Sun, 23 Jan 2000

Candles make rooms look, and smell, pretty

By R. Agus Bakti

YOGYAKARTA (JP): Candles are inseparable from Christmas. Christians, especially Catholics, use candles to complement their prayers. Thus, it is not surprising that many types of Christmas trees and accessories like candles can be found in the market place.

Actually, candles can be used at times other than Christmas. At dinner parties, candles are often put among the dishes and used as decorations.

Candles are also one an export commodity that can generate good profits. Fuska, a candle maker in Yogyakarta, has the evidence. His candle business has developed at home and abroad, and now includes the Netherlands, Belgium and Japan.

Fuska started his business, named Sanggar Ungu (Purple Workshop), in the Condong Catur area of Yogyakarta. "It was meant as a trial. But as it proved to be profitable, I continued with it."

In the beginning he made candles just for himself. Then he thought, why not earn money at the same time? Money which could be used to reduce the burden of his parents in financing his studies as a student at Sanata Dharma University.

"Making candles is a simple process. Anybody can do it but dedication is needed. It is not as tough as you imagine," Fuska said.

The material required for the production of candles can easily be obtained in Yogyakarta: paraffin, containers, wax, molds, colorants, aromatics (jasmine, rose, etc.), wicks, herbs, oil, pans, wooden ladles and more besides.

The wax, paraffin, colorants and aromatics are put in a container or molded. Candles in the form of fruit are usually molded.

Fuska's candles are full of variety, especially those using a holder. They look different from those candles usually found in the market.

Candles are generally sold without a holder, but Fuska's candles come with a holder. But those in the form of tomatoes, apples or other fruit are sold without a holder.

The candles are fragrant and exude a distinctive aroma in a room. Jasmine and roses are among the scents available. The shape and model are in keeping with latest style developments.

The candle holders are made of wood, banana leaves, earthenware and string made from plants. "I am trying to use other materials that leave a typical Indonesian impression," he said.

In making candle holders he cooperates with a number of earthenware craftsmen in Kasongan and string and banana stems craftsmen etc., all of them living in and around Yogyakarta.

His business, which started in 1998, has developed satisfactorily. A trader from the Netherlands was attracted to his candles and placed an order for 3,000 pieces. At Rp 4,000 a piece, the order was worth Rp 12 million.

From this amount, however, production costs and workers' pay has yet to be deducted. "I take pride in providing employment to my friends. We share in the profit," he said.

Seventeen workers are involved in the production of the candles. Those not directly connected with the production are craftsmen for earthenware, banana stems, strings etc.

The buyer from the Netherlands told Fuska that the candles gave an "ethnic" impression. The Netherlands itself is a producer of candles, but doesn't produce candles like Fuska's.

His candle holders are also "ethnic". Fuska combines all kinds of handicrafts. The holders can be used again to hold new candles, and can even serve as room decorations on their own.

Fuska markets his products in a clever way. He puts three candles in one package. The three candles are different from each other. One in the form of a fruit, the second one has an earthenware holder and the third a banana stem. One package is sold for Rp 12,000, which is cheaper than buying individual candles, which cost more than Rp 4,000 each.

Fuska says that creativity is essential for making candles. He must ensure that new models are continually produced. He is ready to accept orders of specific candle models according to the wishes of the customers, provided there is an agreement on the price.

"The focus should not be on profit, but also on creating the products. I have proved that," he says, proudly expressing his wish that with improved economic conditions in Indonesia his business will thrive.

In conclusion, he says, that candles are not only for Christmas. They can be used simply to brighten up the dark corner of a room. From the practical side, candles ward off flies and other insects. Besides, they exude a certain fragrance. Just have a try.