The black-and-white photograph – a 3-year-old girl in a pretty white dress who wandered into her father’s field of tall Indiana wheat just long enough for her mother to grab the camera 60 years ago – warms your heart.
The naturally-colorful Hoosier Candle Company candles – hand-poured by that girl’s family with soy wax from similar soil and other all-American products – warm your home.
These candles are from the Heartland and from the heart of a family deep-rooted in the rhythms of seedtime and harvest, in the bedrock tradition of honesty and hard work, and in the enduring memories developed from that mother’s prolific photography.
Grandma Betty still has the camera she used for that snapshot, the camera Grandpa Harold gave her for their first anniversary even though times were so hard food was hard to afford, the camera that led to a pioneer life of scrapbooking – albums for everyone in the family, including 26 grandchildren.
The little girl, now the poster child for the Hoosier Candle Company, is Pet, Betty and Harold’s middle child. Pet’s little girl, Traci Bratton, started Hoosier Candle Company in 2009, making candles to sell in her Walnut Street Traditions store in Lafayette, Ind., two hours from Chicago and an hour from Indianapolis.
She chose soy wax, developed by pioneering researchers at nearby Purdue University in the 1990s, to support American soy farmers, and she buys only U.S.-made oils, jars, lids, wicks and other supplies.
“It’s a true Hoosier candle,” says Traci, who was delighted to discover the Purdue connection to the soy wax. “They kicked this off.”
A Purdue student came up with the idea to replace petroleum oil in candle wax with soybean oil and won the Indiana Soybean Association’s Student Soybean Innovation Competition. The association now holds six patents on soy wax in candles.
“We knew that there was a science to candlemaking, and so the journey began,” Traci says. “It's a recipe composed of memories, determination, with a dash of science of course! We're very proud to support American farmers through the use of soy wax in our candles.
“Hoosier Candle Company is a tribute to all of the farmers in my life, because I was fortunate to ride in combines, walk the fields, and be a part of a farmer's journey. So each candle is poured with love, filled with memories of why God made farmers.”
The light of Hoosier Candle Company (www.thehoosiercandlecompany.com) is spreading, as online sales reach around the world and other retailers seek to add the specialty to their shelves. The company earned a spot on Diane Sawyer’s “Made in America” map in 2011, after a Facebook fan recommended the candles to ABC News.
“It’s grown in baby steps,” says Traci, who credits her heritage for the company’s strength. “Memories go into each and every candle, and a sense of pride, because that is how Grandpa Harold taught us! I adore my Grandma Betty and she's an important part of my life and who I am today – and much of my never ending motivation to succeed with my Hoosier Candle Company venture.
“And every time I pour a candle, a melt, or create something new, I reflect on the roots of who I am, what I stand for, and can smile knowing that a little ol’ Hoosier girl did this!”