Candlescaping is the art of creating decorative arrangements of candles to add warmth and beauty to any room. Although the possibilities are limited only by the boundaries of creativity, there are some very important rules that, for safety's sake, must be followed at all times:

1) Be sure to place the candles on a flat, non-flammable, heat resistant surface. On an uneven surface (such as a sloped dish or bowl), the candles will be at an angle so that hot wax drips everywhere, and, in the worst case scenerio, the candles will fall over, ignite your curtains, and burn down the house. (An exception to this rule is a floating candle display in which case the water that fills the bowl keeps the candles safely level and happy.) A non-flammable surface (such as glass, slate, and ceramic) will reduce the risk of such a catastrophe, but be sure it is heart-resistant as well. Some materials (certain kinds of glass, etc.) are not made to withstand extended periods of heat and will give you and your guest a heart-attack when the plate shatters during the third course of your romantic candle-light supper.

2) Make sure the candles are at least one inch away from each other. If they are too close together, the flames will start to melt the wax of neighboring candles. While this might temporarily result in a slightly disturbing and yet fascinating Dali-esque sculpture of distorted wax, the candles will quickly become structurely unstable because of the melted bits and you will soon be left with a nightmarish mess that has a good chance of also meeting the requirements of a fire hazard.

3) Following the theme of a fire hazard, be sure not to use any flammable materials in your candle arrangement. While potpourri may look colourful and lovely when sprinkled around the base of your candles, when the candles burn too low and ignite the dried bits of flowers, the only thing colourful (and not at all lovely) will be the words from your mouth.

3) Since we are still on the subject of fires (which is, admittedly, the whole purpose of lighting a candle provided the fire remains quaint and under control), choose the location of your candlescape carefully. Avoid places that are near curtains, plants, walls (unless you like sooty smudges), and anything else that might be in dire peril from nearby flames. Be sure to place your candlescape in a place where there are no drafts, since the slightest breeze can cause your candle to burn unevenly and thereby shorten its lifespan. Also, take care to put all candles out of the reach of curious children and incorrigable pets.

4) Don't use votive candles in candlescapes unless they are contained in their own little cup that is specifically made for use with votive candles. This type of candle liquifies very quickly and is therefore unsuitable to be perched on its own on a candlescaping tray.

Some ideas to inspire your creativity:

  • Candlescapes seem to look best with an odd number of candles of varying thickness and height. To add even more visual interest, use different candleholders on your main tray to give each candle a distinct look.
  • The fireplace is an excellent place for your candlescaping pleasures, since it is actually designed to be a safe receptacle for fire. You may even be able to find candleholders that are specifically designed to hold several candles in a pleasing arrangement suitable for just that space. Some of these are made to look like the andirons that are used to hold the logs in place while they burn.
  • Here are some suggestions for items to use in your candlescapes: glass gems, coloured marbles, sand, polished stones, semi-precious pebbles (like rose-quartz), gravel, seashells, and assorted glass beads.
  • Choose a theme, like the seashore (sand and shells), Zen (white sand and stones), a colour, or a particular fragrance to create just the mood you want. For example, a large red cinnamon-scented candle in a clear glass hurricane which is surrounded by a wreath of holly would be a splendid combination for the Christmas season.
  • Placing a candlescape near a mirror can create interesting effects with the candlelight.
  • So long as you use common sense, there is no wrong way to design a candlescape. Experiment with different shapes and candle fragrances. Visit stores that specialize in selling candles (ie. Illuminations and Pier 1 Imports) for accessories and ideas. Craft stores (such as A.C. Moore and Michael's) usually have candle sections with similar materials and more appealing prices. (Note: While inexpensive accessories are usually just fine, be mindful of the quality of the candle you are purchasing. In most cases, you get what you pay for. )

See also: "How to take care of candles."

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