Hunks of wax are taking over my apartment. While I moved into my new place months ago, there are still many sad, uninhabited nooks, begging to be decorated. And while I drool over glass vases and ceramic sculptures, my budget is too tight and my friends too rowdy. So, I am filling every available surface with sculptural candles — just as pleasing to the eye as those luxe items, at a fraction of the cost.
To be clear, the pleasure of a sculptural candle is quite different from the pleasure of a regular candle. For starters, the candles are made from unscented wax, so they’re not going to fill my apartment with fragrance. And of course, once they’ve melted away, they don’t even leave behind an Instagrammable empty glass jar to store Q-tips in. But therein lies the beauty of the sculptural candle: it’s an objet d’art, a tchotchke, and a spectacle, all in one. Sure, some of them are purchased to be permanent apartment décor. But I also keep a few on hand as purely ephemeral totems. I keep them only for as long as I care to look at them and then, once I’ve had my fill, I light them on fire while humming burn, baby, burn (preferably while I’m entertaining guests who can ooh and aah as the mini sculptures melt and warp and drip into slightly deformed versions of themselves). While I tend to obsessively research, invest in, and preserve every item I buy, there’s something wonderfully carefree about buying something with the sole intention of eventually destroying it. Besides, there’s always a new candle to be bought, beheld, and burned. Below, the vessel-free candles I’ve gotten, and the ones I want to get.
Sculptural Candles I’ve Bought
The affection I feel toward my Goober, a blob of unscented paraffin wax, knows no bounds. If you saw me when I first bought it, you might have thought I was buying a puppy. I imagine this must be what kids who grew up in the ’70s felt toward their pet rocks. They have names — El, Em, and Eph — and come with character descriptions. My little cutie is “a curious kind of Goober and likes being perched on a mantle or coffee table.” The candles burn for approximately 40 hours, but I honestly can’t imagine what kind of monster would ever light the wick. My Goober is the one sculptural candle I own that will live out the rest of its (very long) life on my window sill, perfectly intact.
The candle that started it all — both my personal collection and the trend at large. First I saw them in Home Union, then at Coming Soon, so by the time they appeared on my coolest friend’s Instagram, I knew I had to have them. My plan is to eventually have more totem candles than I do plates on my dining room table.
I was walking down the street (with a bag full of Totem candles swinging from my arm) when I spied these bouquet candles through a shop window. “Enough with the candles already,” my friend said as she dragged me away. I ended up buying one online a few weeks later, away from judgmental eyes.
This little kitty is clever because the wax burns away to reveal a metal skeleton you can keep forever. Ashes to ashes, wax to, well, metal, I guess. Personally, I’m not much of a cat person but I did send this as a get-well-soon gift to a friend who is. Tragically, I didn’t have the foresight for this, but if you rewrap the candle then the little gift within the gift remains a fun, appropriately creepy surprise.
Sculptural Candles I’ve Been Eyeing
If a Helen Levi ceramic vase is a little outside your budget, I recommend one of her hand-poured candles.
I’ve been sizing this candle up ever since its sister, the Romanesco candle, appeared in one our holiday gift guides. Each mold is inspired by exotic produce that artist Piera Bochner then fills with layers upon layers of brightly colored wax so each piece is wholly unique.
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