The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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March 29, 2013

Mifflinburg artisan takes a step back in time

MIFFLINBURG — Have you ever been asked to mind your own beeswax?

Nichole Gerding takes that saying to heart.

Not only does she get honey from her bee hives, she also gets wax, which she turns into beeswax candles.

It is a time-consuming process, but one she finds well worth the effort. “Anytime you can pull out heart song and show somebody and they approve it, or can work it into their life, you feel good inside,” she said.

She credits her parents, artisans who told her she could be whatever she wanted to be, and her intense passion for history for leading her down this path.

Her shop in Mifflinburg, Thankful Sage Farm School, is simply decorated and clean, but not sparse, and smells fresh and earthy from her homemade candles and soaps.

Gerding does the work “because I am happiest when I am doing something with my hands, and I am a firm believer in knowing where it comes from and the roots of where it started.”

Gerding is a self-described “history nut” who not only makes her own candles and soaps, but knows how to butcher as well, although admittedly she has a hard time eating red meat now because of her butchering experiences.

The candle-making process seems simple enough, if you get along with bees, are able to keep them alive through the winter to harvest their honey and wax, filter enough of the impurities out of it to be used, take the time to melt the wax down, pour the wax, wait for it to cool, and then, if it passes your standards, market it.

The candles themselves are not perfect in the sense that each one looks identical to the next. Different hues of yellow vary from candle to candle depending on the wax used, and the shape can vary slightly as well depending on the mold. These minor imperfections are what make the candles special to Gerding.

“There’s something great about a little bit of flaw, it’s a reflection of myself and anybody else, when I have a candle with a little bit of dark wax in it, it forces a person to look at it, say it isn’t perfectly tidy, but it’s awesome,” she said.

Taking a cue from her parents, Gerding is passing on her skills to her 7-year-old daughter, Thankful. “She thinks this is normal, that everyone does it,” she said.

Her store is named in part after her daughter, which helps drive her not to fail, because “no one who names a business after their child wants it not to work out.”

Gerding plans to offer classes this summer in soap-making, candle-making and open-hearth cooking.

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