island bamboo). The elderberry twig tapers are molded after the twigs from a bush outside the home of production leader Susan Riesen. Susan is also responsible for Greentree’s gorgeously muted colors that include sage, robin’s egg blue, terra cotta, celadon, cream and espresso.
As the candles set, careful attention is given to curing, bubbles and topping off.
“The process is labor intensive,” Jenifer says. “There are many steps in the production and each requires attention to detail. Beeswax is a pure material and because of that we pay a premium for it.”
Greentree sources its beeswax from a New England-based company that pulls in material from all over the world. But production assistant Juliette Consigny, who relocated to the Catskills after living in Brooklyn, has been keeping bees in her spare time. Could this be a sweet-smelling opportunity for the Greentree makers?
“We would like to start experimenting with her beeswax in the next year,” Jenifer says.
Customers are primarily wholesale – highly-curated stores like Kabinett & Kammer in Andes and ABC Carpet & Home in New York, as well as museum shops, including the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston; Gardiner Museum in Toronto; Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, and de Young museum in San Francisco.
The next step for Jenifer is to increase the number of customers she reaches directly through the Greentree Home Candle website. With an eye toward makers fairs and other handmade craft fairs, she also hopes to sell more to Catskills-based customers, including a growing number of second homeowners and tourists who “appreciate and seek out handmade and artisanal products.”
Jenifer and her husband, Don Green, were bitten by the Catskills bug more than 20 years ago when they escaped city life in Philadelphia and relocated here with their daughter (only a month old at the time).
“It was relatively inexpensive to buy a house and renovate it,” Jenifer says. “I think it’s beautiful up here. The quality of life is outstanding. It’s safe.”
For years, Jenifer focused on managing the sales and marketing of GreenTree Home Furniture, Don’s heirloom quality wood furniture and accessories business. Around 2000, Jenifer introduced beeswax candles into the line in response to a sluggish economy.
“The smaller items were going faster than the larger furniture pieces,” she says.
Jenifer was working with a Stanfordville-based candlemaker for the first few years, and then started collaborating with Susan.
“In 2012, our sales had nearly doubled and the demand was increasing,” Jenifer says. “Susan was limited in her studio. She said, ‘You need another candlemaker.’” Susan shared her knowledge and experience with Jenifer and Don, who set up the production facility in Treadwell.
The Greentree Home Candle aesthetic and handmade quality has attracted the attention of O, The Oprah Magazine (The January 2012 (Healthy!) O List), House Beautiful, Brides Magazine, and most recently, Design Sponge.
The high-level press is, of course, gratifying, but the makers seem to find the work itself – using their hands to produce functional goods that are pleasing to the senses -- their greatest reward.
This time of year the team is making candles 5 days a week, 8 hours a day to meet demand.
“We do stop for lunch, but time gets away from you when you’re pouring candles,” Jenifer says. “It doesn’t feel like work.”